Okay, okay. I understand that a “all-time best” is a bit silly for a team with only four seasons accumulated. And yes, we could expand the sample by including franchise history (Atlanta Thrashers) or city history (WHA and older NHL Jets).
Still, this is a new team in many ways despite it’s relationship to the past.
The exercise also gives us an opportunity (and an excuse) to use WAR-on-Ice‘s Goals Above Replacement, a holistic statistic that estimates a player’s impact on goal differentials by combining their performance in shot differentials, scoring, penalty differentials, and face offs relative to a replacement level player. It’s an imperfect statistic, but is a good place to start the conversation.
For the research, we will limit our looks at players who played at least a full season for the Winnipeg Jets. Let’s take a look.
Andrew Ladd, Bryan Little, and Blake Wheeler coming in at the top is no surprise. Ladd’s Little Wheeler is not only one of the most common trios over the past four seasons, but one of the most effective trios. All three have predominately sat on the Jets’ top line, although have taken moments on the second when the team has tried to stretch its depth.
Mathieu Perreault has been an exceptional addition for the Jets, and has provided enough value to place him on the second line despite only one year of impact being measured. Mark Scheifele took a giant step forward in his last season, displaying legitimate top-six upside. Then Wellwood fills out the Jets’ All-Time second line, as an under appreciated forward who made up for his deficiencies with an extremely high-end hockey IQ.
Evander Kane gets placed on the third line after an injury riddled 2014-2015 season that actually pulled down his numbers that would have contested him for the second line otherwise. Alexander Burmistrov will be returning to the Jets and the numbers here show why this is a good thing; despite some controversy and struggling to put up points, Burmistrov impacted the Jets in a positive manner while only playing as a 19 and 20-year-old. Michael Frolik will be missed, as he is a solid two-way player, but the Jets may already have a capable replacement in Burmistrov.
Like Burmistrov, Adam Lowry has not scored very well but has provided enough value elsewhere to help improve the Jets in a significant manner. Some may not like Olli Jokinen here, but his performance as a Jet was not terrible, just he was the Jets third best centre back then while being paid like their top centre. Tim Stapleton sneaks onto the team, almost exclusively due to his excellent (albeit small sample) performance as a power play specialist.
Finally we come to Eric O`Dell, who beats out regulars like Chris Thorburn and Jim Slater, despite only playing a part time role for the Jets.
There should be no surprise that Tobias Enstrom and Dustin Byfuglien come out heads and shoulders above the rest. The two were one of the top-pairs in the NHL back in their time together and have severely out shot and outscored their opponents. Both have been pretty solid apart as well.
Ben Chiarot had an excellent season last year; there are worries Byfuglien carried him, although his performance still places him ahead of Clitsome who was also attached to Big Buff often. Jacob Trouba providing more value than any other defender at 20-years-old shows how much of a special player he has been and likely will be.
It’s unfortunate that Grant Clitsome has struggled with two consecutive back-surgeries, because he’s provided enough value to give the Jets a league average left side with Enstrom and Chiarot. Ron Hainsey is the depth forward on the left side, who –like Jokinen– was not terrible but disliked due to impact relative to salary.
The right side is completely different then the left. Paul Postma comes in as the Jets third best impact and Zach Redmond at fourth. It can be debated though that Zach Bogosian would beat out the two had Bogosian not been excessively deployed in minutes above his capability in both quantity and quality. Postma and Redmond have both been highly sheltered, but have dominated those sheltered minutes.
Al Montoya has given the Jets best overall value in terms of goal differential impact. Although, his history indicates these numbers are likely inflated, and that Hutchinson is the better of the two.
Michael Hutchinson beats out Ondrej Pavelec’s -17.34 GAR handily for the Jets second goaltender spot. Hutchinson struggled in the later portion of the season, causing some to be concerned, but he still comes as the better overall player after the franchise’s best rookie season ever.