The regular season is over, Kevin Chevaldayoff has given his end of the season press conference, and the players have dispersed from Winnipeg to warmer spring cities. It's a perfect time to review the season and delve into what the on ice results say about this season's Winnipeg Jets. Here is a look at where the Winnipeg Jets came from and where are they going.
In part two of this series we looked at the top five Jets players in even strength ice time. The aim was to look at the "top-6", but things got muddled after five. Now we'll analytically slice at the slew of other forwards that made up the Jets roster and see what may be next season.
On a perfect hockey team every player would be scoring above first line rates while having positive possession numbers... but this is reality, and in reality every team has below average hockey players. The trick to a solid bottom 6 is to fill your bottom 6 with players who can: beat other bottom 6 players, fill a particular niche, or at least do one thing well (faceoffs / special teams). In other words, you want them to suck as little as possible and optimally have one or two that can fill in top-6 when the team is in a pickle.
In the 2012-13 season, Claude Noel dissolved the GST-style checking line, playing the power-vs-power line-matching system that is used by most of the teams in the West. Couple that with the Jets moving to the Western Wonference next year and we will assume this as the direction Noel will use moving forward. In this type of system, the third line is meant to bring defensive stability while potting the odd support goal and the fourth line is meant to face other bottom 6 players, predominately in the defensive zone, and drown as little as possible. We'll keep these roles in mind while evaluating the players.
The Stats, 5v5
- All numbers are from behindthenet.ca or stats.hockeyanalysis.com
- NHL Median is the value for the middle player of all forwards with 20+ games played of the individual stat (exception for Sdiff which is just taking the two medians and taking the difference)
- NHL "Bottom6" median is actually removing the top 124 players in ES TOI/GP because Antropov was 125, so the numbers are most likely inflated relative to actual NHL Bottom 6 forward results with ~50 top6 players in the sample
- For those new to advance stats a quick summary would be RelQoC is difficulty in match-ups faced, OZS is percentage of shifts started in the offensive zone, CorsiOn is a differential like +/- but includes all shot attempts, is normalized by their ice-time and can approximate closely both possession time and scoring chances, RelCorsi is a player's Corsi relative to the team's Corsi when the player wasn't on the ice for the game, SF/SA per 60 are team shots for and against per 60 minutes, and On-Ice SH% is the team's shooting percentage when the player is on the ice
- iCorsi is the individual's contribution to CorsiOn via their own personal shot attempts per 60 minutes of icetime
Nik Antropov - No longer the >2.0 P/60 top line forward that gave him his last lucrative contract. While he may not be worth his current salary, his salary isn't inhibiting the Jets and Nik still brings a decent amount of offense with his playmaking and his size/strength combo in front and against the boards. With the cap coming down and the Jets looking for an additional top-6 forward piece, it is unlikely that Antropov will be re-signed. It is unfortunate, as when he is paired with those who can push the play forward (like Wellwood, Burmistrov, or Ponikarovsky) he creates solid offensive production for a third-line winger and can even be a passable second line player when injuries occur.
Oh, side note: Kane score 4 goals in 471 minutes with Jokinen and 8 goals in 201 minutes with Antropov. Just saying...
Alexander Burmistrov - A high-end offensive game has yet to surface for this dynamic, young Russian, but to be fair it isn't easy to stack points when you are being used primarily at 5 on 5 or shorthanded with wingers like Patrice Cormier, Eric Tangradi, James Wright and Chris Thorburn. Here at Arctic Ice Hockey we have shown how Burmistrov contributes to the Jets' wins. When Burmi is on the ice the ice tilts towards the offensive zone regardless of who he is aligned with. Even Chris Thorburn became a plus possession player for a little while. While Burmistrov has the raw talent to develop into a low-end 1st line centre, the more likely scenario looks to Burmistrov developing into an above average tough minutes 2nd-line centre or winger. This theoretically could help ease the workload for the Jets other up-and-coming centre Mark Scheifele. Rumours of trades and all, Burmistrov is the only proven 3rd line player that the Jets have contracting rights for next season. It should also be noted that Burmistrov has been one of the league's most successful penalty killers in each of the last two season.
Antti Miettinen - It has been a rough season for Miettinen. Mittens missed a ton of missed ice time due a preseason concussion and a brutal shot to his twig and berries. He also cut and almost killed teammate Zach Redmond in a freak accident. Finally, he was gift wrapped a spot on the Jets 2nd line with Kane and Jokinen, where he actually dropped their average possession numbers. Over the course of the season not one Jet scored off of a pass from Miettinen; even one of his 3 goals wasn't really on him, as the puck bounced off his body from a point shot. Unable to bring either puck possession or points, it is probable that we have seen Auntie Mitten's last days as a Jet.
Kyle Wellwood - Like Antropov, Kyle Wellwood is a solid third line scorer who can fill in a top-6 role when injuries occur. Unlike Antropov, Wellwood helps push the play forward on his own, improving the team's puck possession much like Burmistrov. In a perfect world the Jets will fill that #2RW spot and keep one of Wellwood or Antropov (on the cheap) to play on the third line with Burmistrov. Perhaps one of Mark Scheifele or Eric O`Dell could take the other wing, but depending on variables we may be seeing both veterans axed for new blood.
Mike Santorelli - Santorelli is an interesting case. Only one season did he post legitimate middle-6 P/60, which was also the only season where he had a normal On-Ice SH% but also a negative Corsi. While Santorelli is an inconsistent scorer he can also contribute to wins by winning draws and scoring in shoot-outs. Whether he is worth retaining for the third line depends on what Kevin Cheveldayoff plans to do with players like Tangradi, Burmistrov, Scheifele, and O`Dell.
James Wright - Wright is a pretty good defensive player who can play all 3 forward positions, but who also has difficulty in pushing the play into the offensive zone and he doesn't have great offensive instincts. The lack of an offensive game was plainly visible on the ice, but you can also see it in his team-low shots for per 60 minutes of ice time. He can be a solid fourth line player if surrounded by the appropriate pieces, preferably one of them being someone who can push the play forward.
Eric Tangradi - While Tangradi is far from a world beater at this point, he is an RFA asset and the Jets control his rights. Tangradi came to the Jets with a spectacular Corsi; that happens when you get to skate with Evgeni Malkin, but it steadily fell back to earth during his time with the Jets. Eventually Tangradi was placed on the third line with Alexander Burmistrov and he all but immediately he saw dramatic increases in both his possession numbers and zone entries. Unfortunately, possession did not amount to scoring and herein lies the dilemma. Tangradi appears to have the makeup of a capable third line forward, but players in this role need to score at least on par with Burmistrov, Antropov and Wellwood. Has Tangradi suffered through a long bout of terrible puck luck or is it a case of AHL scoring that simply doesn't carry forward? Chevy has to figure this out.
Jim Slater - As a faceoff specialist, we will likely never see positive possession numbers with Slater. Slater will be sent for a bundle of defensive zone draws and these result in shots against. If the Jets get pinned in their zone, Slater racks up minuses; if the play moves forward Slater heads straight for the bench before the pluses. One interesting element of Slater's game is that he has consistently brought surprisingly good 5 on 5 goal scoring numbers for a bottom 6 piece, with the obvious exception of this season. Similar to Wright, Slater can be a solid 4th line player but he could use an okay possession winger to help mitigate the bleeding. Without it we get to watch the 5 on 5 penalty kill that GST made famous. Maybe Tangradi could be that winger...
Chris Thorburn - He seems like a really nice guy... Wish he was a nice hockey player though. Chris Thorburn actually had some decent possession numbers this year. This is a rarity for Thorburn. Problem is that he was only in the positive when he played with Burmistrov and Tangradi. Thorburn won't get to skate with linemates that talented very often, so you can scratch late bloomer off the list of plausible reasons for the increase. While Wright has youth, PK play and defensive positioning, Slater has his faceoff abilities, and Tangradi can push the play forward, Thorburn only seems to bring a good team presence, can-do attitude and he occasionally gets punched in the face (interestingly usually after the Jets get the go ahead goal and before the other team gets the momentum....). And hey, if the team actually needs an enforcer (they don't) they can just keep Peluso around as a 13th forward to scare other teams.
On paper, a fourth line of Tangradi-Slater-Wright has promise. They look like a group that could suppress shots against, and beat out other team's fourth lines at 5 on 5. Slater may serve his purpose as a faceoff specialist, Tangradi can push the play forward and Wright can hopefully be more useful than Thorburn. Slater and Wright can also chip in on the penalty kill.
For the third line, Alex Burmistrov is all we've got. He is the only proven third line player whose rights the Jets own and even that may change; however, next season - Jets 2.0 first draft selection - Mark Scheifele and last season's IceCaps MVP Eric O`Dell will be pushing for full time roster positions. With the cap coming down next season and the Jets looking for an additional top-6 piece to fill the #2 RW spot, the Jets are unlikely to be filling too many holes with expensive UFAs. We-signing Wellwood (again) could be a cap friendly #moneypuck play.
Bonus Section: What could have been...
Ponikarovsky had a bit of an offensive slump, and believe it or not it occurred AFTER his trade from the Jets. At the time of the trade Ponikarovsky was within the top 60 for points relative to ice time for NHL left-wing players. He was receiving no power play time and and very little even strength time due to being behind Andrew Ladd and Evander Kane on the depth chart. The move is understandable, since they acquired a controllable asset for renting a few months of Ponikarovsky, but it is interesting to think what could have been.
The NHL's other Jokinen was dropped onto the waiver wire due to a drop in point production. When you take a deeper look into his underlying numbers, it appears that this was mostly due to him being handed tougher matchups than he has previously (or than he would have on the Jets thanks to LLW and their two-way abilities) and a drop in percentages. Unfortunately his $3MM price tag was enough to scare off, Kevin Chevaldayoff (and 28 other GMs). That is big money for a third liner - especially with the cap coming down - but it is a great deal for a second liner. It will be interesting to see who is eventually brought in to fill the hole at #2RW. Will this player be better than Jokinen? Will this player be cheaper?