There is a certain subset of Montreal Canadiens fans that are under the impression that Max Pacioretty had a bad year in 2013. Apparently pacing for 73 points over an 82-game season is bad for the star forward. Somehow Pacioretty has developed an expectation of supplying an insane amount of offense, but at the same time isn't recognized as the elite left winger that he is.
In fact, Pacioretty is quite obviously better than the much lauded Bobby Ryan, but doesn't received nearly the press for it.
Coming off of another season where Pacioretty led the entire league in shots per minute, the sniper will be counted on to at least break the 30-goal barrier this year, though he may be able to do even more than that. The obstacles for Max will be a (hopeful) eventual adjustment into a tougher role, and if not, getting the ice time needed to take the next step forward. Last year he played just 16:30 per game, when he should be closer to 20. What can we expect from Max going forward?
In the following graph, the blue line is Pacioretty's even-strength Fenwick percentage from 2008 to 2013, the red line is his team's even-strength Fenwick percentage without him on the ice, and the green line is Pacioretty's offensive zone start percentage, giving us insight into his usage and role. All statistics are at even strength, and all are rolling 10-game averages. What this means is that aside from the first 10 points in the graph, every point represents a 10-game sample, giving us a better grasp of trends.
With all that information on one graph, it can look a little messy and be tough to decipher, so I've included trend lines for each statistic. To understand the trend lines, blue turns into black, red turns into yellow, and green turns into purple. The x-axis is simply the games to represent time, and the y-axis is the percentage in decimal form, and the placement of the y-axis is the beginning of the 2013 season.
Pacioretty was first used in the NHL as a checking line forward, as his offense hadn't translated well to the pros in his first two years. When his offense did translate though, it exploded on the scene, and the coaching staff capitalized by using him in an exploitation role.
After returning from a broken neck, Pacioretty's defensive game was taken advantage of once again, as he was used more in the defensive zone than his linemates, yet remained the top possession driving forward on the club. He was put back in an exploitation role in 2013, with fewer minutes than the season before as his line was overtaken by Tomas Plekanec's at even strength.
It makes sense to assume that at some point Pacioretty will be uncuffed from being on David Desharnais' line, and he will join the tough minutes line with Plekanec, uniting the team's best forwards at each position, but that's far from a guarantee. Unfortunately, if that doesn't happen, Pacioretty's ice time may remain around the 16-minute range, which will limit his impact on the team and possibly prevent him from asserting himself as a star in the NHL.
Pacioretty's role has been getting more sheltered as his career progresses, but his possession has improved at an even more remarkable rate. He spent most of last season above 60% Fenwick, which is obscene.
Even though Pacioretty produced a ton of points last year, he actually scored at a lower than expected rate, suffering a dip in his shooting percentage. If he can get that number back up around the 11-12% that he had the two years before, 40 goals is not out of the question.
Max is the offensive driver of the Canadiens at forward, and should lead the team in points for a third straight season. It's not at all unreasonable to expect 70 points out of Pacioretty, and if he gets more ice time, he could be a point-per-game forward, something the Canadiens haven't seen since 2007-08 (although Subban was close last season).