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Kyle Wellwood is unappreciated and undervalued

It appears to me that Winnipeg Jets coach Claude Noel does take advanced stats into account when making his lineup decisions, because if he did Wellwood would never be in the press-box.

Rich Lam

Kyle Wellwood is firmly entrenched in coach Noel's doghouse, as the Winnipeg Jets forward has been a healthy scratch for the past four games. But he's also been feeling the wrath of many Jets fans, as he keeps getting shredded on Twitter, blogs and radio call-in shows despite not even being in the lineup. The hate being sent his way seems misguided at best and just plain stupid at worst, in my humble opinion. So as a member of #TeamWelly, here's my attempt to stick up for the little guy.

A quick glance at his boxcars obviously shows that Wellwood is not producing in the offensive zone like he did last year, but it is his underlying numbers that help paint a more rosy picture for the diminutive forward and suggest to me that he's being piled on unnecessarily.

Kyle Wellwood

#13 / Center / Winnipeg Jets



May 16, 1983

2012 - Kyle Wellwood 15 0 2 2 -3 0 0 0 1 3 14 52.4

2011 - Kyle Wellwood 77 18
29 47 3 4 4 6 10 13 93

Now, I'll be the first to admit that Wellwood's basic stats this season aren't very good, especially when looking at what he did last year. He isn't living up to the big raise he got in the off-season, but he did so much last year for so cheap that he was hard pressed to live up to the new contract anyways. But look at the hits and blocks from last season.The guy doesn't do the dirty work, never has and never will. Why is he getting shredded for being a "soft" player this year when he's done this his entire career?

However, while his boxcars aren't anything to write home about, it's his underlying stats that actually tell me that he's done a pretty darn good job this season in a third-line role. Below is a chart of the underlying advanced stats pulled from (the numbers in brackets are the forward rankings on the Jets):

CorsiRel CorsiOn
11.95 (8th) -0.319 (7th) 1.708 (7th) 12.0 (2nd)
8.37 (2nd) 5.19 (10th) 0.911 (8th)
963 (10th) 46.2 (10th)
58.0 (3rd)

To give you some perspective, only Anthony Peluso has a higher CorsiRel and CorsiOn, but he's only played 5 games so his sample size is quite small and in my opinion unsustainable.

What these numbers suggest to me is that Kyle Wellwood is playing bottom-six minutes against bottom-six competition but is driving possession in a BIG WAY. His Corsi numbers would be the best on the team if I was to filter out Peluso and his small sample size, and the fact that he starts 46.2% of his starts in the offensive zone but finishes 58.0% of his shifts there is pretty impressive to me. His On-IceSh% and PDO are both quite low and I infer from that that some puck luck is due to come his way. Or was due to come his way, as I'm not sure when, or if, he'll even get back into the lineup.

But one thing that bugs me is that Wellwood added 10 points on the PP last season and has 84 career points on the man-advantage, yet can't even get into the lineup right now to help a power-play that's on a putrid 1-for-32 stretch. Noel will keep running out guys like Chris Thorburn, James Wright and Eric Tangradi, who by the way have all combined this season to produce as many points as Wellwood has (a whopping 2 points)! If you are concerned about the lack of offensive production from Wellwood this season, what do you think about these three players?

At the end of the day, Kyle Wellwood is not the biggest problem on the Jets. He's their eighth-highest paid forward at $1.6m. He obviously overachieved last season when he piled up the 47 points, and he was underachieving this season in terms of offensive production when he got pulled from the lineup. But what the advanced stats tell me is that Kyle Wellwood had been doing a pretty darn good job in a third-line role, as when he was on the ice the Jets sent a lot more pucks at the opposition's net than the other team put on theirs. And I also think that his -3 rating is an unlucky stat due to his low PDO number, as those numbers were due to get get better.

Kyle Wellwood may not fit into Claude Noel and Kevin Cheveldayoff's long-term vision and apparent lust for size, and it is a virtual certainty that he won't be back with the Jets next year. But to suggest that the team is better suited to having Welly in the press-box as opposed to on the ice driving possession or at least on the power-play is, in my opinion, wrong.