PHN Extra: Riley Sheahan Good Enough? 2017-18 Report Card | Pittsburgh Hockey Now
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PHN Extra: Riley Sheahan Good Enough? 2017-18 Report Card

Penguins center Riley Sheahan was given big skates to fill–living up to the play of Matt Cullen and Nick Bonino–and he struggled in a bottom 6 role.



Riley Sheahan: Photo by Greg Thompson/Icon Sportswire

It’s difficult to asses an accurate grade to Riley Sheahan. Should he be compared to Nick Bonino and Matt Cullen? Should he be compared to league average third line centers–the role he was acquired to fulfill– or should he be compared to fourth line centers, where he finished the season? The grades differ but the overall contributions still paled in comparison to his predecessors.

Riley Sheahan Third Line Center: D

Riley Sheahan Fourth Line Center: C

Sheahan wasn’t good enough for the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2017-18, in either role. Sheahan was an adequate penalty killer though the Penguins PK had significant struggles. Carter Rowney stabilized the unit more than Sheahan. At 5v5, Sheahan didn’t drive offense or create chances from the third line, which was a glaring difference from the previous couple seasons, especially in the playoffs.

Sheahan had only 91 scoring chances in 73 games as a Penguin. Overall, Sheahan’s line had 50.8 percent of the scoring chances which is OK but only 48 percent of the high danger chances, which isn’t good. Sheahan wasn’t tasked with the other team’s top lines, so those high danger chances yielded were against third and fourth line opponents.

The hallmark of Sheahan’s game became his work on the tough side of the red line and winning faceoffs, though he was on the ice for more shots against. In fairness, he did start over 64 percent of his shifts in the defensive zone but he didn’t transition to offense often enough. His robust faceoff percentage in itself is exemplary (57 percent of 5v5 draws), which is why he was deployed into the defensive zone more often and therein laid his value to the Penguins:

He was a defensive zone faceoff specialist.

A staple of Sheahan’s game was to hang back, high in the offensive zone, or crash low and try to drive to the net. Hanging back in the zone removed him from the play and he wasn’t successful enough driving to the net. Perhaps more low, gritty play for which he showed a flair, could boost his game and production.

For advanced stat devotees, his Corsi Relative was abysmal (Corsi Relative measures a players Corsi when he is on the ice against the team’s Corsi when he isn’t). Sheahan’s Corsi Relative was nearly a -6, which means the Penguins were getting many more chances without Sheahan on the ice.

Sheahan’s overall Corsi was 48.1 percent, which was identical to his last season in Detroit, in which he went 81 games without a goal.

Sheahan had 32 points (11g, 21a) but too many of those points were as a passenger. The Penguins scoring depth form players like Bryan RustPhil Kessel, and Jake Guentzel provided points from the third line.

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Sheahan had moments, like a pair of two-point games against divisional opponents in February (two assists on Feb. 2 against the Washington Capitals and two goals on Feb. 18 against the Columbus Blue Jackets). But, he didn’t have enough moments or create enough chances.

The Penguins acquired Sheahan just eight games into the season to be their third line center but his shortcoming in that role forced the Penguins on the market for another third line center at the trade deadline. The move to add new third line center Derick Brassard ultimately cost them Ian Cole, Ryan Reaves and goaltending prospect Filip Gustavsson.

For much of the season, Sheahan had access to a rejuvenated Phil Kessel but his playmaking skills weren’t enough.

Direct Comparisons

A superficial comparison of the 2017 version of Bonino versus Sheahan shows the players were equal but only in the superficial numerical comparisons. Bonino didn’t get to play with a motivated Kessel, like Sheahan. Instead, Bonino had a right-wing passenger which caused Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan to make the offseason trip to Toronto to have a chat with Phil.

Bonino had 37 points, with 18 goals, compared to Sheahan’s 32 points with 11 goals. Bonino also had almost twice as many blocked shots (99) than did Sheahan (50).

If you believe in the mystical PDO stat, which essentially attempts to measure a player’s luck using a 100 score as a baseline, Sheahan had a score on the “lucky” side (101.2) and Bonino was under 100. The stat is supposed to indicate Bonino had some bad luck and Sheahan had some good luck to get to their respective point totals.

The eye test drew a much larger distinction between Bonino and Sheahan. Bonino was able to drive play in the offensive zone and was a PK leader.

Report Card Comments

Further, Sheahan’s playoff performance did not hike his grades. Sheahan had three points (1g, 2a) in 11 playoff games but was on the ice for five goals against.

The eye test gives Sheahan a few bonus points for solid shifts with Tom Kuhnhackl and Bryan Rust deeper into the playoffs, but they didn’t convert.

Oh, the Penguins desperately needed offensive contributions from anyone beyond Sidney Crosby and Guentzel. The Capitals were getting offensive chances from players like Alex Chaisson, Devante Smith-Pelly and Brett Connolly. The Penguins didn’t get the same. And that directly reflects upon Sheahan, among others.

Just like much of the season, the Penguins needed more. From Sheahan, they didn’t get it.

Because fourth liners aren’t required to produce, Sheahan got a C as fourth line center. Because of his defensive play and faceoff skills, he earned a D as a third liner.

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Pittsburgh Hockey Now owner, formerly 93.7 The Fan, Sportsnet Hockey Tonight. Catch Dan tweeting @theDanKingerski and the official @pghhockeynow account.

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