Shorthanded Goals Against a Disastrous Powerplay, What Are the Jets Doing About It?

The dreaded four-skater goal celebration

After a shorthanded goal against sent the Jets into their 8th shootout of the season and sunk their Divisional record 3-9-2, patience for the league’s 27th ranked powerplay is running thin. 

Just how bad are the Jets’ with the man-advantage? Do shorthanded goals against really matter? And what are the Jets doing about it?

It’s Only Getting Worse

Assistant Coach Pascal Vincent was hired July 22, 2011 before the Jets 2.0 had even revealed their logo, and Claude Noel announced then that he would run the powerplay. It was this season, however, that Vincent was taken off his other duties on the team to ‘focus‘ on his powerplay responsibilities.

In sum, his unit has managed to convert on 15.8% of their 468 opportunities – good for 26th overall in the NHL since 2011. But it hasn’t been a consistent group.

In raw percentages, the decline has been obvious. A 12th ranked 17.9% in year one fell to a last place 13.8% in year two, and somehow found a sub-basement to crawl into at 12.8% a third of the way into this season. Twenty goals on 145 attempts in a small sample season of 48 games post-lockout was among the reasons for major turnover among the team’s forwards, and the coaching adjustment as well.

The Impact of a Shorthanded Goal Against

Claude Noel’s reaction to the shorthanded goal by Minnesota was unproductive and a little surprising. When asked what he would do to avoid such a disaster occuring again, he didn’t bite.

"I don’t think you can change your powerplay for how you’re going to potentially give up shorthanded goals. You can’t design it that way. You’ve gotta be looking forward. I don’t think because we gave a shorthanded goal, I don’t think you change how you’re doing your – you’re on the man advantage. You just gotta be aware that there’s 5 minutes to go in the game and there could be some things that happen…. You’re not going to change how you set up just because you’ve had shorthanded goals against."

It’s a short-sighted answer, particularly from the coach of a team with a league-leading 4 shorthanded goals against to compare to their paltry 11 powerplay goals for. Worse, it’s not just bad luck through 25 games.

The Jets under Noel are the 4th worst team at giving up shorthanded goals over the last three years. The team has allowed 15 ‘shorties’ in their 155 games, at a rate of 3.1% of their powerplays. It’s a small number, all things considered, and the 11 goal difference between the Jets and the Kings and Bruins who have given up just 4 in three years seems minor. The general rule of thumb of 5 goals to a win tells us the difference is worth a measly 4 points in the standings over three seasons. 

With that focus, Claude Noel makes a fair argument. The Jets should be more focused on what they generate than what they give up, with some awareness for game circumstances. 

Still, another way to look at it is through goal differential. If we take what the Jets generate and subtract what they give up, we see the Jets 26th overall powerplay sink further into the cellar relative to other clubs.

In fact, the Jets have a league worst powerplay goal differential over the last three years of just +61. If we use their goal differential number to determine a rate of success, the team’s percentage of successful powerplays is just 12.7%. That ranks 29th since 2011, and a just tenth of a percentage higher than Dallas for last place. For context, Pittsburgh leads the way since 2011 with a success rate of 19.1%. 

It’s a false statement that a team can’t design a powerplay to limit shorthanded opportunities. The number can’t be reduced to zero – mistakes in execution happen to everyone – but it can be reduced. It starts with puck support and puck possession, which are both keys to generating offence as well. When we look at the team’s goal differential number with the man advantage, we can see the value of playing with the puck.

What is the Team Doing About It?

Judging by Claude Noel’s statement above, and the fact that the unit is only getting worse over 2-1/2 years, I think there’s a fair claim that the answer is a resounding ‘nothing.’ We can even say by eye that the Jets’ single look of a centre-post umbrella hasn’t generated a lot of chances, relative to expectations.

It seems Vincent agrees, as recent games have started to include a low-to-high attack as well. That low cycle is exactly the play that caused the Minnesota goal against, as a blue-line re-cycle pass was executed poorly and all the Jets forwards were caught deep. It may be this exact evolution Noel was defending in his post-game quote above. 

If that’s the case, then perhaps renewed patience is in order while we wait to see the effectiveness of the newly introduced structure.

Sum It Up

With a much weaker schedule coming up in December, the team needs to improve its powerplay success rate. That starts by taking possesion of the puck and generating offence when they get the man advantage, but it also means limiting chances against through effective puck support and multiple structural options that force teams to stay passive in their own end.

An improved powerplay goal differential could be the difference between an extension for this coaching staff and a house cleaning in 2014.