Jets’ EV tied performance – the forwards



As August arrives in the city that rainfall forgot (and we’ve loaned all our mosquitoes to Edmonton in the bargain, apparently), the languid pace of the NHL’s summer allows us a chance to examine some of last year’s work from the best forwards on the Jets. In today’s installment, we’ll put the seven current locks for the club’s top nine under the microscope.

I’m a big believer in the premise that what happens at EV largely determines a team’s success over time. Special teams play results tend to be fairly volatile, but out-shooting, particularly when the game is tied, seems to be a repeatable skill that indicates whether a team is actually good, or just riding fortune. 

Last year’s Thrasher squad certainly seemed to ride a bit of good fortune, since they were handily out-shot early in the year on the way to posting a 19-11-5 record on December 20th. That flipped in the team’s last 47 games, as the young forwards began to play better while getting poorer results. In total, the club’s EV-tied numbers reflected a very average squad in the end, scoring 59 goals when the game was tied while allowing 58, and that looked just about right. They were right around .500 in terms of shots for/against and the team had a 100.1 PDO, which indicates a team as middling as could be.

The primary forwards rode that sort of roller coaster as well. The following chart covers the full season EV-tied advanced stats for the six main forwards that finished 10/11 in  Atlanta, as well as Eric Fehr.  The shooting numbers are from, while the Qcomp and ZS numbers are from I’ve combined Blake Wheeler’s numbers from Boston and Atlanta, and his ice time in Atlanta indicates that he was facing the toughs once he headed down there, so Gabe’s blended Qcomp for the year seems about right. The QComp numbers are the rankings amongst the six forwards in question, with Fehr’s number showing his ranking amongst Washington’s regulars.

  Shots% Fen% Cor% EVSV% EVSH% PDO QComp ZoneStart
NIK ANTROPOV 0.481 0.490 0.475 0.923 6.6% 98.8 5th 49.8%
BRYAN LITTLE 0.524 0.517 0.514 0.951 7.2% 102.3 3rd 55.2%
ANDREW LADD 0.523 0.514 0.507 0.917 7.6% 99.3 1st 50.6%
ALEXANDER BURMISTROV 0.466 0.483 0.459 0.948 7.2% 102.0 6th 56.5%
EVANDER KANE 0.509 0.510 0.501 0.899 7.4% 97.3 4th 54.5%
BLAKE WHEELER (TOTAL) 0.515 0.504 0.490 0.955 5.6% 101.1 2nd * 53.4%
ERIC FEHR 0.538 0.540 0.519 0.908 7.0% 97.8 10th/11 55.2%


There’s nothing too far out of line here. Little and Ladd had to carry the mail most of the year, and although Little had a lot of help from his goalies and his coach in terms of starting position, he had decent numbers, especially for a player that likely shouldn’t be facing top-line forwards as a matter of course. Ladd is the real McCoy, obviously, and earned his new deal based on some hard graft. Burmistrov was whipped pretty badly, spared only by the fates, and again, considering that a proper organization would have left him in Barrie last season, his numbers are about right. There are very few 18 year olds that have any business being in the NHL.

Eric Fehr’s full season numbers were hampered by injury and a diminishing role in Washington, but he’s not a terrible player, and a team as weak on the right side as Winnipeg appears to be will welcome any competent winger. He might not get the sort of juicy ZS that Bruce Boudreau handed him last season, though, so expectations for next season should be somewhat tempered.

As I mentioned, the club got off to a good start in the standings, so I thought I’d break off the EV tied shooting data for the five players that were with the Thrashers during the club’s first 35 games:


  Shots% Fen% Cor% EVSV% EVSH% PDO
NIK ANTROPOV 0.447 0.459 0.459 0.944 4.2% 98.2
BRYAN LITTLE 0.527 0.524 0.505 0.987 8.0% 106.7
ANDREW LADD 0.541 0.536 0.532 0.940 9.3% 103.3
ALEXANDER BURMISTROV 0.400 0.397 0.406 0.958 10.9% 106.7
EVANDER KANE 0.475 0.470 0.453 0.925 4.8% 97.3
TEAM 0.478 0.476 0.471 0.948 8.1% 102.9

Hmm. Pretty tough to keep those percentages going for the three gents in the middle of the table, and of course, they didn’t. Kane and Antropov were poor and unlucky, but the rising tide of the club obscured that, or maybe more accurately, the unsustainable play of Ondrej Pavelec. Burmistrov wasn’t ready at this point, but a 106.7 PDO hides a lot of flaws.

The remainder of the season wasn’t nearly as kind to the club, as the Thrashers went 10 games under .500 in their last 47 outings. The primary players on the club weren’t all that bad when the game was tied, but the bounces, so kind through mid-December, began to turn. Wheeler’s 23 game stint in Georgia is included in this next chart:

  Shots% Fen% Cor% EVSV% EVSH% PDO
BRYAN LITTLE 0.523 0.513 0.518 0.932 6.8% 100.0
EVANDER KANE 0.534 0.536 0.534 0.878 9.1% 96.9
NIK ANTROPOV 0.507 0.511 0.486 0.907 8.2% 98.9
ANDREW LADD 0.512 0.500 0.491 0.902 6.4% 96.6
ALEXANDER BURMISTROV 0.530 0.562 0.505 0.936 4.5% 98.1
BLAKE WHEELER 0.600 0.598 0.585 0.933 5.6% 98.9
TEAM 0.517 0.513 0.500 0.921 6.0% 98.1
Reversal of fortune, indeed, but there’s some actual good news here. Wheeler faced proper comp with Atlanta, and his work with Ladd and Little might well portend better things if the trio can sustain those decent out-shooting figures. Burmistrov, contrary to the tale of a lacklustre second half, simply had his percentages return to more earthly realms. His actual play against soft comp was acceptable, though, and again, this hints at improvement on his part. 
The most heartening leap is that made by Kane. His 09/10 possession numbers were a bit better than his overall totals for 10/11, which on the surface could lead one to think that he had regressed, especially since he had easier ZS and QComp numbers in 10/11. Odd, right? Players often slide after nice rookie years, but that’s normally due to tougher opposition or maybe a slide in percentages.
In Kane’s case, there might have been a different culprit at work that caused his early season struggles at EV. Dobber Hockey’s linemates feature reveals that Kane spent over 70% of his EV icetime in 09/10 alongside Colby Armstrong, with an assortment of veteran centers rounding out their line. Armstrong is a proven hard-minutes option on the wing, and Peverly, Reasoner, White and Slater are all grown-ups, so the organization did the right thing by giving their prize rookie adult assistance.
In 10/11, Kane was expected to carry a heavier load, working with Antropov and Anthony Stewart more often than not. Those guys aren’t quite as good as Armstrong at EV, and Kane’s numbers likely reflected some of that fall-off in linemates. There are very few one man gangs in the NHL, and Kane proved no exception during the first part of the year. A 19 year old shouldn’t have had to carry that sort of burden, but as with Burmistrov, the poverty of Atlanta’s organization pushed him into a role that would be tough for a veteran, so a strong finish, even one obscured by lousy percentages, is good news to my eye.
Overall, the top forwards aren’t a bad group, and the youth of the core beyond Antropov gives reason to hope for better things in the future. The drop from this group to the next half a dozen forwards is a steep one, which should prompt the Jets to look for another forward or two that can play decent comp, presuming the club isn’t trying to finish in the lottery.
It seems fairly clear that even if Kane and Wheeler carry last year’s strong finish forward to this fall and make the leap to become good top-sixers, the absence of depth up front will almost certainly hold the Jets back this season. That noted, at least the young guys look like they’re on the verge of having a clue how to manage at even strength, which should provide a decent foundation for Winnipeg over the next few seasons. 
  • “The drop from this group to the next half a dozen forwards is a steep one, which should prompt the Jets to look for another forward or two that can play decent comp, presuming the club isn’t trying to finish in the lottery”

    I thought that was the point of going out and signing Rypien and Glass wasn’t it?

        • Robert Cleave

          I think we’re on the same wave length 😉 As someone paying a few bucks to watch the Jets in person this fall, I’m not exactly happy with the current roster of forwards, but we’ll see who’s around when they break camp. If it’s this group, the playoffs will be a completely accidental occurrence almost certainly created by Pavelec having a Vezina-worthy year.