Has The Max Pacioretty Experiment Failed For The Capitals?

Maybe it wasn't the low risk, high reward we hoped for.
Washington Capitals v New York Rangers
Washington Capitals v New York Rangers / Bruce Bennett/GettyImages

When the Washington Capitals signed Max Pacioretty this past off-season I think most people had the same reaction. First the reaction was surprised. I'm not sure most people thought the Caps would sign an older, well known player. After that reaction I think the thought about Pacioretty was "low risk, high reward".

The "high reward" was obvious. We all knew Pacioretty could score goals at the NHL level. This is a player who scored 30+ goals six times in his NHL career. He also could have more thirty goal seasons had it not been for injury or other reasons for short seasons during his career.

Then we saw what he signed for and that was the "low risk" part. It was a simple and small one year deal for $2 million. A deal that doesn't even come close to breaking the bank. I can't say this with any certainty, but it feels like a player with Pacioretty's accomplishments could have gotten more elsewhere, even with his injury concerns.

The injury concern was his Achilles and what he would be after suffering two torn Achilles in quick succession at 35 years of age. The first injury was just before the 2022-23 season, the second was in January of '23 playing for the Carolina Hurricanes. The second forcing him out until January of this season with the Capitals.

Pacioretty returned on the 3rd of January this season. He has since played in 17 games for Washington. In those games he has registered a total of 8 points. Honestly, not too bad. But out of those 8 points, he has just one goal. I'm guessing that is not what the Capitals wanted when they signed him, no matter how big or small his contract was.

Just to give you a little more info, Pacioretty has 7 assists this season, four of them are secondary assists. There are people out there that hate the secondary assist and thinks it should be done away with. I am not one of those people. There are a ton of times in hockey where the secondary assists are the more important ones. The point in me showing you he has 4 secondary assists to his 3 primaries is just to show you he is not the one setting up the goal scorer.

His on ice stats don't look incredibly impressive either. He has played just over 200 minutes while 5v5 so far for the Caps. In that time he has a Corsi% of 47.07%, his scoring chance percentage is 48.13%, his high danger attempts percentage is 46.15% and he's been on the ice for 8 goals for and 12 goals against.

Since Pacioretty has returned he really has not helped the team much at all. Obviously the one goal he has scored in 17 games isn't what was hoped from him. Overall the team is not scoring much more since he has been in the lineup. With him out of the lineup the Caps scored 2.34 goals per game, with him in the lineup they score 2.47 goals a game. Hey, it's an improvement, you can't argue that I suppose.

That tiny improvement has not led to winning at all though. Before Pacioretty debuted for Washington they had a 18-11-6 record. That's pretty good, top half of the league at that point. Since he has come into the Caps lineup they are 5-10-2, obviously very much not good, that being 29th in the league since then.

I do need to point something out before people maybe blame Pacioretty for the downfall of the team this season. The Capitals started to struggle on the 23rd of December, just before the Christmas break. Before he made his debut with the team they had lost for of the previous five games. It's not his fault the team has taken a nosedive in the standings, more than anything it's just bad timing.

But he has not helped the team much at all like some people tried to get you to believe before he came back. There was even a point not long ago where head coachSpencer Carbery had some "loud words" for Pacioretty.

Has the Pacioretty experiment failed? Well, one goal in 17 games is not good. They are 11 points out of the playoffs in their own division, 6 points out of a wild card spot, and probably lucky overall that no team in the eastern playoff race has been that great this season.

No team success. The individual success isn't really there, even though I'm not sure you could say he has really played bad. If you decide to trade him does he bring much back in return? Probably not. Isn't that why you would want to sign him?

When the Caps signed him they for sure hoped he would help the team overall. He hasn't. Well, okay, if he doesn't help the team in the standings maybe he'll play good and we can trade him and get something in return. Well, you will get something, that something just won't have a lot of hype around it. I would guess likely a mid round draft pick.

I think the experiment failed unfortunately. Luckily, one thing didn't change. It was "low risk, high reward". The team taking a risk on Pacioretty hasn't resulted in anything bad happening. But they also did not get the high reward, at least up to this point.