AP Photo/Matt Slocum
When Taylor Pyatt was signed, he was brought in to help replace the departed combination of Ruslan Fedotenko, Brandon Prust, John Mitchell, Brandon Dubinsky, and Artem Anisimov. In those departed five players, the Rangers lost a lot of depth, but more importantly players capable of eating big minutes against tough competition. Suffice it to say, he hasn’t lived up to expectations so far.
Even off the score sheet, where Pyatt is well below is career averages, the big forward has been struggling to find consistency on the defensive front as well. During last season, Pyatt was a reliable defensive forward, facing decent competition (.140 Corsi Rel QoC) and starting just 41.2% of his shifts in the offensive zone. His RCorsi of -9.3 wasn’t stellar, but this is more a factor of zone starts. It’s tough to maintain a shot attempt advantage when starting 60% of your shifts in the defensive zone.
Even going back to the 2010-2011 season, Pyatt’s metrics showed he could be reliable in the defensive end. But those numbers haven’t translated over to New York this season, and it is relatively alarming.
Pyatt’s Corsi Rel QoC this year is -.140, which is second-worst on this club among players who have played 30 games. Only Darroll Powe (-.871) is worse. Pyatt’s RCorsi is better this year ay -6.7, but it’s his zone starts that throw this for a loop. In Phoenix, Pyatt was usually starting 40% of his shifts in the offensive zone. This season, he’s at 53.1%. In exchange for 13% more starts in the offensive zone against significantly weaker competition (+.140 to -.140), Pyatt’s RCorsi is just four shots better.
There are a number of factors here, specifically in a short season. Pyatt did not have a proper preseason, thus has not gotten used to Torts’ demanding style. A short season also means less time to get in hockey shape. But every team has had to deal with these issues. So maybe the problem lies deeper than just a short season.
Pyatt isn’t the fastest skater in the world, and that is what Torts’ systems are designed for. That said, slower skaters have still had success because they are defensively responsible (see: Boyle, Brian) and make up for it with positioning. Pyatt is in the same boat as Boyle, as they are both relied upon heavily for defensive roles. They are also in the same boat because they are the same type of player: Grind along the boards, use the body for positioning, and make up for slow foot speed.
This isn’t saying Pyatt isn’t a good fit, as someone with his level of hockey IQ can fit anywhere. Maybe it’s just a matter of getting used to Torts. Maybe it’s a matter of more depth leading to better play (as we’ve seen in every player since the trade deadline). Whatever it is, the club needs him to be more consistent heading into the home stretch and the playoffs. Perhaps this pairing with Brad Richards is the jump start he needs.