The Winnipeg Jets’ General Manager Kevin Cheveldayoff has some big decisions up ahead. The Jets currently sit tied for 2nd last in the Western Conference and last in the Central Division. They have two huge pending free agents with Andrew Ladd and Dustin Byfuglien, while they also have a major part of their future looking for raises with Mark Scheifele and Jacob Trouba.
Well, we’ve decided to help out Chevy make some of these decisions with a series of investigations on the Jets. We’ll take a look on where the Jets are and where they could be.
We’ll start our series with a breakdown on how the Jets’ roster compares against playoff teams.
Jets Roster by Goals Above Replacement
Recently two of my friends, “MoneyPuck” and Josh Weissbock, left the public hockey statistical community after being hired by a yet unknown organization. These two were most known for their work on prospects, with chlstats.com the Prospect Cohort Success metric.
One of MoneyPuck’s best work though was his Building a Contender series over at Canucks Army. In the series MoneyPuck looked at how most contenders are built and how the players age, but also how the talent is distributed.
To get a handle on the Jets, I took each of the Jets roster players Goals Above Replacement over the past two seasons and took the average value. There are some exceptions though.
Alexander Burmistrov has been in the KHL the last two years (three years for goalies), so I took the average of his last two seasons in the NHL (which are the two he had in Winnipeg). Adam Lowry and Ben Chiarot only have one season to draw from, so to create a second season I looked at their three closest statistical cohorts (using WOI’s Similarity Score application) and averaged their GAR. For the rookies Nikolaj Ehlers and Andrew Copp, I used the statistical cohorts to approximate their total GAR.
The Jets also only have 22 players on their roster (21 if you exclude Adam Lowry who was sent down recently) so I averaged out Matt Fraser’s and Matt Halischuk’s values.
Some of these players are being overvalued and some are being undervalued, as no one performs consistently like their past; players can have good and bad seasons or one-offs. On average, the over and under values should even out.
Jets Roster Distribution Compared to Playoff Teams
One thing MoneyPuck did in his series was look at the GAR distributions for playoff teams, and then split them between teams that make the semi-finals versus those eliminated in the earlier rounds.
There is a lot of luck that goes into winning a seven game series. A team or goalie going hot at a fortunate time can cause the weaker team to run over a stronger team in a single situation. Overall though, we do find that the better teams tend to win over the larger sample.
Contender is the average for all playoff teams that make the semi-finals. Non-contender is the average for all playoff teams that do not make the semi-finals.
First we should note that these are average values for contenders and non-contenders. Some teams place above in certain areas, while others place below.
The distribution above should come as to no surprise. Elite teams tend to have a superstar (and some have two), they tend to have them more often than teams that do not make the semi-finals, but they do not always have them. The biggest difference is in their overall value.
The Jets do not have a super star, but they have made up the value by having more really good and underrated players. While the Jets keep up with the other teams with players over 15 GAR, they take a steep drop with their supporting cast.
We can see how these distributions impact the Jets by taking the cumulative GAR as we move down the roster.
Note: This line chart is a bit disingenuous as no one has 1.1 of a player or any other non-whole number. However, since we’re using average values for contending and non-contending teams, it’s the best way to look at where the Jets fall in comparison to the other teams.
The results are interesting to see. The Jets start off as a slightly shifted contender team in their distribution. They are at a disadvantage without a “star player” but are able to keep up for the most part. For the most part we see the playoff teams getting fairly similar value from their top players.
This changes around the 5th-8th player point, where the different teams start to separate themselves. The Jets in this point keep their pace with contending teams until they hit the seven player point and then quickly follow non contending teams.
What have we learned?
It’s no surprise that the Jets are not the most talented team in the league overall. They have the talent to make the playoffs, although have struggled to put things together this season due to various reasons which we will expand upon later in the series.
What separates the Jets, and any non-contending playoff team, from the contenders the most comes from their value outside of their top players four or six.
This is a good enough team to reach the playoffs and with some minor adjustments and a bit of puck-luck can make it to the semi-finals. The best players on the Jets are not the biggest problem. The Jets could win with a better supporting cast.
The loss of Michael Frolik removed a 6 GAR player. Tlusty and Stempniak typically sit around 5 GARs as well. A combination of Burmistrov and Lowry struggling while a loss in depth has caused a good team that can make some noise falter.
The Jets can compete with this core, and they can compete for a while still. They will have to improve the supporting cast, especially with the bottom-six and bottom-pair. This will have to be taken into account when they decide whether or not to extend their big names like Ladd and Byfuglien.
The Jets can compete with these players, but they cannot carry all of Mark Stuart, Ondrej Pavelec, Chris Thorburn, Adam Pardy, Anthony, Peluso, and the ilk. There are too many poor players and many of them are playing in roles beyond their capabilities. They need less of the bottom players and many of the ones they keep need to be placed in roles where they have less of an impact.
All numbers courtesy of war-on-ice.com