Pittsburgh Penguins Offseason Grades: A Review of Brandon Sutter


Brandon Sutter is always a hot topic among the Pittsburgh Penguins faithful.  There are folks that automatically point to his 21-goal season to defend his effectiveness, and others that look at a larger package with poor possession numbers to diminish his impact.  So, who is the real Brandon Sutter and how did he do this season?

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Sutter’s goal total this season isn’t quite as reflective on his performance as some will argue. His production was very streaky, and he’s more of an opportunist than someone that will generate offense.  Am I saying that Brandon Sutter offered nothing at all this season? Well, not necessarily.

Sutter had four shorthanded goals which led the Pittsburgh Penguins and placed him in a three-way tie for second in the entire league.  That’s impressive no matter how you look at it.  He also finished the season with the best shot suppression numbers while shorthanded among all of the Pens forwards.  While Pittsburgh’s penalty kill numbers were impacted greatly by Marc-Andre Fleury‘s shorthanded save percentage, Brandon Sutter clearly contributed to that group.

Even strength play is where I have the biggest issue with Sutter’s performance.  Not only does he fail to create offensive chances, he also fails to prevent opponent’s chances.  Most NHL teams look for their third line center to play a shutdown role, but Sutter isn’t capable of doing so for the Pittsburgh Penguins.  And, before you say that he was handcuffed by less-than-capable line mates, take a look at his 5v5 corsi numbers along with those that played the most minutes with him. (Stats via stats.hockeyanalysis.com)

There’s a clear upgrade in possession numbers for everyone when they are away from Sutter.  The argument has been made that if you’re away from Sutter then you’re likely playing alongside Evgeni Malkin or Sidney Crosby.  I added Malkin to that chart to reflect his boost when away from Sutter as well.

It isn’t hard to see that the Pittsburgh Penguins spend way too much time in their own end when Sutter’s on the ice.

The above numbers reflect the reason I was such an advocate for Beau Bennett to see more time alongside Malkin. He simply wasn’t going to produce on a line with Sutter.  I’m not saying that he would have lit the world on fire in the top-six, but the probability of success would have been much higher.

Grading Sutter’s season is difficult.  When taking his goal totals into account you have to consider that four were scored while shorthanded and two were tallied in the last game of the season against the Buffalo Sabres.  I understand it was an important game, but it was still the Buffalo Sabres.

I’ll give Sutter a C- for the 2014-15 season.  His contributions on the PK can’t be overlooked, but he’s a liability at even strength.  The great thing about Sutter is that he tends to have a knack for scoring goals in big situations, and NHL GM’s love him.  What am I getting at?

I discussed it a little more in depth in an article found here, but Brandon Sutter is the best trade chip available for Jim Rutherford and the Pittsburgh Penguins.  He has to be moved this summer in order to address needs in the top-six.  His perceived value is much higher than his actual value, especially after another solid playoff series.

What would you grade Sutter for his 2014-15 campaign?

Next: Offseason Grades Continued: Nick Spaling's 2014 Season Review

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