Waiver Wire Season: Ryan Jones

It’s coming up to Waiver Wire Season again, folks, and as we know, that’s Kevin Cheveldayoff’s equivalent of Free Agency and our second Christmas. Today, Ryan Jones of the Edmonton Oilers has hit waivers and the Jets are looking for players who: a) can skate; and b) come with either own equipment, preferably blue in colour. Seems like it might be a home run – let’s have a closer look at whether Ryan Jones could help the Winnipeg Jets.

The Numbers

Above is Ryan Jones’s Player Usage Chart. It’s easier to read than it looks. Each bubble is a season by Jones. The more right the bubble is, the more often he started in the offensive end. The higher up the bubble is, the tougher opponents he faced. The colour of the bubble is orange for having more shot attempts against than for compared to the rest of his team (negative Relcorsi), and blue (not present for Jones) is more shot attempts for than against (positive Relcorsi). The bigger the bubble, the bigger the number. In this case, the biggest bubble (2010) is -11.1 Rel corsi, and the smallest (2012) is -1 RelCorsi. 

This graph shows us a lot of information. Most telling is that Jones has never been a positive corsi guy in his career. That means he’s spending more time in his own end than the opponent’s end, and his team has the puck less often when he’s on the ice compared to when his teammates are on. Given that his teammates are mostly Oilers, that’s, uh, bad.

He also has played most of his career struggling as a 3rd and 4th liner. He bounced around the lineup in 2010/11, his first season as an Oiler, but he played mostly 4th line with such talent as Liam Reddox, Zach Stortini, and Colin Fraser. In 2011, he moved to a more stable set up with Ryan Smyth and one of Horcoff or Belanger (once Horcoff was injured). He took more defensive zone draws that year against slightly tougher competition and came out okay considering the assignment. He also had his best offensive season, with 17 goals and 33 points on just a 12.4% shooting rate – roughly equal to his career average. His offence fell off a cliff last year, and his season was derailed by injury. He managed just a 5% shooting rate and 2 goals in 27 games while clearly playing the easiest minutes of his career mostly with Horcoff and Yakuov or Gagner and Hemsky. He only got 13 minutes a night last year, down from 15:25 in 2011. 

The Scouting Reports

Recently I called him the original Matt Halischuk, as he too is a cast-off from the Predators with good vertical speed who seems to score more than we can explain. Below is Halischuk’s Usage chart. Seem familiar?

It looks an awful lot like the Jones one above, and we might keep in mind that Nashville is a better team in a relative sense than the Oilers. It’s harder to look good next to Mike Fisher and David Legwand than rookies and also-rans.

As for Jones’s scoring, the Edmonton media began to talk about him as a goal-mouth scorer – someone who naturally has a higher career shooting % than their talent can explain through sheer will or force or want or whatever nonsense they can make up.

His career 17′ average for goal distance definitely suggests he’s not a ranged attacker. At the same time, while he attacks the net often, he’s not a ‘net presence’ exactly, lacking that sixth sense for finding pucks in traffic a guy like Ryan Smyth always had. Bloggers in Edmonton never adopted the MSM’s explanation for his goal totals, and rightfully so.

In my viewings of Jones, I think he’s more mistake hitter than real offensive weapon, and uses two tools – a sense of timing for open-ice rebounds and an off-rhythm shot from the top of the circles that never seems to go in. Those two actually go together fairly well for at least getting pucks to the net, and his zone-finish is often higher than his zone starts. 

Jones is given credit for being a physical player, but for Jets fans, he’s more James Wright than Thorburn in that department, averaging about 120 hits a year and fighting very rarely. He doesn’t intimidate anyone, but he goes where he needs to without hesitation. 

Jones is left handed, but plays both wings and has had more offensive success from the right side. 

The knock on Jones is his defensive sense. Despite being used as a penalty killer and checker, the best you can hope is that he tracks his man and doesn’t bite on the half-board cycle play. He’s got a lot of try in the defensive end, but is at best an average defensive player with some brain cramps.

There is also talk out of Edmonton that he just doesn’t look the same after last year’s eye injury, and it’s not clear whether it’s his physical ability to see or his confidence after a scary incident.

Does He Help the Jets?

The truth is that he’s a tweener in most lineups. He’s ideally suited to playing a simple game with other simple players, but isn’t close to a tough minutes defender, or a guy you can put in the top-6. He also can’t do it all himself, as his miserable 2010/11 season proved. He’s the kind of player who might flourish on a line with Sobotka and Morrow in St Louis, but might crash and burn with Slater and Wright in Winnipeg.

That said, the Jets’ lineup could include any of James Wright, Anthony Peluso, and/or Chris Thorburn this year – all of who are very obviously worse at hockey. As well, if injuries strike and Frolik moves up the lineup, the team is probably better off with Jones in the top-9 than many of the options they have. 

With a $1.5M cap hit that expires at the end of the season, the risk is low and the contract fits under the cap. He’s no, say, Alex Burmistrov, but Ryan Jones could actually be a positive force on this club. Really, it’s hard to be worse than this: