"What's wrong with Jason Pominville?" would probably be the biggest question of the season, were it not for Thomas Vanek.
"The Mayor of" Pominville has slowly been accumulating flak from the Minnesota Wild blogosphere. And Pominville isn't exactly lighting the world on fire. Getting prime ice time and a prime assignment with Zach Parise and Mikael Granlund, Pominville has managed only 4 goals and 15 points. The point mark is underwhelming, but not terrible, so what's the issue?
It's Pominville's shooting. He's shot only 4.9% on this year, but even more concerning to Wild fans are the shots that have missed the net entirely. Jason Pominville is 7th in the NHL in Missed Shots with 38. Missed Shots aren't anything new with Pominville- he led the Wild with 85 last season- but amassing half that total in just 23 games doesn't seem particularly encouraging. Especially considering those 38 misses don't include a few of high-profile chances he's whiffed on entirely.
So, Pominville is missing the net a lot. That's got to be the reason for his struggles, right?
First of all, there doesn't appear to be a lot of correlation between missing the net a lot and low goal totals. In fact, it would seem it's just the opposite. The players with more missed shots than Jason Pominville are Alexander Ovechkin, Brent Burns, Oliver-Ekman Larsson, James Neal, Jeff Carter, and Erik Karlsson. All terrifying goal-scorers.
This is no anomaly. Look at the leaders in missed shots last year. Ovechkin, Jamie Benn, Joe Pavelski, Karlsson, Tyler Seguin, Alexander Semin, Corey Perry, Keith Yandle, Radim Vrbata, and Burns. That group averaged 29.8 goals last season, and the only person on that list to finish with under 20 goals was Yandle, a defenseman.
This makes sense if you think about it: It stands to reason that if you're missing the net a ton, it probably means that you're trying to shoot a lot, and that's exactly what Pominville's doing- and succeeding at. We just remember the times that it doesn't work. Pominville finished Saturday tied with Steven Stamkos for 10th in the NHL with 81 shots on goal*, a mark that leads his team. His 11.13 5v5 Shots/60 is 10th in the league, just below Ovechkin, and just above Parise.
Were Pominville to continue to hit the net at his current pace for the remaining 59 games, he would amass a total of 289 shots on goal, which would have been 5th in the NHL last season. This would easily be the best shot total in Pominville's career. Were he to shoot 208 more times this season, converting those shots at his career 11.5 shooting percentage, he would score 28 goals this season. That'd just be 2 off last year's total, and factoring his two-way game into consideration, would more than justify his salary and role on the team.
Even among the misses and whiffs, and the terribly low shooting percentage, it's hard to make an argument that Jason Pominville is actually hurting the team. Again, quite the opposite. Even with the bad shooting performance by him and his linemates, the Wild are still controlling play, outscoring their opponents, and getting a ton of chances. It's also clear that Pominville's teammates almost universally benefit from his presence.
The eye test bears this out, if you force yourself to look for the positive in this. It's getting very rare to see a line with Jason Pominville on it in their own zone, and that's no accident. Whenever you see Pominville miss a shot, or whiff on it entirely, look again. Chances are, he's open, in a scoring area, with not a lot of bodies in front of him. He's doing the things you need to do to score goals in this league, including shooting the puck on net 81 times.
The abundance of missed shots for Pominville isn't a fatal flaw, but a side effect of him taking his game to the next level. Would it be better if we've already seen that effort from Pominville rewarded? Of course- it would obviously have helped the team if even a couple of his missed nets hit their target. But there's little to suggest that Pominville is struggling beyond a mere dip in his shooting percentage. Nor are there any signs he won't rebound to his usual numbers, and virtually no hints he's in any sort of actual decline. Don't worry about Pominville- his shots will start hitting the back of the net soon.
* Due to some people passing up Pominville in these last few days off, Pominville now sits 13th in the NHL in SOG.