Spoiler Alert: Yes, yes he is.

One of the subplots to last night’s victory over the Coyotes was Brandon Pirri‘s TOI (or the distinct lack of same)

 

Pirri

As the graph above shows, Pirri’s TOI has been on a steady downward trend over the last month. This is partly explained by his demotion from the 2nd Line due to the return of Michal Handzus, but his linemates Kris Versteeg and Andrew Shaw are still seeing a lot more time than him. Last night, for example, we had the folllowing (all stats from Extra Skater  and nhl.com )

 

Skater                    TOI (All)       TOI (EV)       TOI (PP)       TOI (PK)   Total Shifts

Andrew Shaw          12.20             8.55              3.25              0.0                  20

Kris Versteeg          11.06             7.57              3.09              0.0                  16

Brandon Pirri            7.07             7.07               0.0               0.0                  12

 

Obviously TOI was somewhat skewed by the number of Hawks penalties in the 2nd period, however neither Versteeg nor Shaw were called upon for the PK  yet still had significantly higher minutes.

Pirri is ranked 9th among Rookie scoring with 11 points from 23 games. His shooting percentage is a hefty 19.4% as he has the fewest shots among the top-10 and the second-lowest avg TOI at 12.17. He’s not been as disastrous at the dot as was feared, although he’s also not taking many FOs.

He’s shown some deft moves and forechecking tenacity. especially when teamed up with Kane & Saad. His Possession has been a weak spot: his current CorsiRel % is -3.8%, 4th lowest among Forwards, with only the 4th Line of Kruger, Bollig & Smith lower.

This reduction of minutes would seem to indicate that he is destined for Rockford sooner rather than later. It would be easy to label this as yet another example of Q mishandling a young forward because he prefers the comfort blanket of older, “Grittier” players (see Michael Frolik, Viktor Stalberg, Brandon Saad, Jeremy Morin). There is certainly an element of that here, however there’s slightly more to it than that.

Simply put, there is soon going to be no room for him on the roster. With the addition of Kris Versteeg, the return of Handzus & Hossa, plus the imminent health of Bryan Bickell and Michael Kostka, the Hawks are going to be over the Roster limit to the tune of one player. It’s safe to assume that Pirri will be the odd man out when Bickell slots back into the lineup, for a couple of reasons:

1) While most rational Hawks fans would prefer to see Brandon Bollig sitting in the press box, that simply isn’t going to happen. Q still feels the need to have a face-puncher (even though he punches no faces) on the team. The fact that Bollig has chipped in the odd goal here and there has cemented it.  The gushing about the 4th line from the Blackhawks Beat reporters is a good indication of what the current mood is.

2) Related to this, Q  has been carrying an extra d-man on the roster this season for reasons that are clear possibly only to himself: there is rotation between Brookbank & Roszival, not in itself a bad thing, but also Brookbank filling in at forward, which seems downright bizarre. In addition, from the noises coming from the Hawks, Kostka is going to get another run out in the big team: we wouldn’t be getting these constant reports on his progress if he was going to be sent back to Rockford straight away. Because Roszival & Brookbank are both on one-way contracts this dressing of an extra D-man will surely continue and we’ll see Brookbank back on the wing to accomodate Kostka with Roszie being the healthy scratch, at least in the short term.

3) the only two players (aside from the untouchable Shaw & Saad) on two-way contracts are Pirri and Kostka. Assuming that Q is going to give Kostka some game time (again,  not in itself a bad idea) then that leaves Pirri as the only person who can be shuttled back & forth without needing to clear Waivers.

 

While its frustrating to see a roster spot wasted on Bollig and Handzus being slotted unquestioningly back onto the 2nd Line where he can be a boat-anchor to Saad & Kane, it’s also understandable. Also, if we accept that Pirri would be, at best, a healthy scratch then I think I prefer him in Rockford, where he can stay sharp and wait for something to fall off someone (and with the amount of double-shifting going on right now, that time is coming fast).