An interesting conversation is taking place in Edmonton, where forward Jesse Puljujarvi has been about the most productive forward on the team in recent games who isn’t scoring. A player who is doing so many things right, he’s got a ton of support from fans and media who suggest he’s “the best right-winger on the Oilers”, but, with only three goals in his last 31 games, there’s also a lot of doubt around his ability to put the puck in the net.
So what is Puljujarvi? Is he a useful player that the Oilers should try and lock up? Or, is he someone the team shouldn’t offer a long-term deal to because he may never be a tremendous goal scorer despite all the other attributes he brings. It’s a critical decision that the Oilers need to get right. Mess up his extension and it could have long-term consequences.
Jesse Puljujarvi Oilers
As Allan Mitchell (Lowetide) writes, Puljujarvi “contributes to outscoring which is central to wins. This season, if healthy, he would have scored 20 goals while helping all of his linemates outscore opponents. I’ll take that player all day, especially at his cap hit.” The question Mitchell asks is fair, but next season, he’ll have a different cap hit.
Even former Oilers Rob Schremp wrote following the Oilers game versus the Colorado Avalanche, “Puljujarvi had a ton of chances last night. It’s a great sign that he is in the right places at the right time. Keep doing exactly what you are doing.” Chances are great and Schremp is right, but when does Puljujarvi need to start converting on those chances? Some say a good save is a good save. Others say Puljujarvi needs to find a way to knock those pucks past the goalline.
There’s been some debate about whether he deserves the spot on the top line with Connor McDavid and Evander Kane that he’s occupying. Some suggest that unless he starts to score, he shouldn’t be there. Instead, many of the naysayers believe Kailer Yamamoto should go back on that top line where he found some success.
The counterargument here is that when Puljujarvi steps on the ice, the underlying stats show that the Oilers score goals at their highest rate and are scored on at their lowest rate. As @Archaeologuy on Twitter explains, “if you watch him and you say “He should play on the 3rd line”, you’re really saying “I want the Oilers to score less and be scored on more.” He makes a good point and his assessment is accurate.
How Do You Measure Effectiveness and Productivity?
The real question surrounding Puljujarvi is how best to measure his effectiveness as a player? Can a player rarely score and play in a top-six role and still be one of the better wingers on the club? Or, can a player be among the most effective of forwards and not light the lamp as often as some others? How you watch, analyze, and value the game may change your opinion of a player and that’s what’s happening currently with Puljujarvi.
The easy fix is for him to pot a few goals in the next couple of games and the doubt will go away.
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