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Let’s talk about Tyler Pitlick

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I miss Ryan Hartman.

NHL: DEC 21 Flyers at Senators Photo by Richard A. Whittaker/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

I’ve worked in an office job before. Many of you more than likely have at least once. Present in nearly every office, across all forms of business, is the fax machine. This humble instrument, formerly of great value, finds itself today in a less coveted position. Though on occasion the fax machine will provide useful in specific situations, it mostly sits in the copy room collecting dust as more efficient, speedier technology has taken its place.

In this current season, Tyler Pitlick is the fax machine of the Flyers.

To be perfectly clear, Pitlick’s play so far has been entirely inoffensive. Claiming he’s been overtly bad or terrible would be a false claim. However, conversely, Pitlick hasn’t been a noticeably effective player either. Like the fax machine, he’s just been okay. He has had his moments where he impresses, but most of the time he simply coasts through unnoticed, in a state of perpetual “meh”.

Through thirty-four games, Pitlick has scored three goals and added five assists (all of them primary however) for eight total points. His career high is twenty-seven points, which came in 2017-18 while playing for Dallas, the only season where he played close to a full season. Pitlick is currently on pace for 19.3 points if he played an 82 game season, however since he will not play that many games, he is in actually on pace for 17.9 points. This, according to Pension Plan Puppets points projection model, is between below-average and poor production for a third line RW.

This all highlights the sort of dichotomy about Pitlick. Like I described in the opening to this article, his play is simply the microcosm of underwhelming, so should we really expect much more from Pitlick? However, when his most common line mates for the majority of this season have been Michael Raffl and James Van Riemsdyk on the third line, you would think that Pitlick would be able to do even slightly better than he has, even if just from a possession perspective.

Pitlick’s season Corsi-for at 5-on-5 comes in at 49.36%. Again, this isn’t entirely awful, but it certainly isn’t good. It’s only slightly better than Michael Raffl (48.41%), who we’ve described as the ideal Flyers’ fourth liner. In recent games, Pitlick has done slightly better in this regard, however, he’s been playing with Joel Farabee who is one of the Flyers’ multiple net-plus play driving forwards, so how much of this uptick is simply the addition of Farabee to his line?

Perhaps most interesting is Tyler Pitlick’s event mapping, provided courtesy of Natural Stat Trick. I took Pitlick’s individual event maps from the last five games, where he played on average more than ten minutes each night, and blended the opacity of the maps in order to look at the larger picture:

Pitlick event map
Natural Stat Trick

Immediately one notices the proliferation of red dots on this map, which are negative events. In Pitlick’s case, they are mostly instances where he takes a hit. Pitlick is getting some shots through on the net, however they are far and few in between and are only rarely in the slot. To Pitlick’s credit, he only registered (by the mapping) one giveaway in his own zone.

In Pitlick’s defense, he has always only had the expectations of a bottom six forward, and this is reflected in both his minutes and average competition. However, for 11:08 minutes average per night, his time on ice could easily be given to a prospect, or even back to Morgan Frost perhaps. Expectations on Pitlick weren’t high, and to say he’s a problem would be an over-statement. However, to argue Pitlick should remain in the line-up at 3RW while Nicolas Aube-Kubel plays on the fourth line, or while Morgan Frost sits in the AHL, would be a losing argument.

It goes back to the age old argument of how far should a team, and by proxy its fans, be willing to push the envelope of acceptability. To me, and I think most of our readers would share this opinion, one can never strive for too much excellence. While the club may not end up finding a better option than Pitlick, it would be befitting to their success to try.

All stats courtesy of Natural Stat Trick