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The Winnipeg Jets have become a top possession team

A combination of Paul Maurice and two young Jets have pushed the Jets into uncharted territories as a top team in underlying metrics.

Bruce Fedyck-USA TODAY Sports

Breaking news:

The Winnipeg Jets are a top 10 possession team in the current standard for best predictor of future success... and the Jets show no signs of slowing down.


Score-adjusted shot attempt differential (Corsi) out-performs the previous gold standards for predictive statistics, although there is some interesting research development in weighted shot differentials. As of last night the Jets are 9th in the entire NHL for SAC%. This means the Jets have been the 9th strongest team -after factoring out the less stable factors of luck (as natural variance), special teams, goaltending, and finishing talent.

There has been an obvious shift between the first fifteen games and the second fifteen. The Jets posted a very middling 49.7 SAC% over the first half, while their second half of 57.3 percent is the best SAC% in the NHL over that time frame. This improvement has come from both an increase in offensive shot volume creation and defensive shot against volume suppression.

What is most impressive though is not one regular Jet has a negative Corsi differential over the last 15 games.

The Shift

Jets usage and Corsi relative to team for first fifteen games


Jets usage and Corsi relative to team for next fifteen games


The colours represent the Jets difference in Corsi percentage with the player on the ice versus when they are on the bench. A player could post positive possession numbers but still be in the red because the team is just that much better elsewhere. In the first graph the Jets average near 50%, so for the most part the red players are being out attempted while the blue players are out attempting; however, in the second graph all the players are in the positive differentials, just some far more than others.

One of the major factors in the Jets improvement has come from Paul Maurice tweaking the Jets lines and usage.

For the Jets defensemen, the noticeable shift has been a decreased disparity in zone start deployment between the two top pairs. Tobias Enstrom and Zach Bogosian have taken relatively a greater share of the defensive zone starts than in the first fifteen games. This has allowed Mark Stuart and Jacob Trouba to start more of their shifts in the offensive zone than the defensive zone. Instead of the Enstrom and Bogosian getting the bulk of the offensive zone starts, the Jets weaker defensemen of Adam Pardy, Paul Postma, and Ben Chiarot have now been given the push.

For the forwards the major difference was the swap of Blake Wheeler for Michael Frolik on the Jets top line. When Paul Maurice did the opposite switch last season, Maurice was sacrificing offense for increased defense. This worked well last season with the Jets top possession line matching up against the other teams best in the defensive zone often. However, the Jets were struggling to score early this year, so Maurice's hand was forced to try and jump start his best line by pushing them into the offensive zone more often. The Jets best possession line was being wasted on easier minutes. By throwing Wheeler back on the line, Maurice was giving his top producers the most amount of zone time.

Jets most improved

There are two players that have been the major drivers of the Jets new found improvement. Jets' fans have a very good reason to be excited: the improvements are coming from young players taking the next step in impacting the game.

Jacob Trouba

Corsi% CF/60 CA/60 Corsi +/-
First Fifteen Games 44.9 50.9 62.4 -48
Second Fifteen Games 58.4 62.8 44.7 +80
Difference +13.5 +11.9 -17.7 +128

Ladies and gentlemen, Jacob Trouba has arrived.

Not only has Trouba's numbers been the most improved over the last fifteen games, but he has also been the best Jet in these metrics. Over the last fifteen games the Jets have controlled 58.4 percent of shot attempts in five-on-five situations and out attempted their opponents by 50 shot attempts.

Here's some numbers for perspective:

* Currently some of the top big minute defensemen this season have been Anton Stralman (58.3%), Jake Muzzin (58.1%), Nick Leddy (58.0%), Duncan Keith (57.8%), Ryan Suter (56.0%), Drew Doughty (55.5%), P.K. Subban (53.6%).

* Since the November 9th (halfway between the Jets 30 games), only Anton Stralman has a better Corsi +/- than Jacob Trouba.

Player's are never as good as their worst or best games; they are on average as good as they are on average. Still, these numbers are immensely impressive, especially at such a young age. We may be getting a glimpse at what Trouba's future may look like.

Evander Kane

Corsi% CF/60 CA/60 Corsi +/- CD/GP
First Fifteen Games 41.7 55.4 52.2 -29 -4.14
Second Fifteen Games 57.9 61.3 44.6 +57 +4.38
Difference +16.2 +5.9 -7.6 +86 +8.53

Evander Kane is the other most improved Jet. The Jets control of shot percentages improved even more-so with Kane than they did with Trouba, although Trouba is still posting the better overall Corsi% in the later half.

Kane's Corsi differential is the fourteenth highest in the NHL since November 9th and second only to Blake Wheeler on the Jets.

While Trouba's overall impact with a shot attempt differential of +80 is much larger than Kane's +57, both are tied for most improved differentials at +8.53 shot attempts per game each.

What makes their success even more impressive, is both Kane and Trouba have been the Jets primary defensive zone option while playing big minutes.

Some honourable mentions

Blake Wheeler

Blake Wheeler has never been known as a dominant shot metrics player. Historically, Andrew Ladd and Bryan Little have been the possession players, while Blake Wheeler brought the scoring. This season has been one of Wheeler's most dominant performances in both point per minute and shot metrics.

Mark Scheifele

There were times where it looked like Scheifele's potential laid more in point scoring and finishing talent than in improving a team's shot differentials. This hasn't been the case this season. While Scheifele's point per minute production has fallen below typical top six levels, his overall impact on the team's two-way numbers has rocketed. Scheifele's Corsi differential of +54 has matched that of Bryan Little over the last fifteen games.

Mathieu Perreault

Like Blake Wheeler, Mathieu Perreault lands on this list more for being consistently solid in the shot metrics this season rather than improving. Perreault's point production has severely slumped relative to previous years. His point production per minute though is still fifth on the Jets. His ability to push the play hasn't decreased, with only Wheeler having a superior Corsi percentage for Jets top nine forwards. Perreault with Kane has been extraordinarily impressive too, with 6 points in 90 minutes and ownership of 60% of shot attempts and 75% of goals while on the ice.

Dustin Byfuglien

Games P/60 Corsi% Corsi +/- Goal% Goal +/-
Defenseman 4 1.6 55.9 +17 100.0 +3
Forward 26 1.0 48.6 -17 47.8 -1

Byfuglien's numbers as a forward this season have been almost perfectly average in both point production per minute and Corsi% for a fourth line forward. Meanwhile, the same numbers are well above the average top minute defender, despite his defensive partner being an AHL call-up.