The Jets finished their first segment of ten games Saturday evening with a 1-0 loss in Tampa, and with that, it’s time for a review of the club’s performance via the advanced numbers to this point.
Even strength: Team
The club has actually been mostly respectable at EV, averaging exactly as many shots for as against 5v5. What’s slightly encouraging is that when the game is tied, the team’s numbers aren’t bad at all. The Jets’ EV tied Shots/Fenwick/Corsi as a team reads .546/.526/.517 after the first ten games.
Tied numbers at EV hold real value when we examine long term club performance, since score effects can distort shots for/against by a percent or two over a full year. In general terms, if a team has 54.5% of the EV tied shots over a season, chances are that team is very good. Like, San Jose or Detroit good.
It’s obviously way too early to presume those numbers will hold up for Winnipeg, so it will be a matter of interest to examine things in late November, after a difficult opening to the season. The club plays 15 of their first 23 games away from home, and a roster as thin as the Jets’ is almost certain to exploited when the other coach has last change. I’d expect a fall off over the next few weeks, but if they can maintain any number above .500, that will be progress from last year.
(Note: as an apparent homage to the pedantic, Gabe’s site still shows the Jets as "Atlanta")
Even Strength: Forwards
The club’s top six has played fairly well, albeit with an assist from Claude Noel. The outshooting numbers are all very good, but it must be noted that none of them have a Zone Start percentage under 55. Noel has thrown Slater, Thorburn and Glass under the bus by that metric, and Slater, mostly as a result of being the extra center for DZone faceoffs, has faced some pretty tough comp in the bargain. The only thing keeping their +/- remotely respectable is that fact that they’re shooting the lights out.
It’s an interesting bargain Noel is trying to make. His hope is that by gifting his big guns easier ice time, they can overcome the thrashing his fourth line has to endure along the way. Other coaches with better players, like Vigneault and Quennville, employ the same sorts of tactics to great success. Winnipeg might need another forward ot two that can hang in the top nine to see good results via this approach, and it will be worth watching to see if Noel continues along this line once Slater et al quit having one out of every five shots go in.
Even Strength: Defence
Unlike his utilization of the forward corps, Claude Noel has handed his two best defencemen the heavy lifting, Byfuglien and Enstrom face the other team’s best most nights and start in their own end more often than any of the other defenders. They’re also outshooting by a non-trivial amount.
Willis covered much of this ground last week, so I’ll just re-iterate one point from that article. Byfuglien’s PDO is current .926. The lowest in the last four seasons recorded by any defenceman playing in at least 40 games was Derek Meech’s .933 in 08/09, and I can’t really see Buff wallowing at that level for a year. I know he can be unbelievably frustrating to watch on many nights, but the guy creates more than he gives up, providing the goalies behind him co-operate.
Special Teams: Not so special
What’s really killing the Jets on the PK, as elsewhere, is goaltending. They have an .860 SV % 4v5, so their middling shots/60 against has been undone by the less than stellar work they’ve received between the pipes. Ondrej Pavelec is currently sporting a cool .821 PK SV%. That’s even worse than his putrid .852 mark from a year a go, and as much as I’d like to point the finger at crappy work by the skaters, at some juncture you need a save or two.
The PP isn’t bad, mostly just mediocre. Their shot rate and shooting percentages are middling, and as a result their overall PP % is middling as well. I have heard Claude Noel’s complaints about the ratio of penalties for/against being as issue, but the club has only been shorthanded 5 more times thus far, which should only have been worth a goal, everything being equal.
Summing it all up, the club has been OK at even strength, and their overall performance has mostly been a result of some poor defensive coverage mixed with a fair bit of scratchy goaltending. The Jets aren’t going to outscore teams many nights, so more work from Pavelec along the lines of what we witnessed Saturday is almost certainly what the team will need to be respectable.
They could use another forward or two as well, but that drum’s getting worn out from me beating on it. At any rate, I’ll look at these numbers again just before they start their extended home stand in late November, and as mentioned up top, if the EV tied numbers still look decent, they’ll likely be headed for a season outside the lottery. Whether that’s good or bad is another matter, of course, and I’ll leave that as an exercise for the reader.