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Tale of the tape: Brandon Sutter vs. Eric Fehr

A look at the similarities (and differences) between the Penguins old 3rd line center, (Brandon Sutter) and their new one (Eric Fehr)

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

As mentioned here yesterday on the initial trade/signing article, there are many similarities between Eric Fehr and Brandon Sutter. Both are former first round picks, natives of Western Canadian, both play center in the NHL, have a similar build. They wear the same number (16) and both shoot right handed.

Let's take a little look at the tale of the tape

Player Height Weight Age 2014-15 stats 2014-15 FO% 2014-15 TOI 2014-15 TOI split ES/SH/PP Last 3 yr Corsi For % Last 3 yr Goals For %
Sutter 6'3" 190 26 21g+12a in 80 gp 50.6% 17:19 13:29/2:18/1:31 45.5% 47.6%
Fehr 6'4" 212 29 19g+14a in 75 gp 52.0% 14:51 13:16/1:23/0:10 50.2% 54.1%

As you can see, a lot of similarities there, but some important differences too. Even strength time is about even, Sutter played almost a minute more on the penalty kill and also played on the power play where Fehr almost never did.

Then you get to the last two columns and see the most meaningful differences. Sutter's gotten crushed in Corsi, Fehr's stayed afloat. Sutter is also on the ice for more goals against than goals for, where Fehr is on ice for more goals for than goals against.

Fehr in depth

Our friends at the Capitals blog Japers Rink highlighted Fehr's positives last season thusly:

Even with tougher assignments and limited offensive zone starts, he  improved his possession numbers from last year, evidenced by his increase in SF% from 48.0% in 2013-14 to 50.2% this year. He finished +8 in two key categories: plus-minus and net penalties drawn. His face-off win percentage improved from 46% to 52%, another impressive feat for a converted winger who had not taken many draws in his career before 2013. Defensively, he logged more time on the PK this year (1:23) than last year (1:00) and his shot suppression numbers on the PK ranked best on the team at 47.8 across 60 minutes, down from last year's less sightly 66.6 across 60.  Again, quite an evolution, further enhanced by the fact that he completed his two-year metamorphosis with an entirely new set of coaches.

But with the good, is also the bad:

Fehr had a strong start to the season and a not-as-strong finish, as he posted 16 goals, 24 points and a plus-13 rating in his first 47 games of the season and just three goals, nine points and a minus-5 rating in the 28 games that followed before a pointless-in-four-games playoffs (speaking of which, Fehr now has just two goals and no assists in his 30 career playoff games that weren't against Montreal in 2010). And it wasn't just the box cars that tailed off - using that same (somewhat arbitrary) February 4 separator, he posted a 51.3 Corsi-For percentage prior and a 49.0 percentage (with a markedly worse Relative CF%) after. In reality, given the totality of the circumstances, that might be more "The Uneven" than "The Bad," and this next point might be more "The Unlucky" - Fehr's real issue was that the injury bug continued to plague him at inopportune times.

In some ways, it sounded like Fehr is the opposite of Sutter, for last season at least. Sutter started fast (14 points in 30 games), slumped in the middle (7 points in 27 games) and ended strong with 12 points in 23 games. Sutter shined down the stretch scoring 4 goals in the season's final 6 games to help the Penguins limp into the playoffs, where as Fehr was hurt

That durability is also worth mentioning. In three seasons as a Penguin, Brandon Sutter only missed 3 games in 3 seasons (well, 2.5 I guess with the lockout). And that includes getting held out for 2 with a possible case of the mumps (which turned out negative) so it could have just 1 game without real injury.

Fehr can't say the same. He missed 13 games at the most important time of the season last year. And Fehr's missed 23 games in the last 3 (or 2.5) seasons. Prior to that, in 2010-11 and 2011-12, Fehr missed significant time with shoulder injuries.

And, Fehr's had elbow surgery in early June and is expected out until around December, way more games missed than Sutter, before Fehr even starts his Penguins career.



Eric Fehr is undoubtedly older and more injury prone than Brandon Sutter, but by about every metric he's a much better hockey player. On top of that, Fehr comes $1.3 million cheaper, too. Whether you're looking at asset management or on ice performance, considering that Sutter is 1 year out from unrestricted free agency (and likely an even richer deal), the Penguins did a very smart thing by swapping out Sutter and bringing in Fehr for 3 seasons. Fehr should bring everything that Sutter did (and more) if he can stay healthy, and the team spends less money to do so.

The Pens are taking a little more risk since Fehr is 3.5 years older and more injury prone, but he's also much more cost controlled and cheaper. Fehr also has more positional flexibility to play wing.