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2015-16 Canadiens season review: Jeff Petry quickly became a crucial element of the team

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There's not much that went right for the Habs this year, however Jeff Petry provided stellar play on the blue line.

Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

All eyes were on Jeff Petry this season, as the 28-year-old defender entered his first full year with the Montreal Canadiens. Seeing as he was arguably the Habs' best and most important acquisition in recent years, the bar was set rather higher for the former Edmonton Oiler.

He didn't disappoint, as he went on to lead the Habs in several important statistical categories.

(Via war-on-ice.com, all stats 5 vs 5 only, CF% = Corsi For %, SCF% = Scoring chance for %, SF% = shots for %)

I limited the search to all defenders that played more than 250 minutes, as to remove a lot of the data noise. As you can see, Petry tends to finish towards the top of most important statistics, and in many cases he was trumped by Mark Barberio, who only played 30 games.

Prior to this season, Petry had never managed a positive Corsi-for percentage throughout an entire season, which strengthens the argument for considering a player's team when evaluating his numbers. As for his offensive contributions, like the rest of the Canadiens, Petry struggled this year, although his 0.6 points per sixty minutes weren't far off from his career average of 0.7.

Interesting pairing results

The most impressive aspect of Petry's season may just be how he played alongside Emelin. The two formed a very respectable duo throughout the majority of the year, and Emelin enjoyed his first positive CF% season since the lockout.

As we saw in Nathan Beaulieu's season review, despite a limited sample size, the two put up fantastic numbers, however the same cannot be said for his time with Andrei Markov.

For some reason the two struggled mightily together, and never managed to put up respectable results. At this point in his career, it seems like Subban is the only defender that can help Markov break even in the possession game.

Unfortunately for Petry, his season was marred by two separate injuries. First off there was the thunderous check by Dallas Stars forward Jamie Benn, which knocked Petry out of action for a few days. The hit wasn't dirty, it was simply a massive bodycheck by a rather large human being.

He returned to play towards the end of December, and continued his strong play. I was convinced that the Benn hit had a massive impact on Petry's play, but the numbers don't seem to support it — until, that is, he was paired with Markov. By the end of February, Petry was shut down due to a sports hernia that required surgery. He'll be in recovery throughout the summer and possibly into training camp.

Desperately seeking value

With a $5.5M price tag, it's hard to call Petry underrated, although it has to be said that for what he brings to the table he seems to be paid a reasonable amount. He's paid the same amount as Matt Carle, James Wisniewski, Andrej Sekera, Brooks Orpik, and Dan Girardi.

There are some players with comparable cap hits that have outperformed Petry, like Duncan Keith and Oliver Ekman-Larsson, however generally speaking Habs fans and management alike shouldn't be worried about Petry's cost moving forward. Of course, by 2019 we might be singing a different tune, seeing how defenders tend to fall off the proverbial hockey cliff quicker than forwards.

The lowdown

Petry can't be counted upon to be a game breaker. He's not exactly among the elite defencemen in the NHL, however it's fair to say he's probably at the next tier.

He brings a solid, quick-thinking, efficient, and positive presence to Montreal's blue line. His mobility, paired with his ability to create controlled defensive-zone exits, adds an interesting element to Montreal's defensive core, seeing as he can alleviate some of the pressure put on P.K. Subban every night.

Considering the Habs have little to no defensive prospects in the pipeline, Petry's acquisition becomes even more important.

You can criticize Marc Bergevin's moves, or lack thereof, but one thing is for sure: he hit the mark when he traded for Petry, and did so again by signing him to a six-year contract.

Every team is desperate for quality defenders, and the Habs virtually stole this one from the Oilers, by only paying a second- and fourth-round pick.

There's no word yet on how Second-Round Pick will fit on Edmonton's roster. Rumour has it he's working hard this summer, and hopes to crack the lineup. Scouts are unsure what type of player Second-Round Pick will eventually end up becoming, but the sky is the limit.

He could become a serviceable NHL player, or maybe a third-pairing defender.

Hell, he could even become a Jeff Petry.