Defensive forwards are often the most under-appreciated players on most teams. What they do usually doesn’t show up in highlight reels or the scoresheet, but they play important roles on the team despite that. Patrick Dwyer, in particular, plays a very important role on the Hurricanes and some of the toughest minutes in the NHL. Although this probably isn’t news to those who are fans of the Hurricanes and watch most of their games, because there is a good chance that they know what Dwyer does and how his contributions help the team. How well does he play this role, though?
This season, Dwyer was Carolina’s best defensive forward and the key word there is "defensive." Dwyer is a great skater and plays a very sound and responsible game in his own end, which makes him a perfect fit for the team’s third line with Brandon Sutter. He actually played more minutes than he ever has before in the NHL, mainly because he logged a lot of time on the penalty kill and was trusted with top-nine minutes regularly. However, Dwyer’s offensive upside (or lack-there-of) make it difficult for him to become anything more than a third-liner in the NHL.
We’re going to take a closer look at Dwyer’s season after the jump.
|2011 - Patrick Dwyer
Dwyer was a key part of the team’s shutdown line this year and the team’s best defensive forward. He was on-ice for fewer even strength goals per 60 minutes than all but one of the team’s forwards, which may or may not have been helped out by a high on-ice save percentage of .948 Dwyer also exceeded in preventing the opposing team’s opportunities as the Hurricanes gave up fewer shots and scoring chances at even strength when Dwyer was on the ice. What makes this really impressive is that Dwyer managed to prevent shots & scoring chances while starting only 37.4% of his shifts in the offensive zone and playing against opposing team’s top lines on a nightly basis. He was basically the definition of a defensive, checking winger and maybe even a little better if you factor in the workload he took on. I usually refer to him as one of the team’s "heavy-lifters" because of this.
Other areas Dwyer contributed in was the penalty kill as Brandon Sutter was the only forward to play more minutes on the PK than him and Dywer was one the team’s better players at preventing shots and chances against there, as well. In addition to that, Dwyer helped out Carolina by giving them more powerplay opportunities. He drew 1.2 penalties per 60 minutes while not taking many penalties himself. Since he is one of the team’s more trusted penalty killers, it is a good thing that he wasn’t putting the Canes at an even bigger disadvantage by being sent to the box. Dwyer was also one of the team’s most efficient shot blocking forwards and had 62 total blocks on the year.
These are all the contributions that Dwyer makes which might fly over the heads of some casual fans.
Almost every negative aspect of Dwyer’s performance this year revolves around his offensive performance. Scoring goals and producing points isn’t part of Dwyer’s job description, but 5 goals and 12 points in 73 games is pretty bad for a guy who played in the top-nine for the entire season. It's also worth mentioning that he also received time in the top-six and that didn’t exactly boost his point total by much either. This can be illustrated by Dwyer’s point-production rate at even strength, which was the lowest on the team.
Dwyer may have been fantastic at preventing chances from the opposing team, but he struggled mightily at creating his own. Only Andreas Nodl and Tim Brent were on-ice for fewer even strength chances per 60 minutes than Dwyer and he also ended up underwater in most possession metric (-5.8 Corsi Rel.). This is probably a consequence of the situations he plays in but at the same time, it’s hard to keep using someone in the top-nine if they provide little to no offense. Although, Dwyer didn't exactly have many bounces go his way this year either (4.2 shooting percentage on 120 shots) so he could be better than the 12 points he produced this year suggests.
Dwyer was re-signed to a two-year deal with a cap hit of $625,000 and he was being paid $600,000 this season. That is very fair for a defensive forward and actually less than what some third liners are signed for on the open market. Dywer’s low point total might knock down his value a bit, but it isn’t a huge problem for someone making $625k. Plus, I think his defensive value is very underrated.
The Final Word:
Dwyer is a valuable asset to have on any team even if he doesn’t produce a lot of points. Having a guy who can reduce shots and chances against is very important, especially on a team with a rebuilding defense like Carolina. I think Dwyer played his role as a defensive forward perfectly this season, but I was definitely hoping for a little more than 12 points in 73 games out of him given the minutes he plays. Honestly, Dwyer could be a great two-way player if he had a better set of hands. He has the speed, awareness and defensive responsibility to succeed but his limited skill-set does hold him back a little.
What grade would you give Patrick Dwyer’s performance with the Hurricanes this season? If he exceeded your expectations to your wildest dreams, give him an A. If he met your expectations, give him a C. If he completely let you down, give him a F. Explain your vote in the comments and tell us what you thought about Dwyer.