Marko Dano is one of the most intriguing players on the Winnipeg Jets and not for the reasons you would think. Dano came to the Jets as a player who was able to drive possession at insane rates and yet the Jets have never been able to harness that ability the same way the Columbus Blue Jackets and Chicago Blackhawks were able to. Is it systems play and coaching or is it dependent on the position Dano is playing? Do linemates make a big difference here?
Dano’s actual hockey abilities are strong. He showed at 20 with the Columbus Blue Jackets that he was cut out to be a NHL player. However, since his rookie season he has struggled remain in his coachs’ good graces; both Joel Quenneville and Paul Maurice have preferred to scratch him over playing him. Is Dano doing something wrong and coaches are unable to change that habit or is it something else that is not seen on the ice. Whatever it is, it will hopefully not hold Dano back from becoming the player that he looked like he would be when he first made the NHL for the Columbus Blue Jackets.
The first image is the standard 10-game rolling average possession chart that I have been using this entire series. The straight lines are times without recorded NHL games either because of injury, time in the AHL or scratches. Now, if you look at the first graph, you can see that Dano has had a very rough year possession wise, rarely breaking 50% for long stretches. Alas, this does not tell the whole story. As you can see, there is a steep falloff in his individual possession numbers from his time with the Blue Jackets and the Blackhawks to his time with Winnipeg. Using Corsica Hockey, I checked his relative Corsi (CorsiRel) stats from season to season. This means I looked at how he stacked up against his team each year. He is a positive CorsiRel player with every team he has played on, his best year coming with the Blue Jackets.
What does this tell us? It tells us that no matter what type of team Dano plays on, he is a good player relative to his teammates. It also tells us that although Dano is good, he does need to be in the right environment to thrive. It seems as though Columbus provided the best environment for him as Chicago ran out of patience for him real fast and Winnipeg never gave him much of a chance. What is more interesting is the steep drop-off in possession and that I think it tied to system and role. The system in Winnipeg has shown to be ineffective and confusing. Dano himself started off in the top six last season when trades and injuries gutted the team. This year Dano was scratched in favour of Chris Thorburn. Dano has been a good NHL player all three years he has been in the league. While his point production has dropped, his ability to drive possession is still there; what is not present is opportunity. It will be interesting to see what happens to him next season and how he does wherever he is.