Corey Perry, First to Blossom

Posted: 01/25/2011 by bc in Uncategorized

Corey (Pears) Perry is only 25 years of age and is already into his 6th season in the NHL. His accomplishments to date are stunning. The hi-lites include an Olympic Gold Medal with Team Canada in 2010; NHL All Star Game 2008; and a Stanley Cup with Anaheim 2006-07.

With the OHL’s Junior A London Knights Pears won the Stafford Memorial as the Memorial Cup Tournament MVP; the Red Tilson Trophy Most Outstanding Player and the Wayne Gretzky Trophy as the leading scorer in 2004-05.

Most remarkable is how he’s done it.When you measure Corey Perry by the five skills nothing particularly about him leaps out. He’s not a great skater. Isn’t known for having a great shot. His puck handling skill is adequate. He doesn’t  surprise anyone with great instinct and anticipation. He’s not particularly over powering physically.

To appreciate Cory Perry, you measure the results, not the skill. Corey Perry excels in the scrums. What one wag referred to as the “cliché” dirty areas. I can only assume that wag never jumped for a rebound under a basket, battled for a puck in the corner, played rugby, took a 3 point stance at the line of scrimmage or has been involved in a bar fight.

Those “dirty areas” where Pears makes his living are anything but cliché.

Perry doesn’t beat you cleanly. Perry applies a process to it. First he challenges you to hurt him. He offers his body as a target. Like Pat Benatar, he sings, “Hit Me With Your Best Shot” then he laughs at you. He mocks you. He calls you ugly and reminds you that the league has a dental plan.

Mainstream media calls him an agitator. It’s not always about agitation. Sometimes you beat a guy by making him laugh. In one league I avoided a fight with the most respected enforcer by telling him he had beautiful eyes. One day, maybe I’ll get close enough to our Ducks to bring you those type stories.

I suspect Corey Perry is a rich source of hilarious taunts. Pears plays rope-a-dope hockey in the dirty areas. He beats his opponents the same way Muhammad Ali won the Rumble in the Jungle against George Foreman. He exhausts them.

Much was made of the recent Keith Yandle slash to Perry’s wrist/forearm. If you’ll recall Pears was between the Phoenix D-man and their goalie, Ilya Bryzgalov. Yandle has his back to Pears and suddenly, seemingly without provocation spun and delivered a wicked slash on Perry.

And that’s how it is in virtually every game Corey Perry plays. Somebody goes nuts.

Perry’s skill set is his battle. His ability to compete. Those battles are all about the puck. He’s a master at not only using his body to protect the puck. Perry is always positioned to fight for the puck. Sometimes he bumps the opponent. Other times he rolls off the opponent.

One cliché is a scorer has soft hands. I’ve never known what that means. Like hitting a baseball, shooting a puck is all in the wrist. They say the mark of a great hitter is that he doesn’t have to get all of it. That’s Perry. He rarely gets all of the puck. He can reach around an opponent stretch and extend his body to the limit and still lift the puck into the top shelf.

It wasn’t a straight shot to stardom for Perry. He nearly partied himself out of Anaheim in 2008-09. Perry, a 23-year-old earning in excess of five million dollars played with a chip on his shoulder. There were days when he dragged himself to the rink. His wakeup was a four game suspension in January of 2009  arising from a vicious and unnecessary elbow to the head of Flyers rookie Claude Giroux.

Perry examined his excesses during that four game suspension. He rejoined the Ducks wiser from the experience. His growth though wasn’t flipping a switch. Maturity is a process. Pears curbed the excesses but he was still taking far too many stupid and selfish penalties.

The Ducks themselves rescued a bad season with a magical stretch run to make the playoffs. Once in they defeated the top seed San Jose Sharks in six games and came within 3 minutes of defeating the Detroit Red Wings and going on to the Western Conference Final.

Perry began the 2009-10 season with a shot at representing Team Canada in the Olympics. He wasn’t a shoe-in but he did earn his way onto the team. He returned from that experience, like the suspension a year earlier, a changed young man. Perhaps by winning the Gold he exorcised many of those doubts niggling just under the skin.

After winning Olympic Gold, there would be no magical stretch run. He would not be participating in the playoffs for the first time in his NHL career. Perry then did something many no longer do. He signed on to Team Canada and played in the all but ignored in North America, World Cup.

When  asked why he went to a tournament most with his resume skip he said quietly, “I’m used to playing hockey at this time of year.” The somber response echoes as though Corey perry didn’t have a choice. He had to script a more satisfying end to 2009-10. He succeeded personally scoring 2 goals and 4 assists in 6 games.

In 2009-10 his coach, Randy Carlyle began to experiment with him. Perry started to see time on the penalty kill unit. Perry met the challenge. He learned his defensive positioning. How to play without the puck and maintain inside position on his opponent. The lesson has shown up in his even strength play.

That suspension now two years behind him, Pears has cut way down on the stupid and selfish penalties. He still takes too many but he’s smarter about it.

And now, nearly ten years after turning heads in the youth leagues of Peterborough. Dominating the OHL’s Junior A, one of the toughest apprenticeships in the world. Moving on for a short stint in the AHL and making the Ducks.

After all that, Corey Perry has arrived. He is a complete hockey player. One of the very best in the world. He’s the first of our Ducks three great ones to do it. His next challenge might well be helping Bobby Ryan and Ryan Getzlaf to their next level.

You don’t need a ‘C’ on your jersey to lead. Using your head helps. Obviously Perry does that too.

  1. buick22 says:

    Perry is our best offensive player, and the “adequate” puck handling skills comment made my jaw drop…..he is one of our best puck handlers, and in traffic probably one of THE best. You sell him short there.. The rest I agree, Perry has always fought to prove others wrong, to show he IS capable, and not just worth being there, but elite in his level of competition. Heart is a skill you can’t teach, that never ending desire to do what you know is possible. Perry has added stuff to his game every year, and that is the mark of a truly special athlete… he makes possible a lot of other offensive plays, just by being him, and going where only he seems prepared to go.

  2. BackCheck says:

    You might be right buick22. I’m a tough grader and you’re just a big softie 😉 Teemu and Lubo impress me as great puck handlers. Getzlaf and Ryan are good. Perry comes up a bit short in my eye. I see him as great at getting to, battling and protecting the puck.

  3. bbdux93 says:

    A couple of things I see that are not here. Corey is not a speedster, he gets there but I never looks to see him as part of a break-away. The other thing, and maybe you did touch on this, he is not a great – smooth – skater.

    When (in other posts) you make the comment that the skates are the great equalizer, I think of Scotty and this year I see it in Cam, Corey – not so much.

  4. BackCheck says:

    hey bbdux93,

    3rd paragraph, “He’s not a great skater.” I probably should and could have expanded on that a bit. You’re right though Pears is more of a choppy than smooth skater. That choppy stride style really shows up on the breakaway video.

    “Skates are the great equalizer” is an old chestnut. It refers to the fact that standing in skates on ice takes away much of the advantage big men have over smaller men. Agility, leverage, body position ie. getting low on your opponent is just as important as strength and power.

    Scotty always had Holmstrom’s number in the low slot. Nieds would get inside the big Swede and dump him on his keester using leverage.

    Perry’s best physical attribute is his agility. He stretches, bends, twists, folds up and nothing phases him. No pulls strains or tears.

    • bbdux93 says:

      Much like Scotty, Vish seemed to get in under bigger guys earlier this season. It looks to me as though the minutes he played during the first 1/2 of this season have tired him and he is not doing that as often or as well now. More than any other player, I think Vish needs this break to get rested.

  5. czhokej says:

    Welcome back, bc.
    I read everything with great interest. And good comments by other readers.
    I would add just this: At the beginning of the season, Corey’s positioning was also just adequate, but not great (but he was better than his linemates). However, as the season progressed, there were some notable improvements, smarter plays, and more confidence. Regarding your strict evaluation of Corey’s puckhandling, I would say that he cannot deke like the best guys in the league, but he is a good grinder and handles the puck well along the boards.

    • BackCheck says:

      Exactly cz. Perry has benefited because his role and position has remained constant. His assignment and TOI has expanded with the PK. I wonder what Bobby Ryan would produce if his role and position were as well defined.

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