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Max Pacioretty: Better than Bobby Ryan, but without the hype

It seems that a comment I made has upset Senators fans (shocking I know, they're usually so thick-skinned!), but since it seems so hard for them to understand, it's time to put into context just how good Max Pacioretty is.

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Last weekend Stephan Cooper posted an introduction to the new Atlantic division, and happily some of those divisional opponents came by to comment. Among them were a few overconfident Senators fans who didn't take kindly to my suggestion that Max Pacioretty is a significantly better player than Bobby Ryan. It's odd that this is a controversial statement since Pacioretty has 17 more points than Ryan over the last two seasons, even though he played 5 fewer games, but let's go deeper into the previous two years.

Even Strength Production

Pacioretty has played 1677:10 over the last two years at 5-on-5, whereas Ryan has played 1824:52, so we'll keep the eligible forwards to those who've played over 1500 minutes over the last two seasons. Both played over 500 minutes last season, so that's the cutoff for 2013.

League Rank Max Pacioretty Statistic Bobby Ryan League Rank
4 1.252 Goals/60 (last 2 years) 1.118 10
43 1.252 Assists/60 (last 2 years) 0.954 81
7 2.504 Points/60 (last 2 years) 2.072 41
2 12.375 Shots/60 (last 2 years) 8.055 54
23 1.082 Goals/60 (2013) 0.863 60
13 1.731 Assists/60 (2013) 1.150 69
8 2.813 Points/60 (2013) 2.013 64
1 12.985 Shots/60 (2013) 7.666 86

Pacioretty comes out on top in every single category from a production standpoint, which is even more impressive when you consider that Pacioretty's even strength shooting percentage is 3.76 percentage points lower than Ryan's over this time.

The notable dip in Pacioretty's goal totals in 2013 was also shooting percentage driven, as he had an off year in the percentages but still out-produced Ryan by a ton due to generating more shots than anyone else in the league.


What about possession? That's the better predictor for future success, right? We'll use both Fenwick and Corsi for this.

League Rank Max Pacioretty Statistic Bobby Ryan League Rank
31 54.3 Fenwick % (last 2 years) 49.6 89
25 54.1 Fenwick Close % (last 2 years) 48.5 75
49 53.3 Fenwick Tied % (last 2 years) 50.6 90
27 54.6 Corsi % (last 2 years) 49.7 87
22 54.7 Corsi Close % (last 2 years) 48.3 75
49 53.7 Corsi Tied % (last 2 years) 50.0 104
3 61.1 Fenwick % (2013) 49.1 135
8 60.2 Fenwick Close % (2013) 47.4 162
12 58.5 Fenwick Tied % (2013) 50.0 100
6 60.7 Corsi % (2013) 49.2 132
10 60.0 Corsi Close % (2013) 45.9 178
16 58.2 Corsi Tied % (2013) 48.2 118

Once again Pacioretty is ahead by leaps and bounds, but raw possession can be misleading. Perhaps Pacioretty's teammates helped him look so good and Ryan was carrying around dead weight?

Quality of teammates

Here we're going to look at the combined possession statistics of each player's teammates when those teammates were with, and not with the each player. Consider it like a WOWY for a whole team. The impact difference will be calculated by subtracting the teammates of the player's possession stats from the player's possession stats.

Teammates without Pacioretty Impact of Pacioretty Statistic Impact of Ryan Teammates without Ryan
47.6 +6.7 Fenwick % (last 2 years) 0 49.6
47.2 +7.4 Corsi %(last 2 years) +0.5 49.2
50.9 +10.2 Fenwick % (2013) +0.4 48.7
49.6 +11.1 Corsi % (2013) +1.4 47.8

While it's clear that Ryan isn't a passenger, he's also not a huge possession driver. Being traded to a much better team in Ottawa will make his overall possession numbers look better, but there's no indication that his impact on possession would be any great than it is now. Contrast that with Max Pacioretty, who's one of the biggest possession drivers in the league, and even managed to improve his impact as the team around him got better.

But teammates are the only thing that impacts these statistics.


One of the better ways to get a grip on how a player is deployed is to use zone starts. We'll look at both the percentage of starts each player got in the offensive and defensive zone over the last two seasons, and the total raw numbers of zone starts.

Max Pacioretty Statistic Bobby Ryan
33.0 Offensive zone start % 31.3
28.4 Defensive zone start % 30.7
584 Total offensive zone starts 517
493 Total defensive zone starts 506

Finally something looks like it's a bit more in Ryan's favour, but the advantage isn't huge. Ryan isn't playing tough defensive minutes, he just doesn't get quite as much opportunity as Pacioretty does. But is it enough of a difference to account for Pacioretty having over 10 times the percentage point impact on his teammates' possession than Ryan? Does it make up for Pacioretty being among the league leaders in even strength offense while Ryan flitters between 1st and second line production? I don't believe that's the case.