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 defenseman extraordinaire, Dustin Byfuglien.
Numbers include all situations including non 5v5 TOI.
Byfuglien produced a lot of offense for the Jets, as expected. He played less minutes, shot more, had a slightly higher shooting percentage, scored more goals, and less assists than he normally does but this is in part due to playing significant minutes as a forward instead of a defenseman.
Graph courtesy of WAR-on-Ice.
Rankings are out of the Jets 11 defenders with 50+ 5v5 minutes, except special team minutes are 4 players for power play and 7 players for penalty kill.
Overall throughout the season Byfuglien was used in very middling minutes. He played a bit at even strength, a tonne on the power play, and not very much on the penalty kill.
What is interesting (especially when looking at the next set of numbers below) is the difference in how Byfuglien the defender was used by Paul Maurice compared to Byfuglien the forward. A player’s usage gives some insight to how a coach views a player.
Byfuglien played significantly tougher minutes as a defender than as a forward. As a forward he played with some of the Jets best forwards, but rarely saw tough competition and started most of his shifts in the offensive zone. The opposite was true for competition and zone starts when he was a defender.
The percentiles are based off of Byfuglien’s icetime peers as a defender, so top pairing defensemen. As we can see, Byfuglien performed much better in shot attempt differentials as a defender than as a forward, despite playing significantly tougher minutes as a defender.
For those that do not know, the y-axis spread is specifically chosen to represent the spread in NHL talent. In otherwords, the very best players on top teams and the worst players on the worst teams would usualy just fit at the ends of the graph.
Visual courtesy of Micah McCurdy.
Byfuglien spent most of his time as a defender with Chiarot. During that time they were mostly out shooting and scoring their opponents. However, during the few games Byfuglien played with Enstrom, their results sky rocketed to elite numbers.
relCorsi and relFenwick are estimated values only using averages and may be off up to about +/-1. GAR is for all minutes as a forward and defender (but will be updated in near future to have both).
Wow. I have previously looked at the difference between Byfuglien’s numbers as a forward versus a defender, but never before adding the context of how that performance fits relative to the other Jets.
Byfuglien as a defender is one of the Jets best, if not the best. He scored more with the exception of percentage happy Tyler Myers. He was only behind Jacob Trouba in Corsi percentage, and had a positive number on the ice versus off ice. dCorsi suggests that Byfuglien over performed his usage and could handle tougher and more minutes. Removing blocked shots –which predicts goal differentials slightly better than Corsi for defenders– actually makes Byfuglien look even better. Weighted shots, which is Corsi with Goals being 5x more important, places Byfuglien near the top.
Now compare this to Byfuglien the forward. For the most part he’s challenging Jim Slater, T.J. Galiardi, and Anthony Peluso for bottom rung results. dCorsi suggests that Byfuglien under performed his usage more than any other non-Drew Stafford Jet. Weighted shots even places Byfuglien near the bottom.
Overall, Byfuglien had the greatest positive impact of the Jets defenders, despite these minutes including his moments as a forward, which as we have discussed was not so good.
Byfuglien is a great defender. Elite even. There are some who think Byfuglien gives back more than he creates, and those people are objectively wrong.
The game is about results and the results have always been in Byfuglien’s favour. After a while a defender who plays big and tough minutes who consistently garners solid results is doing things right.
The only question for Jets is how much will he make on his next contract. There are some who want to automatically jump and sell Big Buff, but it should be noted that every team has to take a hit on a big contract eventually when making the push. A player like Byfuglien who is extremely useful and can slowly age into reduced roles has a lot of long term value.