Pilots Logbook 2013-14: Chris Thorburn

Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

The Winnipeg Jets 2013-14 season has been laid to rest. This series will take an in-depth look how the team and its players have performed, and some decisions that could push the Jets forward in the future.

Read this and remember that Chris Thorburn was given a spot in the Winnipeg Jets top six when Evander Kane was injured. Then also remember that many members of the media said that this was a good idea.

The Basics

GP G A P TOI/60 S/60 Sh% PenD
55 2 9 11 8.8 3.2 7.7 -10

Numbers are for all minutes.

Eleven points is not bad for a fourth liner who only played 55 games, although there is a good amount of evidence that this production is unsustainable for Thorburn. This season Thorburn posted his second highest 5v5 sh% and highest on-ice sh% of his career. More pucks trickled into the opposing net per shot than the average second line in the NHL sees... probably not going to stay like that. So after four seasons of posting points per min lower than the average fourth line player, it is okay to be skeptical when Thorburn posts a season above that average.

Usage

Screen_shot_2014-06-04_at_4.09.02_am_medium

Player usage chart from extraskater.com.

EV Percentage of Team's Available TOI 5 on 5
ZS% ZS%rel EVTOI% PPTOI% SHTOI% QoC TOI% QoT TOI%
49.1 -1.4 17.9 1.0 1.3 27.8 28.3
12th 11th 11th 14th 10th 9th 9th

Rankings are given for team out of 15 forwards to play 20 or more games.

Thorburn wasn't pushed into the offensive zone as scorer, nor did he get pushed into the defensive zone to help optimize the Jets scoring forwards. He played minimal even strength minutes and offered almost no special teams value.

Underlying Numbers

Thorcorsi_medium

The y-axis is given to show the typical 40-60 sustainable spread seen for NHL calibre players. Players are compared to particular line/pair depending on 5v5 TOI per game. Population mean (average), median (50th percentile), and other percentiles are relative to player performance between 2007-12.

5v5 TOI Corsi% relCorsi% dCF/20 dCA/20 dCorsi%
8.83 43.3% -7.1% -3.877 +1.011 -7.245

RelCorsi is the team's percentage of shot attempts with player on ice minus shot attempts with player off ice. Delta Corsi values are team's shot attempt rates with player on ice, but relative to league norm given similar usage (quality of teammates, quality opponents, zone starts, and TOI). dCF/20 is shot attempts for -where a positive number is above average-, dCA/20 is shot attempts against -where a negative number is above average-, and dCorsi% is percentage of shot attempts.

Those numbers do not paint a pretty picture at all. Chris Thorburn has killed puck possession and the Jets get consistently out shot when he is on the ice. These numbers are actually the worst for all Jets forwards.

To put this in perspective, the average fourth line player with Thorburn's Corsi% changes their team's goal differential by about -5 goals relative to the fourth line player with Tangradi's Corsi%. That's a huge swing for that few minutes.

Conclusion

The NHL is evolving into a league where all players must provide some sort of on-ice results type value. As fourth line players tend to be least skilled, it is best to get players to specialize in particular functions. Thorburn doesn't seem to provide any. He doesn't score enough to be a bottom 6 support scorer. He drowns in average 4th line difficulty minutes, so being a defensive zone specialist to help push scorers in offensive zone is out of the question. He can't help on the power play. He can't help on the penalty kill.

Keep or lose?

He apparently is a good character player and well liked, so maybe the Jets should hire him in HR as a dressing room hangout guy... just don't put skates on him please.

Bonus: Why Corsi% is important for fourth line players

Fourth line players are not on the ice that much and not very talented. Almost all fourth line regulars come out with negative goal differentials if you expand the sample size or regress percentages. Essentially, almost all fourth line players hurt you, but you need them on the ice sometimes, so might as well get the ones who cause the team bleed the least.

So why care about Corsi% then?

Screen_shot_2014-06-23_at_9.42.17_pm_medium

All numbers are from Extra Skater, Behind the Net and Hockey Analysis

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