Happy 4th everyone, our season review rolls on with a look at the season of Eric Fehr.
Age and Contract Status
Age: 30 (September 7, 1985). Signed a three year contract with a $2.0 million cap hit with the Penguins in the summer of 2015, so has 2 more seasons with Pittsburgh until 2017-18.
With the news that Pittsburgh had signed Fehr, they also announced he was having elbow surgery and miss the beginning of the season. As such, expectations were immediately tempered as Fehr (a natural winger with some center experience) went from being a candidate to replace Brandon Sutter as 3rd line center down to a 4th line and PK support role.
Fehr made his season debut on October 31st, and made a huge splash- scoring a short-handed goal (and adding an assist) against Toronto. He would play 54 more games in the season, scoring only 7 more goals and adding just 5 assists for the rest of the season. His play was almost exclusively limited to the 4th line, which while the Penguins have a good 4th line, isn't offensively minded. So for $2.0 million, the Penguins didn't get close to the 19 goal, 33 point season Fehr had in 2014-15 with the Capitals, but they did get solid all-around play and at 2:28 SH minutes per game the 2nd most PK time among forwards.
The Penguins have Bryan Rust, Tom Kuhnhackl and Scott Wilson signed for the next 2 seasons and all are fast, young and potential bottom-six wingers. They have Nick Bonino and Oskar Sundqvist as B6 centers. With Matt Cullen now a free agent, Fehr is the second oldest forward on the team, behind Chris Kunitz. Fehr isn't as fleet of foot as the prototypical Mike Sullivan player, and his $2 million salary is much more than other lower line players on the team.
At the same time, Fehr's a core support member of the team and adds some size, reach and center/wing flexibility that is always welcomed over the course of a long season. And, if the Pens intend to keep Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Phil Kessel on three separate lines, a former 20 goal scorer like Fehr has some value to keep around as a player who has been productive previously in the NHL and some willingness and ability to drive to the net.
Regular season: 55 games played, 8 goals, 6 assists, 14 points, 19 penalty minutes
Playoffs: 23 gp, 3g + 1a, 4p, 6 PIMs
2015-16 Pens 5v5 Forward Usage Chart (via Corsica Hockey):
Toughest zone starts on the team for Fehr, who was given the most defensive role on the team. Being competent in his own zone and doing some heavy lifting there freed the top lines up for more offensive zone starts. It's an unglamorous job, and Fehr was perhaps understandably outshot (48.9% corsi for).
Also of interest, Pens goalies only had a 91.43 save % with Fehr on the ice at 5v5, ranking him 17 out of 18 among forwards this season (Carl Hagelin would be the only one lower).
Fehr's HERO Chart
(From Own The Puck)
2015-16 Game-by-Game Analysis
Fehr's most common 5v5 linemates were Matt Cullen, Tom Kuhnhackl, Sergei Plotnikov and Kevin Porter. Total 4th line duty, though Fehr did get a chance to play on Malkin's right wing at the beginning of the playoffs.
Distribution of Teammates and Competition
GIFs of the Year
What should Fehr's role on the team be going forward for 2016-17? Can he score enough to give him an edge over all the young wingers in the organization? Should he be the 4th line center if Cullen doesn't return?