Four games into his Dallas Stars career, Corey Perry has put up one goal and two assists, all in one game. He’s been on playoff teams with the Anaheim Ducks for most of his career. He was also part of a 2015-2016 Ducks team that started the season 1-7-2, only to end up with 103 points and a first-place finish in the Pacific Division.
Perry is well known in Stars circles for his edge-of-the rule-book antics, including several incidents with captain Jamie Benn. Is Perry’s fate on the same trajectory as most NHL agitators when they join a new team? (i.e. “He may be a jerk, but he’s our jerk.”)
Based on his reception at his first game at American Airlines Center, that is likely the case. Especially if he keeps putting up solid offensive numbers.
But, as with most things, the devil is in the details. This may be especially true with Perry.
Perry has been a good player for quite some time. The buyout by the Ducks was about a big contract for an aging player on a team ready to start a serious rebuild.
Doing a deep dive into Perry’s playing time, one of the first things that you notice is how much time he actually spends off-camera. If play is in the offensive zone, it’s likely because he’s lurking - finding open space, being forgotten by coverage. If play is transitioning into the defensive zone, it’s likely because Perry is going to be the last player back.
Where ever he is on the ice, Perry makes short passes to tape. He reads his teammates, anticipates where they will be, and makes the simple play. Here, Perry bumps the puck off the boards to Roope Hintz, starting the breakout that leads to his backhand goal against the Philadelphia Flyers.
In the defensive zone, there isn’t much that Perry does that is spectacular. He patrols the crease as the weak side forward and makes himself available for outlets from defenders. He goes to the boards, but not hard, usually maintaining positioning. He anticipates puck movement and ends up with loose pucks on his stick more often than sheer luck would predict. If he reads that the team has gained puck control, he’s likely to fly the zone.
In the offensive zone, Perry works his way to the front of the net with regularity. He reads plays well, retrieves pucks, and handles it well behind the net, especially on the power play, Perry can distribute the puck in tight quarters.
One of Perry’s greatest talents is getting lost in the shuffle. He keeps his legs moving and works his way to open ice, getting behind defenders outside of their peripheral vision. His shooting in these situations hasn’t put him on the score sheet yet, but there have been multiple times where he has found teammates for open looks.
On the forecheck, Perry’s lack of speed is an issue. He does finish his checks, so if defenders don’t keep the puck moving, Perry can be disruptive. Perry usually trails the play up ice, so turnovers in the zone can easily turn into scoring chances if a defender doesn’t stay back with him.
Perry is not a prototypical forward in a Jim Montgomery system. He isn’t relentless on the forecheck and he doesn’t particularly play a 200 foot game. He’s slow, but he keeps moving intelligently, so the lack of speed doesn’t show up much in the offensive end.
What Perry does do is ready the game extremely well. He also adds an agitator’s edge to the team, something that the team really hasn’t had since Antoine Roussel.
If kept to second power play minutes, plus eleven to thirteen minutes a night at even strength, Perry should be a solid contributor for the Stars.