How did Winnipeg’s defensemen do this year versus expectations? Before the season began we set expectations using both Tom Awad’s highly respected VUKOTA system and the Snepsts System, which searches NHL’s vast history for players with comparable era-adjusted scoring statistics, and uses their future performance to set high-water, low-water and average scoring expectations for every Jet.
Last week we looked at the top-six forwards, and 68% of readers felt that the expectations were far more accurate than expected, while 20% more felt they were at least reasonable. Only 12% felt I had made a spectacularly poor use of my time – and some people wanted to vote for both. Mostly my family, but I digress.
Given that we appear to have a reliable way to set expectations, let’s see how Winnipeg’s defensemen performed this year, starting with their big names Dustin Byfuglien and Tobias Enstrom, followed by their legion of secondary blue liners Zach Bogosian, Ron Hainsey, (the departed) Johnny Oduya, Mark Stuart, and Randy Jones, and then finally, though they didn’t play, a quick reminder of our AHL-to-NHL projections for Derek Meech and Brett Festerling.
VUKOTA projected 62 points in 82 games, which would work out to 50 points in Byfuglien’s 66 games – he got 53. Well done Tom.
Unfortunately we didn’t fare as well, and even our high-water estimate failed to match Byfuglien’s scoring pace, adding that “while there is historical precedent for Byfuglien to top 20 goals and 50 points again, odds are he'll fall just short.”
In fairness, we weren’t alone in our pessimism, as 57% of readers felt that neither Byfuglien nor Enstrom would top 50 points, 16% thought they’d both do it, 14% correctly guessed that only Byfuglien would, and 9% said only Tobias Enstrom would.
Dan Maloney’s era-adjusted scoring totals would be 23 goals and 58 points over 82 games, the best and closest match – at least we saw that potential. “Perhaps Maloney would be an even closer fit, because even though he wasn't as big as Zubrus or Byfuglien, he was still respected as one of the toughest men in the league. In his prime he was an absolute animal, and is statistically one of the top three comparisons.” Maloney’s scoring dropped slightly the next season, but remained strong for three more years.
Tobias Enstrom was projected to score 44 points in 82 games, which works out to 33 points in his 62 games – nailed his scoring within a single point (VUKOTA was 8 points over).
Ultimately Tobias Enstrom’s scoring fell between Tom Kurvers (39 era-adjusted points in 71 games) and Eric Desjardins (35 in 77) which isn’t surprisingly given that “like Enstrom a lot of these other players were one-way puck-moving defensemen who were late picks, like Tom Kurvers”
Tom Kurvers, who the Leafs acquired for the Scott Niedermayer pick that year, had four more strong seasons in roughly that same scoring range. Eric Desjardins played out his career in Philadelphia, the first three seasons of which eclipsed his previous career high scoring level. If Enstrom continues to follow in their path the Jets should enjoy 3-4 more years of good scoring from the blue line.
Among Jets’ secondary defensemen, 77% of readers correctly predicted that Zach Bogosian would score the most points.
As for us, we asked “Is he really a 20-point defenseman, or at 21 is he poised to break out?” Both systems agreed on 24-26 points over 67 games, but conceded that “Nevertheless, 30 points seems a reasonable target if he's healthy.” He wasn’t healthy, but he did hit that 30 points high-water target.
Of Ron Hainsey we essentially saw only a slim chance of a big season, given that “there are two promising historical comparables among the 17 close matches, Grant Ledyard, who had an era-adjusted 39 points in 1993-94, and Jason York's 37 in 1998-99. Otherwise the point totals are like a Justin Bieber concert: nothing but a sea of teens.” Unfortunately he didn’t even mange the teens.
Among Jets’ secondary defensemen, 7% of readers incorrectly (and perhaps drunkenly) predicted that Johnny Oduya would score the most points, while we felt “Oduya's probably going to remain in a low-scoring defensive role.”
As a Jet, Oduya had 2 goals and 11 assists for 13 points in 63 games – pretty much bang on. His scoring as a Blackhawk wasn’t much different.
Among Jets’ secondary defensemen, 3% of readers seemed ridiculous enough to predict that Mark Stuart would score the most points, however he did finish 2nd behind Zach Bogosian with 14.
Unfortunately we didn’t see that coming, snidely remarking that “we regret that we couldn't put an end to the endless “will Stuart score 7 points or 8 debate.””
Among Jets’ secondary defensemen, 7% of readers hopefully predicted that Randy Jones would score the most points, but he managed just 2 points in 39 games. Unfortunately we predicted that “Jones may have one last chance to achieve his potential (whatever that may be)” and he may have blown it.
In the name of completeness we used AHL-to-NHL translations to estimate the scoring of those without sufficient NHL experience, like Brett Festerling and Derek Meech, in the event that they got significant opportunities this year. Though they didn’t, it’s still interesting to go back and see what we projected for players like Brett Festerling who “if he makes the team it won't be for his scoring.”
Before the season began we wrote of Meech “Coming off his best season in the AHL, and coming home to Manitoba, could surprise everyone with a 20-point season if he makes the team and everything falls into place. More realistically he'll spend only part of the season in Winnipeg, and get only enough 3rd-line minutes for a handful of points.”
Had Derek Meech played it could have been interesting, since “he could easily be one of this year's pleasant surprises,” but unfortunately just two games of action.
Dustin Byfuglien had another odds-defying season, Zach Bogosian was near the top end of projections and Mark Stuart's scoring was a pleasant surprise. Everyone else pretty much hit expectations more-or-less, except their one scoring disappointment Randy Jones.
Next week we'll conclude this look back with the remaining forwards like Kyle Wellwood, Aleksandr Burmistrov, and Tim Stapleton, after which we can forget all about this (and including me in writer roundtables) until next year.