Name: Conor Sheary
Position(s): Left wing, right wing
Age: 26 (25 during the 2017-18 season)
Basic 2017-18 Stats: 30 points (18 goals, 12 assists) in 79 games played
What may come as a surprise to most Penguins fans is how fantastic Conor Sheary’s possession numbers looked all season (not to me, because he’s forever the Baby Boy — long live the Baby Boy). In fact, compared to all of Pittsburgh’s forwards, Sheary put up top-ten numbers in every notable advanced stat category — better than even Jake Guentzel, covered here last week.
It’s also worthy to point out that Sheary either improved his possession metrics or kept them almost exactly the same as he did in his incredible season just a year ago. The only real flaw in his performance this year was a lack of corralling the points that count the most: goals and assists.
Exemplified by all three seasons Sheary spent in Pittsburgh, he played his best hockey paired up with his captain Sidney Crosby, as most do. The two had an eye for each other on the ice and usually played well together, which is why Mike Sullivan slotted Sheary on Crosby’s line more often than not. And when you take a look at the numbers that came from that line combination, there’s little arguing why; this duo drove the offense while on the ice, and the chances created, possession held, and goals that came from it, whether the two ended up with points or not, was a good thing to possess.
However, as noted above on the table, the biggest problem with the both of them focusing on offense was an utter lack of defensive help. Allowing almost three goals against on average together isn’t a good look, no matter how you spin it.
Because Sheary spent a huge chunk of time paired with Crosby, it meant that he also took the ice most often with the top two defensive pairings. Again you’ll see similar results on the offensive side — scoring goals at a decent pace, etc. — but what you’ll also see is a bad GA/60 mark. Gifting the opposition with an average of almost four goals regularly yielded terrible game outcomes for the Penguins this past season. Kris Letang, who had some defensive miscues himself, and Brian Dumoulin, who honestly comes as quite the shock, were annihilated on defense. Matt Murray suffered greatly whenever Sheary and the two best defensemen on the team were out on the ice at the same time.
From a defensive standpoint, Sheary and Olli Maatta played the best together, but a 2.35 GA/60 end result could’ve used a little work. They also provided little-to-no offense.
Switching gears a bit to Sheary’s heat maps, you’ll notice how incredible of a threat he was inside the slot, around the net mouth, and behind the goalie at even-strength. The middle of the ice is coated in bright red. Sheary was fifth on the team in creating high danger chances, and this image back that stat up 100-percent.
You’ll notice Sheary’s ability to drive offense carried over to the power play as well. It’s almost criminal to look at all this data and remember he only tallied 30 points this season. Sheary just had some of the worst luck imaginable, and it cost him a roster spot on the Penguins going into the 2018-19 season. It’s a shame, really.
Monthly Splits and Other Stats
Sheary played his best hockey last season right at the start, scoring five goals and six points just in the month of October. Things sort of diminished from there. Sheary resurfaced briefly with a solid performance in March, netting five goals again and two more assists, but that was really the final offensive surge we saw from him.
The rest was just seeing him catch an edge and fall (often) or watching the puck clank off his stick paddle every time he tried to receive a perfect pass in stride. Something was definitely off with Sheary this season when it came to little things like that, and I think it translated to the frustration he had with the lack of racking up points. It may have even been the reason why he scored so few of them compared to his prior year’s burst
When it came to home and road splits, Sheary actually contributed more goals in his opponents’ rinks, though the points basically match up evenly. He was also more aggressive with his body checks, had higher shooting percentage by a lot, and netted two pucks on the power play.
Social Media Praise
Please enjoy a few of my favorite Baby Boy tweets in memoriam of his time in Pittsburgh.
excuse me, blog, his name is Baby Boy Conor— Kaitlyn Dividock (@kaitdivi) February 8, 2018
Sweet, baby boy Conor Sheary notches another goal on the PP. Penguins go up 3-1. pic.twitter.com/ci2PCeYWJs— Kaitlyn Dividock (@kaitdivi) October 12, 2017
BABY BOY CONOR SHEARY SCORES RIGHT AFTER REAVES ❤️— PensBurgh (@Pensburgh) January 3, 2018
Penguins lead 3-1, and we’re having heart palpitations. Pittsburgh is converting on SOG!
As much as a third line center is needed, I’d rather give my right arm than lose baby boy Sheary— Kaitlyn Dividock (@kaitdivi) October 20, 2017
And now I have to cut off my right arm.
Even Strength: B-
Sheary’s number significantly dropped from his sophomore season to his third year in the league, and even though his possession numbers saved him from an even worse grade than this, he still only put up 30 points as a top-six winger for most of the year. That’s just not good enough.
Special Teams: C+
Though Sheary didn’t put up many points on the power play, he was a huge factor in creating chances during the man-advantage (which was all he really needed to do), gifting him with a slightly improved grade than what it could’ve been. Luckily for Sheary, the Penguins’ had an unbelievable power play unit, and the lack of production from him on the stat sheet didn’t harm the team by any means. However, I couldn’t look past it, and this average grade was the best I could muster.
Out of the 82 total regular season games Pittsburgh had, Sheary appeared in 79 of them. He was briefly put on the injured reserve list in February for a lower-body ailment, paving the way for teammate Zach Aston-Reese to come up and try his hand in the big leagues. But overall, it was a very healthy year for the young winger.
Sheary only recorded two assists in the Penguins’ 12 postseason matchups. He basically disappeared and never ended up coming back. A D is a gift; I honestly should’ve failed him.
Overall 2017-18 Grade: C+
It’s sort of a sad situation for Sheary. His advanced statistics jumped off the page and really surprised me given how little he capitalized on all of it. He got a lot of flack for sort of only seeming good because he played alongside Crosby, but evidence shows that wasn’t always the case. Sheary is a natural-born play driver, he just couldn’t put the puck in the net enough and it was the reason, coupled with the contract he earned last year, he was shipped off to the Buffalo Sabres.
How would you grade Conor Sheary’s 2017-18 season?
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