Playoff Push: The Winnipeg Jets don’t need to panic and buy

Losing Mathieu Perreault stinks. He has been one of the Winnipeg Jets best players. Losing your second highest Corsi rating and fourth highest point production forward hurts even the best of teams.

Still, the sky is far from falling. Kevin Cheveldayoff would be wise in not overreacting.

Let’s look at why.

Perreault is a good player. A great player even. He is one of the league’s most underrated players and probably one of the best signings of the 2014 free agency frenzy.

Fans though often overstate the impact one player has. It’s a team game after all. On paper, a top player loss is a big deal, but the damage can be diminished severely if properly taken care of.

The loss of Perreault and adding either Carl Klingberg or (oddly) Adam Pardy is severely less than the difference in talent between the two. It’s not the new fourth line player who will be taking Perreault’s minutes. Instead there is a trickle effect, with players moving up throughout the line.

On average, a second line forward with a 55.8 percent Corsi like Mathieu Perreault has 1.922 goals better goal differential than a 53.9 percent Corsi player like Michael Frolik. That’s over 82 games. The Jets only have 22 games remaining, so this reduces to 0.516 goal difference.

Comparing Frolik’s 53.9 percent to Chris Thorburn’s 48.8 percent on the third line averages to about 4.648 goal difference. Exchanging Thorburn for T.J. Galiardi and his 49.2 percent Corsi lessens the goal impact to about 4.284 goals. Average these out, since one of them was going to be on the third line anyways, and adjust for 22 games and you get a goal impact of 1.198.

Thorburn’s Corsi percentage is not far from replacement level when adjusting for team strength, and so the impact is likely minimal if any at adding a replacement level forward to the fourth line.

Overall we get an average expected goal impact of 1.713 for the remaining 22 games. This is just an average, so it could be more or less.

Every bit counts, especially for a team near the playoff bubble. Still, the impact is much smaller than the estimated 3.55 goal impact of reducing penalties to league average.

This value is also likely over exaggerated. For the most part, a forwards production and Corsi rating tends to improve as they move up the depth charts. Between the three major factors of player usage, quality of linemates tends to have the largest influence on a player’s results. Frolik may have a 53.9 Corsi percentage on average this season, but he’ll likely have higher than that for his minutes on the second line.

A coach can also diminish the impact in changing the quality of minutes certain players face. When Paul Maurice moved Chris Thorburn to the third line out of necessity, he also started sheltering the line by decreasing their amount of defensive zone starts. The third line has since taken the highest ratio of offensive zone to defensive zone starts on the team after the All-Star break.

The Jets could use some help in making the playoffs but Kevin Cheveldayoff would be wise in taking a cold and calculated approach.

The Jets have performed as a top 10 team in score-adjusted Corsi. A team like that could make some noise in the playoffs if they get some push from on-ice percentages. Still, the Jets aren’t looking at this year as their peak.

Selling assets for help is fine, but Chevy should look for more long term assets than one year rentals. At this moment both Drew Stafford and Michael Frolik are top nine forwards who may end up going to free agency. Increasing that number on a team that’s looking more at 1-3 years down the road can be risky. 

For the most part, a team’s impact in wins is made at the top of their roster.

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A top line has almost as much impact as the two middle six lines. For defensive pairings, the pattern is similar with 25 goals, 16 goals, and 15 goals respectively.

The Jets won’t be adding a top line forward to their roster. Instead they will be looking at a bottom six forward. If they are lucky, they will find someone who can fill top six minutes in a pinch. Trying to find a player with term or RFA status might up the trade price a bit but would be worth it for the Jets.

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