In the 2021-22 Player Review series, we will evaluate the 2021-22 performances of each key member of the Golden Knights. Players were evaluated based on overall performance in the regular season with regard to pre-season expectations and how that player performed in his particular role.
An unrelenting and unforgiving barrage of injuries plagued the Vegas Golden Knights in the 2021-22 campaign, but Max Pacioretty got a particularly raw deal. The 33-year-old Connecticut native missed 43 games in total and was in and out of the lineup all year.
In four seasons with the Golden Knights, Pacioretty has scored 97 goals and 194 points in 224 regular-season games, adding 15 goals and 30 points in 36 postseason contests. He was productive once again this past season, but a multitude of injuries, three of which led to significant time spent on injured or long-term injured reserve, contributed to the Golden Knights’ downfall that kept them out of postseason action.
Season in review
Pacioretty was extremely effective when he was in the lineup, but his four injuries made him a non-factor for much of the year.
He fractured his foot in the second game of the season, which kept him out of commission for 17 games; he then missed 10 games after undergoing wrist surgery Dec. 30. Pacioretty was out for another four games at the end of February and into early March, and in just his fourth game back, he suffered yet another injury that made him unavailable for 12 more contests.
He played just two games in October, November and January and was held to four in March and seven in February. His longest stretch of games was a 14-game span from the end of November through late December; he also played in the final 10 games of the regular season.
December was, without a doubt, the Golden Knights’ best month of the season. The club went 10-3-0, scored a league-best 12 power-play goals and won eight of nine games between Dec. 3 and Dec. 19.
Pacioretty had a lot to do with that.
to do list and comeback complete pic.twitter.com/g6qFSANPfq— Vegas Golden Knights (@GoldenKnights) December 9, 2021
SOUR PATCH KID!!! pic.twitter.com/FviAnVSRUP— Vegas Golden Knights (@GoldenKnights) December 13, 2021
He scored 10 goals during a career-best and franchise-high seven-game goal streak, and he finished the month with 16 points in 12 games. He was one of the hottest players in the NHL, and his elite play helped the Golden Knights move into first place in the Pacific Division at the end of December.
11 goals in the last 11 games— Vegas Golden Knights (@GoldenKnights) December 15, 2021
can someone please confirm if that's good pic.twitter.com/64g3kfMi7o
But once Pacioretty’s wrist injury kept him on the shelf indefinitely, the second half of the season evolved into a months-long collapse.
Update: Max Pacioretty had successful wrist surgery today. He will be out of the lineup indefinitely. #VegasBorn— Vegas Golden Knights (@GoldenKnights) December 30, 2021
Despite all the injuries, Pacioretty finished the year with 19 goals and 37 points in 39 games; his 0.95 points per game was the best on the team, and he finished in a three-way tie for second on the club with four game-winning goals. He was first in goals per 60 (1.68), points per 60 (3.28) and shots per 60 (13.1) as well as individual expected goals per 60 (1.28), individual Corsi per 60 (23.19) and individual scoring chances per 60 (13.37).
All of his possession metrics were well above 50 percent (except for high-danger Corsi), and his 60.42 percent goal share at 5-on-5 was the best on the Golden Knights. His 1.57 goals per 60 at 5-on-5 ranked fourth among regular skaters (min. 12 games) in the NHL, trailing only Auston Matthews, Filip Forsberg and Vladimir Tarasenko.
Needless to say, Pacioretty was spectacular this year, but that only carries so much weight in a 39-game performance. Like most of the team, Pacioretty wasn’t nearly as productive down the stretch in late April, though he did score two goals and an assist in the three most critical games of the season against San Jose, Dallas and Chicago (a.k.a. the doomed stretch of shootout losses that ultimately cost Vegas its postseason ticket).
Pacioretty has one year remaining on the four-year, $28 million extension he signed upon arriving in Vegas back in September 2018. The deal carries a hefty $7 million cap hit, which could lead to trade rumors once again this offseason.
The Golden Knights’ cap struggles continue to loom, though losing Pacioretty would put a major dent in Vegas’ skill, upside and depth. That being said, the aging winger has suffered many injuries throughout his career, leaving some doubt regarding his durability.
When healthy, Pacioretty is more than capable of being the best player on the Golden Knights. He helped turn the 2021-22 season around for Vegas, and the season began to crumble right after he left the lineup. That’s not to say that this team relied solely on Pacioretty’s availability or contributions, but there’s no denying he was and is a crucial part of this team.
Knights On Ice grade: A-
Pacioretty was excellent, but his grade takes a slight hit due to the plethora of injuries.
How would you grade Pacioretty’s season?
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All statistics courtesy of NaturalStatTrick and NHL.com.