With the 2019-20 NHL regular season likely over, we can fully evaluate individual players from the Philadelphia Flyers.
He’s exactly the kind of player you need on your team, but in just the right amount. Players of Pitlick’s ilk do not fare well when asked to do too much, namely in the form of extended ice time or bad matchups against elite talent that they can’t hope to compete with.
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And so it’s a great credit to the coaching staff and to Pitlick himself that he acquitted himself quite well in his first year with the Flyers. His numbers (8 goals, 12 assists in 63 games) have “fourth-liner” written all over them, but that’s fine because it’s exactly what the Flyers thought they could get from him.
More important for the purposes of team success was the energy that Pitlick brought on a nightly basis as he stabilized the bottom of the lineup, something that was a huge issue for the Flyers last season as they cycled through the likes of Josh Bailey and Corban Knight to plug the holes in their sinking ship.
Hartman was a pending free agent, and the Flyers obviously didn’t like what they were hearing in terms of dollars. So they sent him to Dallas for Pitlick, a comparable player who was cheaper and under contract for another year. Dallas couldn’t sign Hartman either, and he eventually inked a deal with Minnesota at $1.9 million for each of the next two years.
The results? Hartman put up 9 goals and 11 assists in 69 games for the Wild while playing roughly the same amount of time per game as Pitlick. Their scoring was a wash (slight edge Pitlick), but the analytics like Corsi and Fenwick favor Hartman’s play and didn’t look too kindly on Pitlick this season. So what gives?
Essentially, those advanced metrics boil down to an evaluation of a player’s even strength play in terms of the shot attempts (including missed shots and blocks) that his team creates while he is on the ice versus the shot attempts they allow while he is on the ice. It’s a deeper look into a player’s overall effect on his team’s games than the much-maligned plus/minus stat, and it seems to indicate that Pitlick was a bit underwhelming for the Flyers this season because they allowed a decent number more shot attempts than they created while he was on the ice. Hartman, meanwhile, came in as a net positive in this area.
But shot attempts don’t equal goals, and so Pitlick still managed to put up a +11 plus/minus rating while Hartman only came in at +4. Make of that what you will.
Raw stats and advanced metrics aside, those who actually watched Pitlick’s body of work with the Flyers this year couldn’t help but come away impressed. I liked Hartman’s game during his brief time as a Flyer, but I don’t think that he would have brought more to the table this season than Pitlick, who gelled well with what the Flyers were trying to do.