The season has been laid to rest.
Fans have completed their lamenting of the Anaheim Ducks sweeping the Winnipeg Jets. The healing process has begun.
But, before full closure can be completed, an autopsy of the Jets season must be initiated.
We turn our evidence-based breakdown of the Jets season to the number pugilist evolved to depth forward, Chris Thorburn.
Numbers include all situations including non 5v5 TOI.
Unbeknown to many, Chris Thorburn actually carries some value in depth scoring. Depending on ice time, Thorburn should guarantee about 10-15 points, which is good for a fourth line forward. His liabilities lie elsewhere.
The previous seasons had seen a whirling downfall in Thorburn’s shot volume trajectory. This season though Thorburn doubled his shot production per minute. Whether this turns out to be a outlier or not remains to be seen.
Thorburn did have his second highest shooting percentage of his career, so do not expect the same number of goals to repeat unless he’s given some power play time — bleh.
Graph courtesy of WAR-on-Ice.
Rankings are out of the Jets 17 forwards with 50+ 5v5 minutes, except special team minutes are each out of 11 Jet forwards.
Thorburn was not used overly in an offensive or defensive role. He went up the line up a few times for injury fill in, but predominately stayed on the fourth line. Thorburn also did not offer any special team value.
Thorburn out performed his ice time peers for the first time in quite some while. Part of this was due to the Jets strong play. The Jets excellent 5v5 performance allowed for easier minutes on their bottom players. In addition, Maurice was also able to shelter the Jets lower roster from “high impact” minutes, like when the score is close.
Of course, this also means that many of the Jets lower players TOI came from minutes with large leads. This in turn means that the Jets lower players have a larger score-effect impact than the average player.
Visual courtesy of Micah McCurdy.
Thorburn spent much of the season bouncing between the wing of Adam Lowry and Jim Slater.
Thorburn posted a 54 percent Corsi for his 290 minutes with Lowry, while carrying a 46 percent Corsi for his 240 minutes with Jim Slater.
As noted earlier, Thorburn does produce points. While he has never scored above third line median, Thorburn consistently paces around or above the 1.0 point per sixty minute median for fourth line forwards. Some of this may come from Thorburn spending significant minutes with bonafide top-nine forwards like Evander Kane, Adam Lowry, and Blake Wheeler.
While Thorburn’s two-way numbers are at career highs, relative to the team he has not provided much. Whether by shot attempts, scoring chances, or weighted shot differentials, Thorburn tends to pull the team down. Even though Thorburn hasn’t played significant or difficult minutes, dCorsi suggests Thorburn is playing minutes above his weight class.
Here’s a fact: a team’s fourth line forwards will (or should) always be the team’s worst forwards. It’s why they are on the fourth line and not the top line.
Thorburn can be a decent enough fourth line player if used appropriately, while understanding his strengths and weaknesses.
Thorburn can score at an above average clip for a fourth line player, but lacks the skill to be a viable option to move up the line up when injuries occur. He does not provide any additional value with special teams, but is a decent secondary option for face offs while supposedly providing off-ice value with locker room dynamics.
A team can perform well with Thorburn on the roster. He just needs to be thought, used, and paid as the 12th forward. The issue is that historically this has not been the case.
A new fourth line centre could make Thorburn a more effective –or less ineffective– player for the next two years on his contract.