VANCOUVER, CANADA - MARCH 8: Kyle Wellwood #13 of the Winnipeg Jets clebrates with Alex Burmistrov #8 after scoring against goalie Cory Schneider #35 of the Vancouver Canucks during the second period in NHL action on March 08, 2012 at Rogers Arena in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. (Photo by Rich Lam/Getty Images)
How well did Winnipeg’s secondary forwards do this year, scoring-wise? By going back and comparing their year-end scoring to the pre-season projections we established using Tom Awad’s famed VUKOTA system and our own Snepsts System, we’ve gotten a good idea at how well Winnipeg’s top-six forwards and defensemen performed, leaving just the secondary forwards for this final piece.
While establishing Chris Thorburn’s pre-season projections we felt that "unfortunately Thorburn's historical comparables paint a bleak picture, with very little cause to hope for improvement over last season."
"While Chris Thorburn should definitely see more offensive opportunities than (his comparables) Dan Hinote or Eric Messier, the historical odds are against his breaking even the 20-point mark, let alone 30." The readers joined us in our pessimism, without a single reader feeling confident in Thorburn’s ability to manage even 20 points.
Unfortunately we were all right - Chris Thorburn’s 11 points in 72 games were almost exactly in line with our average history-based expectations, no more than 2-3 points shy.
Pre-season expectations for Jim Slater were relatively modest, because "there's not much of a role for Slater on the Jets other than some depth two-way play. If he stays healthy, he could threaten 30 points, but 20 is far more realistic."
He stayed healthy, but despite an extra 4-5 minutes per game and a 11% shooting percentage he was about as much of a threat to 30 points as the Toronto Maple Leafs were to the play-offs.
Slater’s expected 16 points in 49 games would work out to 25 points over the 78 games he actually played, so he actually wound up 4 points behind target. Normally we wouldn’t sweat 4 points, but everything fell in place for Slater, so he probably should have exceeded the projection.
Though the Snepsts system wasn’t very optimistic about Tanner Glass’s scoring this year, we were even more pessimistic, writing that "though it's consistent with his average in Vancouver, Tanner Glass might be lucky to get the 10 points Snepsts is projecting."
Tanner Glass’s 16 points may initially be seen as a success, as it’s a handful more than we felt was reasonable to expect, but the 50% increase in scoring rate exactly matches his 50% increase in ice-time.
Was Wellwood’s fantastic 47-point season completely unexpected? As we explained before the season began, "a lot will depend on Wellwood's role – if he's just a depth option, then these projections are likely accurate, including Phil Bourque's 55-game, 20-point 1992-93 season – smack dab in how Wellwood has been doing these past four years. This is where you put your safe money. If there are a few injuries and Wellwood gets some opportunities on the power play, or with players like Ladd and Kane, there's the potential for a 3rd 40-point season, best-case scenario."
Kyle Wellwood indeed got the opportunities he needed, scored on a sky-high 19.4% of shots, giving Winnipeg 8 players with at least 4 power play goals, and vaulting him well into the established best-case scenario territory.
While most players hit their marks, there are always a few players who slump to the low-water mark and a few who hit the high note (and a few that hit Dan Hinote), and this year one of the latter was Kyle Wellwood.
If you had asked us to predict who might hit the high-water mark we might have picked Aleksandr Burmistrov, since "there's plenty of hope for a stronger season, including his most recent comparable Stephen Weiss, who scored 29 points in 50 games after his 21-point 19-year-old season."
Like Wellwood, Burmistrov had a real upside. "Best case scenario? Rick Hampton, Viktor Kozlov, the infamous Alexandre Daigle and Buffalo coach Lindy Ruff all set historical precedents that put a 40-point season within reach."
Despite having the opportunities (5th in ice-time) unfortunately Burmistrov wasn’t one of the players who busted loose, and he actually wound up merely hitting the projected scoring total to the precise point.
We didn’t have a great deal to say about Tim Stapleton other than "at his age and size, Stapleton is most likely a low-scoring depth option should he manage to remain with the Jets all season." Using AHL-to-NHL translations to supplement the 7 points in 45 games he earned in the NHL last year, we were expecting a 14-point season.
Stapleton got a lot of power play time, adding his name to the list of 8 Jets with at least 4 power play goals. Though 15th in even-strength scoring time per game among forwards he still enjoyed 1.6 minutes per game with the man advantage – and a team high on-ice shooting percentage of 19.5% in such situations. So in retrospect it should come as no surprise that he essentially doubled his pre-season scoring expectations.
Unfortunately we were wrong when we predicted that "23-year-old Ben Maxwell, acquired from the Montreal Canadiens for Brent Sopel and Nigel Dawes, could finally be ready to stick as an NHL regular after three years in the AHL."
In fairness his 5 points in 9 games suggests that we weren’t too far off when we wrote that "though he has scored just 2 points in his 32 NHL games so far, his AHL stats suggest he could contribute up to 25-30 if given the opportunity over a full season."
On a personal note, given how much effort goes into this, it means a lot to me to hear of its value to you. It was quite rewarding to see that 68% of you voted that the scoring projections were way more accurate than you thought they’d be – so thank you.
The purpose of this exercise wasn’t so much to gauge the accuracy of the projection, but to measure each player’s scoring performance on reasonable pre-season expectations. In that regard we saw how Kyle Wellwood and Tim Stapleton truly did reach and even exceed the best-case projections, and how none of the secondary Jets forwards significantly missed the mark. Tanner Glass did well, Aleksandr Burmistrov did exactly as expected, and Chris Thorburn and Jim Slater only missed by a slim margin.
Some things went well for Winnipeg this year, and some things didn’t – the scoring of their secondary forwards is one of the former.