At the beginning of the 2021 NHL season, all signs were pointing towards an elite season for Montreal Canadiens Defenceman Jeff Petry. The American was acquired by the Canadiens from the Oilers in 2015. Up until the last few years, Petry flew under the radar of the hockey world. He quietly put up great numbers for the Canadiens. It was only recently that the hockey world took notice of the defender’s play. He seemed to somehow be improving with age.
This year many thought Petry would be a Norris Candidate or even the winner of the prestigious award. The hype around him at the time was most definitely justified, though. Basic metrics show that through the first two months of the season, Petry had an outstanding Points per 60 minutes of 2.44, second to only Shea Theodore who had 2.511. It’s safe to say that if he had maintained this unbelievable pace, he would have surely been able to compete for the Norris when everything was said and done. Unfortunately for the aging Defender, the Norris would only drift further and further away from then on.
I think it’s important to set one thing straight. Petry is a great defenceman. His ability to generate offense from the blueline is outstanding. That being said he is by no means a Norris caliber defenceman. Simply comparing his Goals Above Replacement per 60 to other elite defencemen is enough to show this. Petry sits 32nd in the league (800 TOI min) at 0.41, which is miles behind the likes of Cale Makar and Mackenzie Weegar who led the league with a 0.9 and a 0.752 GAR/60 respectively. Things only get worse when looking at his defensive GAR statistics in which he sits 75th.
Petry’s impact on the Canadiens’ goals isn’t bad at all, but he certainly isn’t putting up numbers comparable to the likes of Norris contenders. Petry struggles on the defensive side of the puck. Although it’s well known he’s great on the rush, his overall metrics show that he isn’t anything special defensively. If he were to improve on this, he’d surely be closer to the superstars.
Digging a little bit deeper into Petry’s offense ability shows that Petry’s weighted production based on his competition is significantly lower than other elite defensemen.
Petry’s base GF/60 is heavily influenced by his play against weaker opponents. When weighted, we are left with a more accurate picture of his overall offensive production. To his credit, Petry played against Elite competition a lot, but the level at which he played against these opponents was far from superstar level.
Now let’s compare him to the cream of the crop:
Cale Makar: While yes, his minutes against elite competition are lower than Petry’s, Makar’s overall numbers blow Petry’s out of the water. His production is significantly better than the American’s against all levels of competition.
Darnell Nurse: Nurse’s Numbers are outstanding. Despite having a high GF/60 against weaker opponents, his numbers versus Elite competition are higher than Petry’s even with playing more time. It’s important to understand that Nurse also plays with Connor McDavid and Leon Draisatl which most definitely affected his numbers.
While Petry’s weighted offensive production isn’t terrible, it doesn’t even compare to the best of the best.
Jeff Petry is not a Norris caliber defenceman. And unfortunately with his age, a regression is extremely likely him. The consensus opinion is that Petry is Elite, and his stats can easily justify this. I view him as a top 20 Defenceman who can generate a good amount of offense from the backend while still not really being a liability defensively. That being said, he doesn’t compare to the young superstars in the league.
Statistics and Analytics: EvolvingHockey.com, Puckiq.com, Quanthockey.com