In the immediate aftermath of the Downie trade there was a substantial amount of chatter about how Downie was prone to taking bad penalties. This comment by Jibblescribbits in the aftermath of the trade tends to succinctly summarise this school of thought:
I think any benefit he gets is downsized by the fact he takes a lot of penalties. He takes more than he drawns too. Being a player that makes the Avs go on the PK more is not a good thing.
However, when one looks at Downie's career stats it becomes clear that this is not the case. In fact, Downie tends to draw more penalties than he takes.
Here are Downie's penalty taken and drawn rates per 60 minutes, courtesy of behindthenet.ca:
- 2011-12: 1.3 penalties taken per 60 minutes / 0.8 penalties drawn per 60 minutes in 58GP
- 2010-11: 1.6 / 1.9 in 57 GP
- 2009-10: 1.8 / 2.2 in 79 GP
- 2008-09: 2.3 / 2.8 in 29 GP
- 2007-08: 2.1 / 1.2 in 32 GP
This tells us two things in particular. Firstly, it appears that Downie is tending to take and drawn fewer and fewer penalties the further into his career he gets. Secondly, apart from his rookie season for the Flyers, this season is the only season that Downie is taking more penalties than he is drawing.
However, it should be noted that the sky-high penalty numbers that Downie obtained in his first two seasons were only in 32 and 29 GP's respectively. Accordingly, I averaged out Downie's penalty rates to account for this, such that the seasons where Downie played more (be that through higher GP or average time-on-ice per game) were proportionately reflected.
Resulting, Downie's career-long penalties taken v penalties drawn numbers were 1.69 v 1.70 per 60 minutes of ice time. This is roughly even and tells us that if Downie commits a penalty, often it is matched by an opponent taking a penalty.
This positive differential becomes even more significant if we throw out Downie's time in Philadelphia as a rookie where Downie takes 1.63 penalties per 60 minutes v 1.77 penalties drawn.
Shockingly, the only Avs regulars with better penalty +/-'s than Downie's this season are O'Reilly and Duchene. Similarly, only O'Reilly and Duchene have significantly higher penalty +/-'s when their performance over the last 3 years is looked at. The would tend towards the conclusion that Downie is in fact not a bad penalty taker.
Hence, just as Jibble stated that being a player who puts your team on the PK is a bad thing in his comment, being a player who puts your team on the PP more often than not is a good thing. Downie is a player who puts the Avs on the PP more often than on the PK.
Given the precious few powerplay opportunities the Avs have had this year, there is no doubt that adding Downie is a good thing.