When will the Jets production catch up to their performance?

After flirting with a playoff spot midway through December, Winnipeg, with last night’s loss to the Carolina Hurricanes, have now dropped 3 of their last 11 since Claude Noel threw out his 2011 calendar. Obviously, 2011 was a terrific year for hockey in Winnipeg, what with the NHL returning, and a pretty good team playing some pretty good hockey for them.

But, despite controlling the flow of play in the first bit of 2012, the hockey Gods haven’t looked upon your Winnipeg Jets favourably. Dustin Byfuglien hasn’t played in 14 games, and Evander Kane has missed the last two. The presence of arguably the team’s top forward and defenseman has obviously been missed in the last two games, but it’s not like Winnipeg haven’t played well without them in the lineup.

In fact, when I say “controlling the flow of play”, with the score-tied since 2012 began, the Jets have taken 52.1% of the overall shot attempts. This indicates a lot of positive puck possession for the team. Whether or not you believe that microstats have value in hockey the same way as baseball, there is a lot of predictive value in the possession numbers. What the 52.1% number really means that, in the last 11 games, the Jets are playing at a level equivalent to the 8th best team in the league.

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Not only that, but a few of the number nerds at the excellent Philadelphia blog Broad Street Hockey took a look at adjusting possession numbers for all game states, and found that Winnipeg is 10th overall in the league according to this metric.

Unfortunately for the Jets, the puck-luck hasn’t been there. The Jets have won just 40.9% of their one-goal games and our own Jonathan Willis has done the leg-work to prove that this isn’t indicative of team talent—it’s unlucky for the team to drop so many games late.

The problem for Winnipeg lately has been their goaltending: at even strength over the last 11 games, Chris Mason and Ondrej Pavelec have combined for an .898 save percentage. Mason is at a .903, and Pavelec is at an .897, and both those numbers are well-below the goalie’s averages. Basically, the goaltending hasn’t been there, just as much as the shooting. The team lately has shot just 5.4% lately, with only Nik Antropov, Andrew Ladd and Kyle Wellwood getting their share of the recent bounces.

By looking at the Jets’ top 9 forwards by average time on ice, we can check to see what their on-ice shooting percentage has been like for the full season compared to the 11-game slide:

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  11 Games Season To Date
Kane 3.6% 8.4%
Little 5.8% 8.0%
Wheeler 5.8% 9.2%
Ladd 11.2% 7.5%
Antropov 10.4% 9.1%
Burmistrov 2.3% 7.7%
Wellwood 10.7% 7.5%
Slater 2.7% 6.1%
Glass 1.5% 6.6%

So the team’s shooting percentage hasn’t been there. While I found an interesting quote from Blake Wheeler in Scott Taylor’s game recap from last night’s game in Carolina“We had a lot of shots, but most of them came from the perimeter. We didn’t get enough traffic inside on him. He’s too good a goaltender for what we did. I could have made those saves,” the “shot-quality” argument isn’t one that holds over a large amount of games.

In the end, if Winnipeg continues to control possession like this, they’ll start to see more open ice and a few more rebounds. Despite the slide, the team is 3 points out of a spot (although they’re still 10th in the Conference in points per game) so it’s not all doom and gloom in Winnipeg. There’s still an open shot in this poor Conference for the Jets to slide into a spot, but they’ll need to start getting those bounces.

  • Alex Hemsky

    Great article Cam.

    Just looking at 5v4 numbers it appears shooting % a bigger problem than goaltending. We’ve actually been getting pretty good goaltending on the PK (around .940%) while our PP shooting %’s are still pretty bad.