Tuesday’s dispiriting effort against a mediocre Islanders’ team likely signified the end of Winnipeg’s aspirations for the post-season, and the inability of the team to generate any offence was again at the heart of the failure. The Jets’ paucity of scoring in all situations is fairly evident when you watch them, but one part of the club’s endeavors that seems to be even more laden with ineptitude is their work when playing 5 v 4.
The Jets’ failings on the powerplay have been a fairly common topic since late January, one that’s been mentioned in virtually every postgame over the last few weeks, and unfortunately, when looking at the underlying numbers, the absence of 5 v 4 scoring isn’t merely a percentage-driven lull.
Since the Carolina game on January 23rd, the Jets have played 44:30 at 5 v 4, managing 1 goal on 16 shots, with the goal being the Byfuglien bouncer against the Capitals last Thursday evening. 16 shots in that time frame converts to 21.6 shots/60.
That rate is astonishingly bad. The worst full season team for shots/60 5 v 4 is Phoenix, who average 37.7/60. An average team would amass about 48 shots/60, and a top ten team would be over 50 shots/60. The Jets are roughly 20 shots on goal behind an average rate in the last ten games, which would normally be worth about 2 goals over that segment.
A couple of goals might not seem like much, but over a full season that sort of incompetence would likely cost a team 6 or 7 points in the standings, based on the accepted rate of 3 goals equaling a point. Winnipeg’s full season 5 v 4 rate is just over 43 shots/60, which is 4th from bottom, so the team has had its issues generating attempts all year. This stretch is beyond dreadful, though, and the Jets aren’t exaxtly a club that can afford to squander any goals from any source.
(As an aside, the Sharks are averaging nearly 68 shots/60, and if they keep it up, this will mark the second consecutive year that they will have averaged at least 10 more shots/60 than the next best team in the league. San Jose does throw a lot of rubber at the net from all angles in all game states, but from my observation the PP pressure they generate is legitimate.)
At any rate, what really drove the poverty of Winnipeg’s shooting rates 5 v 4 home was what I noticed when I looked at 5 v 5 shooting rates around the league. The worst full season rate at the moment is Anaheim at 26 shots/60, so the Jets’ 5 v 4 work is about 4 shots/60 worse than that, and even as the Jets have struggled 5 v 5 over the same period, they’ve still done more in that game state than when up a man. Winnipeg has played 508 minutes 5 v 5 in the last ten games, and have fired 223 shots on goal, for a shot rate of 26.33/60. Doing markedly worse 5 v 4 than 5 v 5 is pretty much the mark of doom for a team that would be a middling outfit under ideal circumstances.
The question is, of course, what to do about it. Claude Noel, in his unhappy post-game presser last night, suggested that personnel might be an issue, to which a sensible person would likely reply, "You don’t say?" It’s been fairly obvious most of the year that the Jets need at least one more genuinely creative player. The term "sniper" gets over-used when teams hunt for a skilled forward, and in Winnipeg’s case, my sense is they really need a player that creates chances more than some sort of mythical one-shot scorer.
This need seems especially acute on the PP. The Jets’ current personnel dictates a power play driven by the defencemen, largely because that’s where their talented players reside in numbers. Opposition squads have apparently watched the 30 seconds of video required to suss this out, and as a result most teams are jamming Winnipeg’s D when they do manage to get set in the offensive zone. A team with a skilled practitioner along the half-wall would feast against that sort of coverage until other teams were forced to play things straight up, but the Jets’ two best candidates for that role are Wellwood and Little, and neither are world-beaters, so here we are.
I doubt that the Jets can solve the problem internally to a sufficient level in time to rescue this year, and if the club’s management is planning to add a player via trade by the 27th, they might discover that obtaining a player of that ilk would be both very expensive and already too late, given where the club is sitting in the standings. This summer, however, is another matter, and if Kevin Cheveldayoff’s marching orders for 2012/13 include actually trying to make the playoffs, finding a forward to help run the PP should be Job One.