Mathieu Perreault isn’t thrilled with the offensive numbers he’s put up this season but he’s not beating himself up over a shortage of production, either.
There is, however, one NHL statistic that gnaws at the veteran Winnipeg Jets forward.
Perreault, who has eight goals and 23 assists in a season interrupted by injuries, is saddled with a plus-minus rating of -10, the lowest among Winnipeg’s top-nine forwards.
It’s a blemish a guy who prides himself on being accountable in both ends of the rink feels isn’t fully deserved.
"I take it hard this year, the minuses, because it’s a weird stat but it’s out there, and it kind of hurts me a bit to see that," Perreault said following Monday’s practice at the MTS Centre. "I don’t see myself as a bad defensive guy, because I work as hard as I can defensively. I’ll try to block shots, I’ll do whatever I can. Bounces are just not going my way and then all of a sudden I’m a minus."
Perreault has played some centre this season but the bulk of his ice time in 55 games this season has been spent cruising the wing, most recently on the left side of centre Mark Scheifele, with Jets captain Blake Wheeler to the far right.
He’s been sidelined for 17 games, including a 14-game stretch (Nov. 3 to Dec. 1) due to an undisclosed upper-body injury and another three games in late January after suffering a broken thumb on a slash from Anaheim Ducks forward Corey Perry.
The 29-year-old native of Drummondville, Que., who signed a four-year, US$16.5-million contract extension in July that carries through to the end of the 2020-21 campaign, maintains luck has not been on his side.
"Sometimes, there’s nothing you can do about it. You’re just there. Those games that we’re down by one goal and you’re on the ice and we pull the goalie and the puck goes in, so you take a minus there," he said. "Sometimes, bad changes happen to me, where a guy comes to the bench, I step on and I don’t even have the time to take two or three strides and it’s in the back of the net, so I take another minus. It shows up in the stats and it kind of sucks."
Perreault, small in stature at 5-10 and 188 pounds, said he’s committed to the upkeep of his defensive game and tries not to dwell on the negative number — but it isn’t easy.
"If you feel like you’re making mistakes and costing the team, then you look yourself in the mirror and you’re like, ‘Hey, you gotta pick it up.’ But a lot of those minuses are mostly bad bounces and a lot of bad luck, so I’m trying to put that behind me," he said.
On a club destined to miss the playoffs for the fifth time in six seasons, and has allowed the third-most goals (230) in the NHL and is 11th-worst in the league in goal differential (-13), there’s going to be minus players. Rookie forward Nic Petan is a team-low -12 and he averages just over 11 minutes of icetime each game. Right-winger Joel Armia is a -7, the same mark as veteran blue-liner Toby Enstrom, currently out with an injury.
The plus-minus stat is one of the most debated in hockey, with many feeling it’s not a true indicator of a player’s performance or value.
Jets head coach Paul Maurice is comfortable with Perreault’s two-way game, and he backs up Perreault’s assertion that the ugly plus-minus rating is a distortion of reality.
"Every once in a while, you get a guy with a big number the other way that’s not in on a lot of the goals against," said Maurice. "When you cut the video on those, that would be a bit of an example of a guy that’s got some empty-net goals against him, he’s got his point coverage and somebody else makes a mistake, where the plus-minus gets skewed a little bit in terms of his impact on it."
Jets general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff has a decision to make on Perreault, and others, prior to the expansion draft in June when the Vegas Golden Knights fill out their roster.
Winnipeg players in the first two seasons of pro are automatically protected, so fans needn’t worry about the possibility of losing players such as Patrik Laine, Nikolaj Ehlers, Josh Morrissey, Jack Roslovic and Kyle Connor in the expansion draft.
The likes of Perreault, currently injured defenceman Tyler Myers, centre Adam Lowry, and wingers Joel Armia and Andrew Copp are vulnerable, depending on the who the Jets choose to lock up.
Vegas GM George McPhee previously held the same post with Washington. He drafted Perreault in the sixth round of the 2006 NHL Draft, and Perreault played four seasons in the Capitals organization.
"Vegas has to pick a guy from every team, so we know someone in this room is going there. You have to stay prepared for it. We’ll see if the Jets protect me," said Perreault, who has four goals and 11 assists in 18 games since returning from the thumb injury.
"We didn’t sign this (extension) thinking maybe I’m going to Vegas. We wanted to be here. I like the situation here, the ice time, the group of guys we have here. When I signed that deal, it was to stay here."