Ed. Note: For further analysis and opinion, read Daniel Wagner's well written piece on Kyle Wellwood at the Backhand Shelf.
July 1, 2011. Canadians from coast-to-coast set this day aside to partake in two important and time-honored traditions. Firstly, we celebrate the birth of our country thanks to our noble ancestors who colonized the unknown western continent we now call home. Secondly, July 1 marks the NHL's Free Agent Frenzy; a final coup before the lights are turned out on the previous season. Trust me it's a frenzy. The Brad Richards coverage this past summer was borderline embarrassing. After this day, our beloved sport makes way to the doldrums of summer as we are forced to sit idly by, anxiously pining for a crisp September breeze and autumn foliage so that we - like a pack of bears - can emerge from hibernation to again partake in our favorite sport and pass time.
On July 1, the phone at Kyle Wellwood's residence was silent.
Days slowly passed. A week here, a week there. Soon August had arrived. Still, no suitors were lining up to acquire his services.
Tick, tick, tick.... time continued to wear on and still no word. September was now upon us.
It was finally on September 9, 2011 - two weeks before training camp opened - that the Winnipeg Jets agreed to a 1 year $700,000.00 contact with the former 5th round draft pick from Windsor, Ontario.
At the time, those covering the team felt that it was another shrewd move by Winnipeg brass to bolster a hockey club lacking depth at the forward position.
To the surprise of many, the signing appears to be one of the early steals of the 2011 Free Agency class as Wellwood is on track to set a multitude of new statistical benchmarks this season.
Follow us after the jump as we take a deeper look at Wellwood's numbers and what they all mean.
|2005-06||Toronto Maple Leafs||81||11||34||45|
|2006-07||Toronto Maple Leafs||48||12||30||42|
|2007-08||Toronto Maple Leafs||59||8||13||21|
|2010-11||San Jose Sharks||35||5||8||13|
|*ON PACE||Winnipeg Jets||82||23||34||57|
In looking at his career numbers on a whole, it would be irresponsible not to point out Kyle's diminishing production totals from his first year in the league through 2010-11; while also lamenting the fact that he was unable to build on the offensive gifts he possessed in the OHL (Wellwood posted a 100 point season in his overage year with his hometown Windsor Spitfires).
But one must keep in mind the fact that Wellwood suffered multiple injuries throughout the early portion of his career as questions of his overall fitness and work ethic were often called into play. Kyle Wellwood created a label that follows him still to this day and severely altered the course of his NHL path.
This year, Wellwood has been given the opportunity to be an offensive threat for the Jets, something which hasn't happened since his days back in Toronto. In his new role with the Jets, we can already see a boost in his scoring numbers.
TIME ON ICE
Though it's easy to belittle the significant regression of Kyle's stat line, it's also important to track TOI. For many players, there is a direct correlation between their allotted TOI and on ice production.
For example, Toronto used Wellwood predominantly in a second line centre role whereas Vancouver and San Jose used him in on their checking lines with limited opportunities on the powerplay. All gathered data shows that Wellwood was collecting significantly higher TOI per game earlier in his career and his scoring output was also far greater in those seasons.
The start to his 2011-12 season has shown promise and despite being juggled through the line-up, he has capitalized on additional ice-time, currently sitting second in team scoring with 17 points and eclipsing last years totals (13) in eleven fewer games.
It also appears as though Claude Noel has found a consistent spot for Wellwood on the powerplay and his 5 PP points (ranking third on the team) dictate that he will be a key cog in the success of this special teams unit throughout this season.
While overall there is fleeting difference between his 2010-11 and 2011-12 TOI numbers (only an additional 1:08 per game), his offensive zone starts are 4th highest on the Jets roster (58.7%), which give him a greater opportunity to factor in on team scoring.
One must note that while Wellwood spent the majority of the 2010-11 season playing in the KHL and that the sample size of 2011-12 is small, his play has made a positive impact on the team.
Only defensive stalwart Tobias Enstrom has a better Corsi rating than Wellwood (an incredible 24.1), and his P/60 of 2.28 is presently third best on the Jets current roster.
It's not difficult to fathom that without the contributions of Wellwood, the Jets would be much further out of the playoff picture than in actuality and no where near the .500 mark.
Ed Note: Having the same number of wins and losses doesn't make you .500 if there are shootout losses attached. A team would need to mark more wins in that event to offset additional SO losses.
At the very least, the Corsi numbers show that he is moving the puck in the right direction and that is a huge benefit for a team struggling to keep the puck out of their net.
So what can we conclude on the significance of Kyle Wellwood? Will he be a fifty point player on this team? Can he keep up his career high Cosri numbers?
I am of the belief that if he doesn't hit the fifty point plateau then he will come awfully close while still setting career highs in points. The Winnipeg Jets rank 13th in shots on goal registered in the NHL (731) and if this trend continues, Wellwood has a good chance to keep his Rel Corsi in the mid to upper teens, continuing to create scoring chances in Winnipeg's favor while making a positive impact in his defensive end.
An explanation for Wellwood's quick start lies with in his shooting percentage. This season, his shooting percentage this year (21.9%) is a tad higher than his career average of 13.7%, however, in 2009-10, he was capable of sustaining a shooting percentage of 19.1% over 75 games. It isn't entirely out of the realm of possibility that he finishes with a percentage in the high teens, which would lay the framework necessary for him to break if not shatter his career plateaus.
After last night's victory, Winnipeg sits a single point out of 8th place in the Eastern Conference and host twelve of their upcoming fourteen games at the MTS Centre.
And while stats are used to explain a lot of the ins-and-outs of the game not understood to the naked eye, Kyle Wellwood's story is so much more than the numbers. So much more than X's and O's drawn up on a white board. Kyle Wellwood's story is one of redemption.
Wellwood has been given a platform to prove to the NHL he is capable doing what twenty-nine other General Managers thought him incapable of. Leading a team in points. Pushing a team from the cellar into the playoff picture. Finally have a career year.
And all that for only the price of $700,000.00.
Ed Note: All statistical data taken from www.behindthenet.ca, www.timeonice.com, www.nhl.com and www.sports.yahoo.com