While the Winnipeg Jets struggled against the Minnesota Wild on December 29th, Justin Bourne drop this little bomb:
We at Arctic Ice Hockey have nothing against Bourne; he is a respectable member of the media. Bourne works hard at improving his craft and seems to be one of the mainstream media members somewhat in sync with the current direction of hockey and player analysis.
The comment, however, is pretty representative of the media's opinion on the Jets. The Jets rarely seem to garner much respect. Most seem to think the team has been lucky or over-performing.
Even Scott Cullen, TSN's advance analytics expert, falls in this category. Cullen recently ranked the Jets at 14th in his power rankings, their highest this year. The Jets were placed behind seven teams with lower Score-Adjusted Corsi percentages, a statistic that Cullen knows is highly predictive of future success.
Justin Bourne may not have the numbers, but we at Arctic Ice Hockey do.
The Jets play has been real
The Jets currently sit at ninth for Score-Adjusted Corsi percentage. This number links greatly with a team's future success, even more so than past success in wins, points, or goals. By some combination of special teams, goaltending, finishing talent, or plain ol' puck luck, the Jets have actually been under performing this number.
The Jets have lately been the best team in the Central division in terms of scoring chance differential.
The graph represents each Central Division's estimated scoring chance differential over the last 15 games combined. The Jets are the line with two shades of blue that moved above all the other teams.
Yes, it is true. The Jets have good players. They may not have a Patrice Bergeron, Sidney Crosby, or a Anze Kopitar, but they have a team filled with underrated players that on aggregate create a very effective squad.
SAC (Score-Adjusted Corsi percentage) is the team's shot attempt differential with the player on the ice but adjusted for score effects. SASC (Score-Adjusted Scoring Chance) is SAC with each shot adjusted somewhat for quality due to shot location, rebounds, and whether a shot is "off the rush" or from sustained zone time. P/60 (Points per 60) is a player's point production per sixty minutes of play. SAC and SASC are for 5v5 TOI only; P/60 is for all minutes. No adjustments for usage and deployment have been made.
* Anthony Peluso is under extreme small sample size and extremely sheltered minutes.
For context, here is what the 90th, 180th, and 270th best forward since the start of the 2011-12 season (minimum of 1000 minutes in aggregate played) posted in each number.
|2011-12 to Present||SAC||SASC||P/60|
Only the Jets' fourth line contains players who are being out-possessed or out-chanced consistently. Bryan Little, Blake Wheeler, Mathieu Perreault, Mark Scheifele, and Evander Kane are all out-possessing their opponents in a fashion typical of the top 90 NHL skaters. Andrew Ladd, Michael Frolik, and Adam Lowry are not that far off either. When implementing some shot quality factors, even Matt Halischuk moves into the top numbers.
The Jets have struggled a bit to put the puck in the net, but not overly so. Some may be due to sacrificing offense for the sake of defesce. The Jets' low scoring numbers may be the source of their under-appreciation.
* Jay Harrison is under extreme small sample sizes
For context, here is what the 60th, 120th, and 180th best defender since the start of the 2011-12 season (minimum of 1000 minutes in aggregate played) posted in each number.
|2011-12 to Present||SAC||SASC||P/60|
Paul Maurice deploys his top defenders under extreme defensive minutes, allowing his weaker defenders to enjoy taking advantage of softer competition and deployment.
Only Jay Harrison has been consistently out-possessed by his opponents. Only Harrison and Zach Bogosian have been consistently out-chanced. Jacob Trouba, Dustin Byfuglien, Adam Pardy, Paul Postma, and Grant Clitsome have all out-possessed their competition at top levels.
Most of the Jets have picked up points at impressive levels as well.
They are not over-achieving either
We can compare the numbers above to how these players have performed since the 2011-12 season.
Most of the Jets' top players have been (very slightly) under-performing their norm. Much of this may be due to Maurice giving the fourth line less of the defensive zone deployment load. Chris Thorburn and Jim Slater have posted much better possession numbers this season than their career averages because of this.
However, Mark Scheifele's improvement has come despite tougher deployment. Perreault's numbers have fallen, but he is showing he can still be a plus player despite not receiving his normal sheltered minutes.
Byfuglien's numbers include time as a forward which has pulled down all three metrics.
Tobias Enstrom's numbers have suffered due to no longer playing with Dustin Byfuglien, but Zach Bogosian's performance has improved in turn. Likewise, Jacob Trouba's development as a top defender has propelled Mark Stuart into uncharted territory for the veteran defenceman.
It is likely that the Jets' goaltenders have been overachieving. It is unrealistic to expect Michael Hutchinson to sustain his current save percentage. Ondrej Pavelec has been in a downward spiral, regressing quickly towards his career averages. However, there is a lot of evidence that Hutchinson is a goalie worth taking a gamble on. There is also hope that Pavelec can sustain numbers superior to his previous seasons as a Jet.
Overall, the Jets have a pretty good team. They may not have star power but they have some underrated players and win by committee.
Mathieu Perreault serves as a great example of Jets under-appreciation.
Of the last four seasons combined (minimum of 1000 minutes played), Perreault has scored points at a faster rate than all but 17 NHL skaters. The 17 ahead are all well respected: Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Jamie Benn, Steven Stamkos, Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Taylor Hall, Jason Spezza, Claude Giroux, Henrik Sedin, Tyler Seguin, Patrick Sharp, David Krejci, etc. How many know this? His possession numbers sit at 77th for the same sample, in the company of David Krejci, Patrick Marleau, and others.
Media might as well get used to it too. The Jets are a young squad and are more likely to improve as a whole than move the other direction. There is also the possibility of reinforcement from the likes of Alexander Burmistrov, Nikolaj Ehlers, Nic Petan, and Joshua Morrissey.