FanPost

Understanding Pitkanen: Key to the Puzzle?


I got to wondering why Pitkanen's shooting percentage has sunk to an amazingly low level this season: 1.7%. I figured there must be a wrist or shoulder injury. I noticed some interesting things in PItkanen's career statistics:

  • Pitkanen's shooting percentage has declined every season with the Canes.
  • Except for 2006-2007 with the Flyers, Pitkanen has had no other season as bad as his best shooting year with the Canes.
  • Pitkanen has had extreme swings in performance with two teams, the Flyers and the Hurricanes. In 2005-2006 with the Flyers, he was +22 and hit 11% of his shots. In 2006-2007 with the Flyers, he was - 25 and hit 2.9% of his shots. In 2008-2009 with the Canes, Pitkanen was +11 and hit 4.8% of his shots. Last season, Pitkanen was - 11 and hit 3.7% of his shots.

No wisdom here to interpret anything, just the usual curiosity. It seems possible that Pitkanen is a player who, if used properly, is extremely valuable, but otherwise is a major liability. With the Canes, he's moving toward major-liability status. But you can see the amazing skating ability and brilliant passing at times and especially all the times that he gets back much faster than any other Canes' D-man can and prevents a breakaway. I can't help thinking there may be some key to allowing Pitkanen to be the valuable asset that he can be and that the Canes have lost it. Perhaps they could find it again - if they knew what it was.

Any theories about why Pitkanen should shoot a lower percentage with the Canes than with his other teams and why the percentage should be falling every year? Or why Pitkanen's plus minus can sink 47 points year to year in Philly and 22 points year-to-year in Carolina? Is the partner critical?  The coach?

It is true that Laviolette was coach for the first 25 games of the 2008-2009 season. So Pitkanen went through a change of coaches and systems and the outcome was not good. Didn't Pitkanen's partner change as well?  In Philadelphia, the Flyers went from Ken Hitchcock in the good year to John Stevens in the year that Pitkanen's numbers fell through the floor. Do Mo and Stevens coach similar non-Pitkanen-appropriate systems? There were a lot of personnel changes as well, but I don't know how Pitkanen's partners changed.

Is Pitkanen a player who is excellent in a particular type of system - a type that both the Flyers and Canes abandoned, transforming him from a major asset into a liability? Is it the partner who determines Pitkanen's value? Or is there something else that causes the wild swings?

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