Simon Despres vs. Ben Lovejoy: Who’s Faring Better Since the Trade?


Pittsburgh Penguins General Manager Jim Rutherford made quite a splash at this season’s trade deadline.

Among his moves was the highly contested swap of longtime Pens defensive prospect Simon Despres for Anaheim Ducks rearguard (and former Penguin) Ben Lovejoy.

While on the surface the deal seemed fairly straightforward – the Pens wanted more veteran experience and Lovejoy brings a physical edge similar to Despres’ – it’s the issue of future potential that left this one feeling lopsided originally.

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With Lovejoy, the Pens got a reliable, veteran defender (he turned 31 in Februrary) who has grown significantly since his last stint in Pittsburgh.

With Despres, the Ducks got a young defenseman (23 years old) who is raw, but who clearly has potential. Despres has significant offensive skill and grew into a physical force this season, leading the Pens in hits by a large margin while in Pittsburgh.

His defensive game needs work, but that will come in time.

With the regular season nearing its end, let’s take a look at how both players are faring in their new environments.

Lovejoy has been fairly solid for Pittsburgh. Suiting up on the second pairing with Derrick Pouliot originally, and now Christian Ehrhoff. In the 9 games he’s played for Pittsburgh, Lovejoy has logged an average ice-time of around 18 minutes while registering a plus-minus rating of -1.

Despres has fared somewhat better, skating alongside James Wisniewski on the Ducks’ third pairing. He’s skating an average of around 18 minutes as well, alongside a plus-minus rating of +3.

However, Despres has seen his ice time fall from nearly 20 minutes in his first few games with the Ducks to around 16 in his last couple contests.

Offensively, Despres has a slight edge. He’s posted 3 assists in his 8 games as a Duck, but has put 14 shots on net.

The defensive-minded Lovejoy has posted 1 assist for the Pens, alongside 11 shots.

While the numbers tell a story of two players playing a similar same game, there’s one factor that doesn’t shine through.

The central reason Rutherford sought out Lovejoy was for his decision-making. Among Despres’ list of talents also existed an understanding that he is still young and thus prone to making mistakes.

Whether it be an errant pass through the middle or a penalty not worth taking, there were times when the Pens’ coaching staff felt Despres was hurting the team more than helping them.

On the other hand, Lovejoy was trusted with playing in key situations and was paired with the Ducks prized prospect, Cam Fowler, thus trusting the veteran Lovejoy to help teach Fowler the ropes of NHL success.

It seems a lofty task for a player who was never considered a top defenseman during his previous time in Pittsburgh, but Lovejoy has grown significantly as a player.

The fact of the matter is, however, that the true weight of this deal will not be known until the NHL sees Despres in his prime, which won’t come for a few years.

Pittsburgh may have gotten a more reliable defender to help them win right now, as seen by the play of both defenders thus far with their new clubs, but down the line, they may look back and wish they had kept the young Despres once he grows into a top-pairing veteran.

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