We looked at the Depth Chart back in July, and hilariously, I published the article mere hours before news broke that Burmistrov had signed in the KHL. With Burmistrov penciled in, I thought the forward group showed more balance than last year. Without Burmi, I suggested Halischuk might be a target to fill the role.
Well, here we are in August and I’m here to say I told you so. We indeed have Halischuk and "balance" has been left to the circus performers and self-help gurus. If the season started today, what would the Jets depth chart look like? We’ll start with the forwards, review the context, and talk about the would-be training camp battles. Be brave, readers.
The Jets second and third lines are quite a jumble. Let’s look at the scoring for our forwards. We don’t know Scheifele’s scoring in a per 60 minute rate, but his NHL equivalency for last year’s dominant (but over-age) OHL performance would be an incredible 18-19-37 over 82 games and he seems a strong bet to make the roster out of camp.
EV Scoring per 60 in 2012/13
- Ladd (3.06)
- Wheeler (2.60)
- Setoguchi (2.15) (Min)
- Little (2.05)
- Kane (1.97)
- Halischuk (1.68) (Nsh)
- Frolik (1.36) (Chi)
- Thorburn (0.95)
- Jokinen (0.93)
- Wright (0.78)
- Tangradi (0.59)
- Slater (0.54)
Those are the skaters we know about, and I think there are some surprises already. Setoguchi played limited minutes with an on-ice shooting % over 10, while Halischuk bled chances against, took a lot of penalties, but started in an uphill position and managed to score some points. That Thorburn out-scored Jokinen reminds us what a miserable season it was for Olli. Let’s look one year earlier and see what we have.
EV Scoring per 60 in 2011/12
- Kane (2.42)
- Halischuk (2.27) (Nsh)
- Wheeler (2.05)
- Jokinen (1.80) (Cgy)
- Ladd (1.77)
- Little (1.53)
- Setoguchi (1.35) (Min)
- Slater (1.25)
- Frolik (1.17) (Chi)
- Thorburn (0.95)
- Gordon (0.94) (Ana)
- Tangradi (0.61) (Pit)
This gives us some context. Halischuk had a miserable season by every other bit of math we have, but the man seems to be around when the puck goes in. He had high luck in few minutes two years in a row. Setoguchi actually had better process-based results in 11/12, but his luck dropped and his scoring with it. He was added as a top 6 fix, and will given every chance to be that. His scoring has always been percentage based, and that’s a concern. Speaking of percentages, Ladd’s on-ice shooting % was sky high in 12/13 (11.4%) and I think we should be prepared for him to return to his 2011/12 level of scoring. Jokinen was better in Calgary but dragged Kane down last year. If I’m not mistaken, all of his most productive years have come with a strong RW. Horton in his good years in Florida, Iginla in his good(ish) years in Calgary. Is it possible the lefty centre struggles to use his backhand side? Can Setoguchi help him regain form?
The reality is that this team won’t ice its best lineup possible. Cheveldayoff has organized the contracts to be able to pay Halischuk and Gordon less in the AHL, while Wright and Peluso are on one-way deals. Further, Chevy’s given the team 7 defencemen who are waiver eligible and on one-way contracts plus Trouba, so the team will likely hold only 13 forwards, at least one of whom can only play 4 minutes a night. With this context, can we craft some lines?
Power vs Power: Ladd – Little – Wheeler
What started as a de facto first line formed into a genuinely strong unit and are in pen on the chart in Claude Noel’s office.
Elusive 2nd Line: Kane – Jokinen – Setoguchi
Noel has shown his love for veterans over youth, and the team has a strange loyalty for Jokinen. He gets the chance to lose the job (again). Setoguchi is better than Miettinen, but how good will be a question of puck luck and chemistry it seems.
The line that misses Burmistrov: Wright – Scheifele – Frolik
We begin to see the lack of balance. Halischuk is less than he appears – lacking entirely the possession skills of Burmistrov despite appearing to play a similar style. But he’s not worse than Wright and in this scenario, Frolik has to move back to the RW where he started his career and struggled defensively and in transition. Scheifele won’t score 40 points without help. On this roster, that help doesn’t exist this far down. This line is an early coaching test for Noel.
The cliff: Tangradi – Slater – Thorburn
We’ve seen lines like this for both years in Winnipeg. Slater will get big PK minutes and d-zone faceoffs for Scheifele. Tangradi and Thorburn get limited minutes – Thorburn as a reluctant enforcer with Peluso in the wings, and Tangradi as a zone-entry wizard who is lost after the blueline.
Pressbox: Anthony Peluso
Despite not being the next best forward available, the team will likely keep Peluso around so that when there is an injury, we can really see how badly that player is missed. It’s a sign of a bad team to protect non-assets as the expense of icing your best possible lineup, but Cheveldayoff signed Peluso for two years at NHL money after 25 minutes of NHL hockey, so it’s tough to send him away on day 1. Peluso will play 4 minutes in any game in which he dresses. (But they’re OUR sub-replacement level players!)
Training Camp Battles
This was always my favourite part of Madden games. So here it is, folks!
Photos courtesy (L to R): clydeorama and Terry Wilson, OHL images
This is the biggest and most obvious training camp battle. On a shallow team, the consequences for the players are severe. If Scheifele gets the push, Jokinen won’t recover his scoring from the blackhole of that third line and his career is in jeopardy. If Jokinen wins the 2C job, we might worry about stunted development and a trip to AHL around Christmas.
Shown here: Tangradi’s stick is not being used for anything and James Wright appears to be doing a bag skate between the top of the circles and the red line during a game. These two will be battling for the 3LW job as far as I can tell. It’s kind of a lose-lose situation when considered from the Jets’ perspective, but Tangradi should win the job if results are the only measure.
Andrew Gordon is a dark horse for the 3RW job, and I think Halischuk gets sent away for contract reasons. These players are battling to gain chemistry with Scheifele, Jokinen, or Frolik, and trying to earn a call-up opportunity should there be a major injury. The question isn’t whether they are better at hockey than Anthony Peluso, but whether the team cares about that sort of thing. If the team is running a meritocracy in the bottom 7, it’s possible Peluso and Wright go to St John’s (both would have to be paid their full 1-way contracts), and both the above players stick with the team. That choice would cost the team a million extra dollars, without exaggeration. What’s the likelihood? Only training camp will tell. (PS: if this was Madden, I’d go back to Free Agency when this battle came up).
The real battle here is whether the GM can see the hole in the lineup before the season begins. The team went into last season with a hole at 2RW that they tried to fill with waiver wire addition Antti Miettinen. With the departure of Burmistrov, the team has a hole at 3RW that remains unaddressed. Cheveldayoff stated in his conference call last week that "It is when the puck drops that the evaluation truly begins" (see here). The fact is, it is much harder to make adjustments in-season, and points are left on the table. The bottom six on this team needs more proven NHL quality players, and players like Wright, Peluso, and Thorburn have long since been evaluated by multiple teams as being at or below replacement level. We wait.