The idea of the whipping boy is invoked daily in American culture. In sports it refers to the one player who generally receives the bulk of the blame for the issues ailing the team as a whole, or that one guy who always seems to be on the ice when catastrophe strikes. Jeff Woywitka was that player for the Stars the past two seasons. This year's whipping boy has been Adam Pardy.
The position of Whipping Boy was created in the British court in the 1600's. The Whipping Boy, from a lower class but still of high status, grew up around a prince from birth and received the physical punishment for transgressions committed by the prince. They, theoretically, developed a bond. The prince would watch a good friend take a beating because of his own actions. He would be so ashamed of his actions and feel such guilt from the pain inflicted on his friend that he would quickly learn to behave.
Pardy shares a lot in common with the historical Whipping Boy. He hasn't received the physical beatings, but he has unquestionably taken a mental thrashing. He's an outsider to the club after arriving as a free agent, and fans were in a feeling out process with him. He came to the Stars with a higher, but not elite, status as a two million a year defenseman for a team with financial issues. Right out of the gate Pardy struggled leaving fans with a very poor first impression, and when the team as a whole took a turn for the south the fan backlash continued to rise. Pardy began to literally take on the role of a Whipping Boy; the punishment for the sins of the team as a group have been disproportionately aimed at Pardy for three months now.
The truth though is that after Pardy's rough start he's been exactly what the Stars have paid for: a stabilizing bottom pairing defender. He isn't elite, but he isn't being paid to be elite. He's doing his job, and after the jump you can see how well he has been playing.
The first impression Pardy made on Stars fans was that of a mistake machine, but he wasn't making just any mistakes. The mistakes Pardy was on the ice for almost always led to (and still do) lead to goals. He was very timid. He backed off of pressure way too easily, made errant passes, and got caught up the ice way too much for a player with such a limited offensive skill set.
The early criticisms of Pardy's play no longer apply to the same extents as early in the season. The vitriol the Stars fanbase aimed at him earlier in the season (myself included) is now misguided. I started noticing the change around the All Star Break when he was reinserted into the lineup as an injury/trade replacement. Pardy was a more confident player. He was more aggressive in joining the rush. He's made some above average possession plays in the offensive zone, and he isn't as noticeable in the defensive zone. I initially went through the exercise of looking through these numbers make sure I was still sane. Judge my sanity for yourself.
ES TOI: Even Strength Time On Ice, EVf: Even Strength For, EVa: Even Strength Against
SCΔ/15: Scoring Chance Differential/15 minutes
Pardy truly struggled before the All Star break. He was generating .24 net scoring chances in 15 minutes of even strength ice time. He was basically "just there"; not really doing anything. Since the All Star Break Pardy has actually been really good. The visual improvements I thought I was seeing don't appear to be figments of my imagination. Since the break Pardy is generating a full scoring chance of net value for every 15 minutes of even strength ice time. Needless to say that's a significant improvement. I wanted more proof than that though. So the Shots%, Fenwick%, and Corsi% for all of the Stars significant skaters are below.
Shots%: Shots For On Ice/Total Shots On Ice, Fenwick%: Shots Directed At Net For/All Shots Directed At Net,
Corsi%: Fenwick + Blocked Shots
|Season||Pre ASB||Post ASB|
I sorted the table by Post All Star Break Fenwick%. What do you know, Pardy sits 6th, and really he's 5th since Toby Petersen barely plays. His 54% Fenwick% is third among Stars defensemen since the break. More impressively, his Fenwick% has risen by five percentage points since the break. His Corsi% is up a remarkable eight percentage points after the break compared to before. Pardy is legitimately playing better over a decent stretch of games, and deserves to be in the lineup.
It won't be easy to forget the first impression Pardy made, but this Whipping Boy has been making good for his issues lately. He's playing at a very high level for what he is, but unfortunately whenever he does make a mistake it reinforces the image Stars fans have in their minds of Pardy. Since the break he has earned a second chance. To some degree he's still the strange unfamiliar outside with whom Stars fans are still getting acquainted. The rough first impression is sticking for no reason. It's time to let the Whipping Boy go.