Edmonton - May 14, 2014 - With David Perron’s first year in Edmonton Oilers silks now in the books, you would be hard-pressed to find a single Oilers fan who did not love what the twenty-five year old brought to the rink on a nightly basis.
While he did post career highs in goals (28) and points (57), it was his style of play and refusal to make excuses that won over the masses throughout Oil Country.
On a team that has a roster filled with highly-skilled but somewhat passive youngsters, it should surprise no one that Perron and his agitating style have made him an instant fan favourite.
Outside of Taylor Hall, the former first round pick of the St. Louis Blues was Dallas Eakins best all-around forward in 2013-14 and was arguably his most competitive guy upfront.
In fact, considering he was asked to play with so many different linemates and in a variety of spots within the lineup, his overall production starts to look even better.
After becoming a bit of an afterthought for Ken Hitchcock in the “Show Me State”, Perron was one of Eakins got-to-guys from Day One and he managed to hold onto that role for the entire season. His twenty-eight goals tied him with Jordan Eberle for top spot on the team, he led the Oilers with eight power play markers and his ninety penalty minutes placed him second behind tough guy Luke Gazdic and his team leading 127.
The native of Sherbrooke, Quebec made a habit of getting under the opposing teams skin and actually led all NHL forwards with forty-five minor penalties but drew roughly the same amount of power plays for his team. In short, the Oilers #57 was in the middle of everything and played a major role in trying to make the Orange and Blue a far more difficult team to play against.
His unwillingness to make excuses after losses was refreshing to hear, as the ongoing re-build had become an acceptable crutch for many within the dressing and organization to fall back on. Making the same silly mistakes, game in and game out, should never be ok and the addition of Perron and Andrew Ference have forced guys to start taking a long hard look in the mirror. While it may not have had the desired effect in year one, management are hoping that changes in 2014-15.
With the three-time twenty goal man in the midst of entering the prime years of his career and two years remaining on his current four year deal, the Oilers have a far more mature and motivated player on their hands. While Perron may have had his issues with Hitchcock in St. Louis, he has clearly used that experience to his advantage and seems far more willing to do whatever is being asked of him in order for his team to win hockey games.
Be it babysitting the defensively challenged duo of Sam Gagner and Nail Yakupov, skating alongside Boyd Gordon on a make shift checking line or playing with Hall on Edmonton’s top unit, Perron gave it his all in any and all situations. Again, a refreshing change of pace…as we have seen the likes of Eric Belanger, Ben Eager, Ales Hemsky and Ryan Smyth all mail it in on more than a few occasions over the last handful of seasons. He may not have always agreed with how he was being used but whatever his coach needed was what the former twenty-fifth overall pick tried to deliver.
There is no question Perron will play a major role in 2014-15 and seems poised to have himself an even better campaign than he did during his first go round in the Alberta capital. One would think he will be used exclusively inside the top six during year two and have far better linemates at his disposal…or at least that is what his general manager has hinted at. While his ceiling is likely somewhere in that 65-70 point neighbourhood, he brings a ton of intangibles to the table that are currently absent from this lineup.
However, there is no guarantee Perron will be part of the long term solution...especially with unrestricted free agency on the horizon. While the organization would have real interest in signing him to some sort of extension, like most players, the chances of him doing so on a team that does nothing but lose hockey games are not good.
With that said, there is only one way to keep that from happening…improve the roster and quickly. If that can’t happen, than Craig MacTavish may have no choice but to seriously consider moving David Perron sometime over the next eighteen months. It may not be what the masses want to hear but that doesn’t change the reality of the situation.