Petry vs Matheson: A Different Look

By Bob Trask – Since Jeff Petry’s trade, everyone wants to draw comparisons between Petry and the newly acquired Mike Matheson. The most common comparisons use last year’s performance of the two players or their performance over the past three years.

My comparison will be a little different in that it will compare the offensive output of the two players at similar stages of their careers. Whether it is a valid comparison or not remains to be seen. Actual defensive aptitude is harder to measure so my analysis will be relatively superficial.

Mike Matheson is currently 28 years old, so I will begin by comparing some of the statistics of the two players from the time they broke into the NHL to the season in which they were 28 years old.

Comparison – At a Glance

In this table Petry’s early years include years up until the age of 28 which coincides with Matheson’s career to date. Petry’s later years are from the age of 28 until the end of the 2021-22 season. Matheson has yet to reach that stage in his career.

Early Years
Later Years
Games Played417365438
PP TOI/GP0:431:152:16

Comparison – The Early Years

These rudimentary stats indicate two very similar defensemen with Petry being more physical and Matheson being more productive offensively at 5v5. Petry saw almost double the PP time per game as Matheson did – part of the reason for Petry’s superior numbers in that category. Both turned over the puck at a similar rate while Matheson was significantly more efficient at takeaways.

Jeff Petry – The Later Years

Since the beginning of the 2016-17 season, Petry’s game took off offensively. In 438 games he scored 62 goals and added 163 assists for 225 points, literally doubling his annual production rate from his early career. Can he continue at that pace? With Malkin and Crosby at teammates it may be possible but there are no Malkins or Crosbys in Montreal – yet! Or will his offensive production begin to decline if he relinquishes PP time to Kris Letang?

Mike Matheson – Going Forward

It remains to be seen whether Matheson can make the same leap in production that Petry did at the same age but he doesn’t have as far to leap either. However, at the same time as Petry’s offense jumped some of his underlying stats, like giveaways and takeaways, deteriorated. Whether the same progression/regression will occur with Matheson is unknown.

Be cautious with comparisons between Matheson and Petry based solely on next season’s performance. Both players will be thrust into very different situations.

Summing It Up

Jeff Petry

At this stage of Jeff Petry’s career he was not an ideal fit for the Canadiens who are building for the long term. When you add the complicated family situation that he faced, it made sense for Kent Hughes to find a team for him south of the border. Pittsburgh was a logical choice in that they are in a win now mode with Crosby, Malkin, Letang, Rakell and now Petry under contract.

What the Canadiens received in Matheson is a defenseman who had a very similar profile to Petry at a similar stage in his career. He is at the right age to grow and develop with the rest of the team and with over 400 games under his belt he can use his experience and help to mentor his younger teammates.

From the time Jeff Petry joined the team only one defenseman has scored in excess of 28 points in a season and that was Markov who was at the tail end of his career. Markov achieved his totals in those years while playing 3:07 per game on the PP and ranking up 18 power play points per season.

Matheson will also be arguably the best offensive defenseman the Canadiens have had in years on the left side. He has averaged 27 points per 82 games played while seeing a paltry 0:43 on the PP per game so far in his career. He will likely get the opportunity to see a lot more PP time going forward. And if Justin Barron can develop into an offensive threat on the right side, it will be a nice one-two punch on blue line.

At similar points in their careers the numbers that Petry and Matheson put up are eerily similar. The only question is whether Matheson will continue to develop offensively as Petry did or has he already peaked.

One thing is certain and that is times are a changin’ in Montreal.

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Hughes Flinched – Who is Matheson?

By JD Lagrange – Well there you have it. The GM who said he would not give assets or accept less than fair value for Jeff Petry just a few days ago has changed his mind. Or perhaps he feels like Mike Matheson is better than Jeff Petry to the point of adding a former first round pick in Ryan Poehling? Allow me to doubt that.

The trade

Oh I’m not saying that it’s a bad trade, don’t get me wrong. In fact, if you compare to the following four trades, Hughes did very well. But to say that he didn’t flinch by giving up assets to compensate for not taking salary back would be putting our head in the sand.

To CarolinaTo Vegas
Max Pacioretty
Dylan Coghlan
“Future considerations”
To NashvilleTo Tampa Bay
Ryan McDonaghGrant Mismash
Philippe Myers
To CarolinaTo San Jose
Brent Burns
Lane Pederson
Steven Lorentz
Eetu Makiniemi
2023 conditional 3rd round pick
To ChicagoTo Toronto
Petr Mrazek
2022 1st round pick
2022 2nd round pick

So by measure of comparison, the Canadiens are at least getting a good hockey player (and a fourth round pick) for Petry, even if they had to give Ryan Poehling to make it happen. All of that to save $1.375 million and no, I’m not counting Poehling as his spot must be replaced in the line-up, assuming he would make the team.

Who’s Matheson?

Mike Matheson is a 28 year-old, left-handed defenseman. The 6-foot 2-inches, 188 lbs left-handed defenseman has all the skills needed to be a solid two-way defenseman but has yet to develop the consistency needed to thrive at the NHL level. He is very mobile with good offensive potential. However, he drives coaches crazy at times by getting caught out of position.

Matheson carries a cap hit of $4.875 million until 2025-26. This means that the Canadiens are saving $1.375 million, but he has one more year to his contract than Petry.

As one of Kent Hughes’ former clients, he knows him well and he describes him as a five-star person, the type of man a father would want their daughter to marry! In his post-trade meeting with the press, Hughes said that he talked in length to Matheson’s teammate (and also former client) Kris Letang before pulling the trigger on the trade.

Who’s better?

A few of us had an interesting discussion about the value of Matheson as a player compared to Petry. In my mind, there is no doubt that Petry is far ahead of Matheson as an overall defenseman but why just take my word for it? I have been wrong before, ask my ex-wife.

We all agree that last season was one to forget for Petry, right? I mean up until Dominique Ducharme was fired in February, the usually savvy veteran only had one single goal and a pathetic six points total in 38 games! COVID, family in the US, disagreement with the coach, perhaps even pouting… nothing was working. Still, after Martin St-Louis took over, the American defenseman returned to form, averaging 0.70 points per game! The old Petry was back! Anyway, here are last year’s comparisons between the two players, even with Petry’s poor season…

Mike MathesonJeff Petry
0:43PP TOI/GP1:43
0:16PK TOI/GP2:19

Now let’s look at the past three seasons combined, to give a bigger picture…

Mike MathesonJeff Petry
0:36PP TOI/GP2:09
0:32PK TOI/GP2:07

It’s nowhere close. So those who think that the Habs had to give up Ryan Poehling in order to compensate for Matheson being better (yes, some think that) will have to think again. Then add the value of a rare top-4 right-handed defenseman and you’ll realize that Hughes flinched and made it happen. I don’t blame him, he had to.

Rem Pitlick

Immediately after the trade, the Canadiens announced having reached an agreement with UFA Rem Pitlick, who they had not qualified, on a new 2 years, $2.2 million contract ($1.1M cap hit).

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