You may not have heard, but Jason Pominville is having some trouble this season. The winger has no goals and only 5 assists (3 of which were on the power play). The $5.6 Million cap hit through 2018-19 could be a real albatross contract, particularly given the no-move clause that GM Chuck Fletcher thought was the halloween candy two years ago.
To make matters worse, there are other issues as well. Pominville's ability to help drive possession has seemingly decreased this season; he has the lowest Corsi-For% (or Shot-Attempts-For%) since coming to the Wild. While it is still above 50, at 52.9, his zone starts are also very sheltered right now, with a Zone-Start Rel% of 16.9. in other words, he is starting in the offensive zone nearly 20% more often than the average Wild Player.
To be fair to Jason, he is driving possession, and has a positive effect on the overall Wild's possession metrics. However, according to War on Ice, while the Wild do get more shot attempts with Pommer on the ice, they have fewer "High-Danger Scoring Chances."
So, what's the problem? Let's look at some of the leading theories:
He's Not Shooting Enough
This is simply untrue. A 5-second glance at any number of statistical websites will show this. According to Hockey Analysis, Pominville is 2nd on the Wild in Shot Attempts per 60, Unblocked Shot Attempts per 60, and Shots on Goal per 60. Coincidentally, the same player is leading him in all three areas: Jason Zucker.
You read that right: Pominville is shooting at a higher rate than shot-machine Zach Parise in pretty much every conceivable way. The problem is absolutely not that he is not shooting enough.
He Misses the Net Too Much
This is a bit harder to verify, not because the stats aren't available, but because "too much" is a vague description. If Pominville is 2nd in shooting rates (he is) you would expect him to be 2nd in missed shots as well, right?
Wrong: Pominville is 3rd in Missed Shots, behind Jason Zucker and Nino Niederreiter.So, Pommer is 2nd in shooting rates, but 3rd in missed shots. Let's put that in a slightly different context.
War on Ice tells us both how many shots players have taken, and how many have missed the net. Using that information, we can determine what percentage of shots from a player miss the net.
On that list, here are the players who miss a fewer percentage of shots than Pominville: Charlie Coyle (14 shots, 2 missed), Erik Haula (6 shots, 1 missed), Ryan Carter (10 shots, 2 missed), Thomas Vanek (19 shots, 4 missed), Matt Dumba (21 shots, 5 missed). Jason Pominville has, according to War on Ice, taken 32 shots and 8 have missed the net. Coincidentally, Jonas Brodin ties Pominville for percentage, having taken 8 shots and had 2 of them miss the net.
He Can't Create His Own Shot
This is a favorite narrative of some people, simply because it's much harder to quantify and disprove. It's pretty clear from what we've already seen that Poiminville is shooting just fine. Whether or not he creates his own shot is, to some extent, meaningless. He hasn't scored yet, it's true... but that is certainly not for lack of trying.
Power Play Problems
There are areas where Pominville opens himself up for some criticism. He is, by no means, a perfect player. It is entirely possible that he is in decline, and will have a lower shooting percentage because of it. We know that his sh% was low last year, and it's looking likely to be low again. His even strength shot rates are as strong as they have ever been, however, so there isn't too much to worry about. What's more, early signs suggest Pominville is suppressing shots against more successfully than last year, which is also good.
The biggest criticism of Pominville at this point regards his presence and role on the power play. The Mayor seems to be experiencing an almost Vanek-level drop in his shot rate on the power play, and while shots aren't everything, they are important, especially with the man-advantage.Specifically, Pominville went from generating 54 and 60 shots per 60 in the past two seasons to only generating 45 shots per 60 minutes this season.
Even with that drop in shots/60, however, there aren't necessarily better options. The players who are shooting faster than Pominville on the power play are: Charlie Coyle (114/60), Jonas Brodin (100/60), Marco Scandella (61/60), Jared Spurgeon (47/60), Mikko Koivu (46/60), Ryan Suter (44/60), Thomas Vanek (44/60) and Zach Parise (43/60). In other words, if we picked our power play unit by shot rate, it would consist of Coyle, Koivu, Spurgeon, Brodin, and Scandella. Not likely.
History Repeats Itself
Pominville has a history of struggles with goal scoring (which sounds odd for a guy who could be argued could lead the Wild in points). The following graph shows a rolling shooting percentage average, with 20-games at a time (it shows patterns better than a simply graph of his sh% by game).
As you can see, there are periods where Pominville struggles to get the puck in the net. In 2009 and 2014, his entire season was pretty low, to say nothing of the abyss in 2008. We can take heart, however, that Pominville finds his way out of the problem areas and will be scoring again soon, hopefully with more success than he had last season.
Like it or not, Pominville is playing about as well as you could ask him to be, beyond maybe shooting more on the power play. His scoring struggles are frustrating and confusing, but over the rest of his career this will be but a blip on the radar.