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Analytically Slicing the Winnipeg Jets Early Struggles

The Jets have struggled both in the win column and the shot metrics. Why is that?

Derek Leung

With only three games played, the numbers predominately provide explanative details only. There is very little predictive value with such low sample size. Limited predictive powers only restricts the use of shot metrics, not eliminate them.

A losing 1-2 record, -2 goal differential, and out attempted 148 to 166 from a three game road trip is neither great nor terrible. What happened? Where did the Winnipeg Jets go wrong? How can they help avoid this from reoccurring?

Game 1


The team started off strong in Arizona against the Coyotes. Jets began the game the right way. They controlled possession, drew penalties, and directed a large volume of pucks at Smith who struggled to save said shots. Once the Jets got a substantial lead they began to play a bit more tentatively, typical of teams with large leads. This lead to the shots being equalized, but Ondrej Pavelec stood strong and kept the Jets in the lead.

Most of the Jets early headway came via special teams. The players did not accumulate many 5v5 pluses during their strong play at the start (see shot differentials prior to 2 goal lead). We can see here which players were tending to get trapped while playing tentatively in the third. The Jets top line of Andrew Ladd, Bryan Little, and Michael Frolik with defensemen Zach Bogosian, Mark Stuart and Jacob Trouba faced most of the Coyotes counter-attack.

Game 2


The next game was almost the exact polar opposite. The Jets started poorly, were severely out possess, and let in some quick goals. Score effects took over and at the same time same time the Jets picked up the pace. The team also ran into penalty problems, which diminished their chances of a come back.

No line was overly negative at the end, but the Sharks were holding back plenty after their third goal. The second period numbers shine a light on which lines were struggling before the Jets comeback. The same list as the previously accused subjects come up, with Ladd, Little, Frolik, Bogosian, Stuart, and Trouba. This time with the addition of the Jets second line in Dustin Byfuglien, Mark Scheifele, and Blake Wheeler. While the Jets bottom six was out attempting about 60 percent of the time, the Jets top six was being out attempted by about the same amount.

Game 3


Statistically the third game was different than the previous two. While both the San Jose Sharks and Los Angeles Kings started out with an early lead, the game versus the Kings was more evenly played out and with less special teams. The Jets played rookie netminder Michael Hutchinson, who let in a few bounces early causing him to get pulled.

The pattern should now be pretty obvious. Yet again the five man group Ladd, Little, Frolik, Stuart, and Trouba were consistently getting shelled in their own zone. Most of the other Jets were relatively even for most of the game, although the Jets fourth line picked up some third period minuses.

Final Thoughts

Player Corsi +/- Corsi%
Player Corsi +/- Corsi%
Michael Frolik -16 40%
Zach Bogosian -12 44%
Andrew Ladd -28 33%
Jacob Trouba -22 36%
Bryan Little -27 33%
Adam Pardy +2 52%
Dustin Byfuglien -5 46%
Tobias Enstrom -5 47%
Mark Scheifele +4 53%
Mark Stuart -12 41%
Mathieu Perreault +9 59%
Paul Postma 0 50%
Adam Lowry +7 59%

Blake Wheeler +6 56%

You may notice some inconsistencies with the above and the individual game data. The later were from my own scrapper which does not eliminate minutes where a goalie is pulled due to delayed penalty or end of game strategy. The difference though is extremely minimal.

Here are the Jets top minute players, ordered in descending total 5v5 TOI (Wheeler's is low due to two fights cutting into his ice time). The Jets struggles have come from the same players eating the most minutes and this is problematic. If you are to decrease the sample to only score-close minutes (within two goals or tied in the third), Scheifele and Wheeler also fall into the red.

Top lines play the most minutes and against the other team's best players, and therefore have the highest impact. If a team is to bleed shot attempts somewhere, you don't want it to your players on the ice for nearly 80% of the game and playing against Crosby, Kessel, Stamkos, Thornton, Kopitar, Seguin, Sedins, etc.

Why have Ladd, Little, and Frolik been outshot so much?

It could be small sampling size, with good and bad bounces not predominately cancelling each other out. It could be that Thornton and Kopitar are within the NHL's best five Corsi centres over the past four years combined. It could be that the line is mostly playing with a struggling, young sophomore defenseman (Trouba) and a defenseman playing minutes above his capabilities (Stuart). It could also be that the line is just in a slump and isn't playing that well.

There are multiple possibilities, and any combination is realistically plausible.

All three of Ladd, Little, and Frolik have historically been plus possession players. It may take time, but one should expect them to bounce back to their normal performance. Until that happens, there are concerns as the Jets do not have a top line that can line up against the best.