Garret the Armchair GM - Winnipeg Jets 2013 Short Season Lineup Predictions: Forwards

Tom Szczerbowski

With the new CBA penned and a partial season to start soon, we shall conduct a mini-series on what the lines might look like for in both the 2013 half season and 2013-14 full season. In our last segment way back in July, we had predicted the Jets lineup for the 2012-2013 season focusing predominately on boxcar stats. Half a year later, we are now older and wiser. The makeup of these lines was carefully constructed using a combination of each players abilities (given by production rates and Corsi), chemistry (given by WOWY) and usage (given by OZS and QoC).

We'll start with a very basic explanation of the terminology, for more complex and thorough details feel free to search this site:

*Production rates (ex: pts/60) - a players scoring rate shows how fast they were producing points, eliminating bias of players who receive more TOI (time on ice)
*Corsi - this is one variation of shot differentials; it is a decent estimation of puck possession time and a great indication whether players are beating the opposition they are lined up against, without interference by goaltenders ability or white noise in variance
*WOWY (with or without you) - this is just looking at a players production and/or Corsi when they are with and without another player on the ice; keeping usage in mind, it formulates a strong correlation with chemistry and effectiveness
*OZS (offensive zone starts) - a player who sees a large percentage of their shifts starting in the offensive zone has a much easier job than a player who doesn't, ceteris paribus
*QoC (quality of competition) - a measurement of the difficulty in opposition matched against a player, usually measured by opponents Corsi or TOI; together with OZS this can create a very detailed picture in how a player was generally used and how their production/Corsi may have been helped/hindered by this usage

Forwards Lineup

2a: Andrew Ladd - Bryan Little - Blake Wheeler

2b: Evander Kane - Olli Jokinen - Kyle Wellwood

3: Alexei Ponikarovsky - Nik Antropov - Alexander Burmistrov

4: Antti Miettinen - Jim Slater - Spencer Machacek

13th:Chris Thorburn

Main Call-ups: Patrice Cormier, Ben Maxwell, Carl Klingberg

First Line: The Two-Way Line

For Noel, this line takes tough QoC with high (but not too high) OZS. This is typically where you place your top two way forwards who can score but not be a defensive liability. Last season this role was given to Ladd's Little Wheeler and they excelled. Looking at the results for top 40 performing two-way forwards last year (for the stat guys: >0 RelQoC, <60% OZS, >1.00 pts/60), relative to RelCorsi they fell 5th(Ladd),19th(Little) and 23rd(Wheeler), and relative to p/60 they landed 21st(Wheeler), 27th(Ladd) and 35th(Little). Basically, they are the Jets' top two-way forwards and this is where they should be.

This line should continue to beat tough minutes and will hopefully have a stronger goal differential if Pavelec and Montoya improve on last season's team sv%... hopefully to a league average.

Second Line: The Sheltered Scoring Line

This line takes easier QoC with high OZS. Last season this was the high scoring sheltered line that was predominately constructed of Kane with a rotating door of Burmistrov, Wellwood, and Antropov. Kane playing in a highly sheltered, offensively pushed scoring role is a given with his skill-set. The same goes for newly acquired Jokinen. Last season Jokinen was placed in a two-way role facing arguably the toughest QoC in the NHL, but did not come close to beating these tough minutes. On the other hand, Jokinen's excellent point production and power-play prowess should be strong enough evidence that he can excel in a sheltered scoring role. Wellwood compliments the line nicely with adept playmaking ability and savvy rebounds off of two bulk shooters. Although Jokinen is likely to take most of the face-offs, it would be beneficial to allow Wellwood to take the majority even with him playing wing.

This line should be an improvement over last season, with Jokinen finding a home in a sheltered scoring role and being an upgrade over Burmistrov or Antropov. Last season, this line's TOI was limited due to Wellwood's own admittedly weak conditioning, which he says has greatly improved this off-season. This season, I expect this line to receive more ice time, similar to Ladd-Little-Wheeler, and that is the reasoning for the '2a'-'2b' designations.

Third Line: Defensive Shutdown Line

One other Jet fell in the top 40 two-way forwards list, Ponikarovsky (with the 3rd lowest OZS). The addition of Ponikarovsky marked the start of TNSE's will to compete in the playoffs this season with the signing of one of the NHL's best shutdown forwards. Add the defensive awareness of Burmistrov and the size and chemistry of Antropov, and you have the foundation of an offensively dangerous defensive minutes line. This is a stark contrast to GST, arguably the weakest shutdown line in the NHL last season. Either Burmistrov or Antropov could play centre as both are competent in that role. The line's one main weakness though is lack of competent face-off man. This is where Slater comes in; since his TOI is being cut with demotion to the 4th line, he would serve well as a face-off specialist, coming out to take many of the defensive zone face-offs and then conducting a line change with one of Antropov or Burmistrov as the puck is pushed out of the zone.

This line is a drastic upgrade over GST both offensively and defensively.

Fourth Line: Utility Line

Last season this line was predominately used as a secondary sheltered scoring line, with Stapleton, Fehr, and company being shielded at all costs from tough assignments. Miettinen, Slater and Machacek are all serviceable two-way players who can play against and hopefully beat the leagues weaker players. While totally capable in this role, this line could also serve as a secondary defensive line. It could take defensive zone starts against weaker competition, allowing them to push the first two lines in the offensive zone more and also decrease the workload of the shutdown line slightly.

While not being a sizable upgrade on last seasons 4th line, this should allow for a domino effect with helping push the top lines offensively, lessening the workload for the shutdown line and acquiring a face-off specialist.

Thirteenth Forward and Call-Ups

Fan favourite Thorburn will get pushed to the press box, likely to draw screams from the misinformed. With more than twice the amount of games, Thorburn barely saw more ice time than Randy Jones or Mark Flood. This is for a reason; players like Thorburn have their uses and are needed, but these players are used sparingly, especially post-All Star break. Due to ability to pass through waivers, Cormier and Klingberg will most likely continue to play in the AHL, while seeing limited NHL games with Maxwell.

Final Thoughts

This is a combination of what Noel likes to do and optimal usage of his forwards given the pieces he has. Obviously with injuries there may be some other changes going on. Also, Mark Scheifele could earn a regular spot on the roster, but this author is playing ir safe and stipulating that Scheifele may not okay at the NHL level this season.

What Are Your Thoughts For 2013? Please Leave a Comment Below and Let Us Know!!

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