I found myself wondering after tonight's game if Craig MacTavish knew just what he was getting when he acquired David Perron or if he was like me who simply thought he was trading up from a solid third line left winger with plenty of potential to a proven first or second line left winger.
If you follow me on Twitter you may have seen me make the point that every team to make the Stanley Cup Finals since 2008 has had a player that could put up points and play hockey but was also an asshole on the ice with a real knack for getting under other players skin. Detroit had Tomas Holmstrom, Pittsburgh had Matt Cooke, Chicago had David Bolland, Philadelphia had Scott Hartnell, Boston had Brad Marchand, Los Angeles had Dustin Brown and while I did not follow the Devils much I believe David Clarkson also filled this role quite well (Feel free to tell me if not).
The point of all this is that while all these players were all different in their roles as well as many other ways, they all have a had an ability to agitate opposition players and get them off their game and then turn around and make them pay by putting the puck in the net.
While that is an excellent quality to have, David Perron has the potential to present much more to this team. There has long been calls from fans, media and management a like to add size or toughness to the top six on the team. While I agree with many that skill and hockey ability should be put first and foremost, I don't think that simply because something cannot be measured means it's not valuable.
Functional toughness seems to be the current buzz word for this topic and while it's a nice concept it's not always attainable and I find that the problem comes when it cannot be acquired and teams seemingly forget about the functional part. At this point teams and players like Mike Brown who are tough but not functional. A much better but less popular option is to fill the lineup out with functional players first.
From what I've seen so far is that David Perron brings that mystical functional toughness. He is a player with very high skill but also brings those 'intangible' aspects that cannot be measured. Perron finishes his hits, goes hard to the net and then stays there. He gives players a wack on the shin and isn't afraid to give opposing defensemen a wiff of his glove.
So while I may disagree that we need to add size to our Top 6, I would concede that we need to add toughness to the Top 6 and this can be done without changing the personal. The long standing philosophy has been that players like Eberle, Hall, RNH and Yakupov can't muck it up infront of the net after the whistle because they are too small. Well if David Perron can do it why can't they? There's no reason they can't, Hall is actually a bigger player than Perron in height and weight. Perron does have about 20lbs on the other three but he is very similar in size and there should be no reason those guys can't get their gloves up in peoples faces or snow a goalie from time to time?
The Oilers have other examples of this in their lineup such as Joensuu, Ryan Jones or Tyler Pitlick. I chose to focus on Perron in this post because he is the most proven goal scorer of the bunch with the highest skill set. But to briefly discuss these other players, Ryan Jones did not play a fantastic game tonight against Montreal, he had some bad turnovers, one even resulting directly in a goal. However, he was engaged in scrums and went hard to the net without flying by and he wound up with a goal as a result. Tyler Pitlick hasn't had much time to prove himself at the NHL level but he showed flashes of a similar style during the preseason and looked solid in his debut tonight. The other player of this quality has yet to produce much at the NHL level but also had a very impressive preseason and played the hard game in his few appearances so far this season, unfortunately he has been plagued with the injury bug so far this season.
Toughness doesn't mean you have to drop the gloves, it just means you don't back down and simply skate away in a scrum.
Let me know what you think.