Helping Chevy Make Decisions Part 2: Isolating where the Jets struggle

Winnipeg Jets General Manager Kevin Cheveldayoff faces some big decisions. 

The Jets currently sit tied for 2nd last in the Western Conference and last in the Central Division. Compounding their current struggles, the team is dealing with long-range uncertainty. They have two huge pending unrestricted free agents in Andrew Ladd and Dustin Byfuglien and restricted free agents Mark Scheifele and Jacob Trouba, two big pieces of Winnipeg’s future, will be looking for significant raises this offseason.

With all that’s on Chevy’s plate this holiday season, we’ve decided to help him out. With this investigative series, we’ll take a look on where the Jets are and where they could be.

In Part I we noted that the Jets’ overall talent was not quite at the level of an NHL contender, especially as you moved toward the lower end of the roster. The Jets are, however, better than most bottom rung playoff teams (despite where their lowly current spot in the standings). In Part II we’ll analyze which particular areas are afflicting the Jets at the moment, and try to quantify the extent of their issues.

Jets at 5v5

This may seem surprising to hear about a team sitting at second last in the Western Conference, but the Jets are a pretty decent team. At 5-on-5, which encompasses the vast bulk of an NHL game, the Jets are above the average NHL team.

The Jets are ninth in the NHL in Corsi and are controlling 51.9 per cent of all shot attempts (goals, saves, misses, blocks) when adjusting for score effects. Even their goal differential has been above average, with the Jets scoring 5 more goals than they have allowed, which places them in a three-way tie with the Montreal Canadiens and St. Louis Blues for eleventh in the NHL.

Last year the Jets were noted as one of the most dominant teams for 5v5 situations. They were only slightly better though than this year:

Jets1

Shot totals have been adjusted for score-effects.

On-ice percentages haven’t been a major factor either. The Jets are 15th in scoring efficiency and have converted on 7.9 per cent of their 5-on-5 shots on goal. Even Winnipeg’s normally anchor-like save percentage has been passable; with Winnipeg’s three-headed goaltending monster combining to post a 0.925 even-strength save percentage. The performance of the Jets netminders places the club 12th in the NHL for stopping the puck in 5v5 situations.

Jets Outside of 5v5

Outside of 5v5 has, obviously, been a bit different. If an NHL team is outshooting and outscoring their opposition at 5v5 but losing, there is obviously something going on with all the other minutes.

The Jets penchant for penalties and performance in special teams minutes have been well documented. These factors were even pointed out as major issues last year; however, the Jets this season have been even worse:

Jets2

Shot totals have been adjusted for score-effects.

While the team is on pace for the second best 5-on-5 shot differential in Jets 2.0 history, the Jets for all other minutes, look more along the lines of second worst.

Penalty Kill

Jets3

The Jets are dead last in shorthanded goals against and goal differential. The penalty kill has become a comedy of errors; there is no one single source to the problem. Down a man the Jets perform has been below average by essentially every measure. They spend a ton of time shorthanded, allow a large number of shots against, and a large percentage of those shots end up in the net.

On the penalty kill the Jets have allowed just over eight goals more than the average NHL team. I isolated the variables, looking at “what if” scenarios on the Jets’ shorthanded goals against if we changed just one factor, how many goals against the Jets penalty kill would reduce by:

Screen Shot 2015-12-23 at 12.41.13 PM

The measurements are not perfect due to rounding and overlapping in impact, but we see nearly 50 per cent of the gap between the Jets shorthanded goals against and league average extends from their undisciplined play and penchant for taking penalties.

Reducing their penalty minutes is not enough on its own though. The Jets have been porous in shots as well, even more so than the last season. Is it a change in personnel, system, or both?

Screen Shot 2015-12-23 at 2.54.42 PM

2014-2015 performances are in orange, while 2015-2016 performances are in blue. Trend lines are added, where the more efficient the team is in choosing their best players, the more downward the line would slope.

At first glance, it seems that the Jets are getting better, but this is predominately due to Chris Thorburn’s horrendous play in a very short sample (the blue dot in the top left corner) acting as an extreme outlier.

There doesn’t seem to be much differentiation in the Jets choice of players versus their on-ice results.

When we look at players who have been regulars on the penalty kill both this and last year, we see a pattern in worse performance:

Jets4

This suggests that the issue with the Jets’ penalty kill performance is inherited from the system that they use. While some players are bonafide penalty killers –and the Jets lost some in Zach Bogosian, Evander Kane, and Michael Frolik– special teams is highly systems related. With the Jets having almost all of their regulars performing substantially worse, the primary issue for the team looks to originate from the coaching side of the game.

Power Play

Screen Shot 2015-12-24 at 10.53.35 AM

Sometimes a team can make up for a struggling penalty kill with the power play. The Jets are not one of those teams.

Unlike with shorthanded situations, the Jets struggles on the power play are the not the result of opportunity. The Jets are roughly average in terms of the time they spend on the power-play, but that’s a reflection, in part, of the club’s inability to convert on power-play opportunities. Winnipeg sits around average at 16th for power play TOI, but they fall to 26th in drawing power plays.

The Jets have scored five goals under the NHL’s average power play. Again, we can isolate the three major factors in scoring and look at which is the major cause:

Jets6

The Jets shot rates leave a bit to be desired, but the largest factor in their struggles stems from a lack of finish. The Jets power play woes can almost exclusively be explained by a low percentage of shots finding their way to the back of the net.

We can see why the Jets are struggling to score with their shot selection on the power play:

jetspplocation

The above graph shows where the Jets shots originate from on the power play. The larger the hexagon, the more shots originate from that location. The colours represent the Jets shot rates relative to league average.

What we see here is the Jets are producing shots from the point at a higher pace than the league average, and are around league average in the high slot. In the most dangerous area, though, we see the Jets producing far fewer shots than league average.

Empty Net

Opposing Goalie Pulled

The Jets’ opponents have only pulled the goalie in the third period with the Jets’ leading by one goal in seven games, the sixth lowest in the NHL. It’s a telling sign that the team has struggled and has too rarely carried a close lead late in games. 

In those seven games the Jets have scored three goals and allowed one, giving them a +2 in those situations. This places the Jets in a eight way tie for sixth place.

Team Goalie Pulled

At the opposite end the Jets have pulled their own goalie in similar situations ten times. The team has yet to score their first goal with the goalie pulled, although they have allowed five against. This makes the Jets tied with the Columbus Blue Jackets for worst in the NHL with the goalie pulled.

What’s even worse is the Jets have, in 10 opportunities, only been able to generate three shots on goal in total. That’s an ugly statistic and makes the Jets the only team in the NHL to allow more shots than they have created with the goalie pulled.

Closing Thoughts

Kevin Cheveldayoff has some big decisions to make and those decisions will be influenced by how close the Jets and the current core are to performing like a contender.

We know the Jets are, in some ways, close. While they lack a bonafide super star, thee top end of their roster is not that far off from the league’s top performers in on-ice impact. Even this year, the Jets’ true-talent level is being masked by special teams and other factors that are largely influenced by systems and coaching.

When Chevy makes his choices, hopefully he will take these factors into account.

All numbers courtesy of war-on-ice.com

More from this series:

  • #12MorrisLukowich

    I agree with most of your article, but imo the fact that contracts were not offered to Buff & Ladd (and when I say ‘not offered’ I mean although there’s some disagreement or disparity the Jets management have ‘not offered’ to settle whatever it is because obviously they would be signed by now)
    If $5 mil can’t buy 1 of the best PK forecheckers in the league, Buff & Ladd have no hope…and if Buff & Ladd have no hope I would think that that would have to spread throughout the entire team… I would like to add that anyone who watches this team play would have to agree that the coaching is HORRENDOUS…this team is totally lost out there

  • #12MorrisLukowich

    Where are you getting your stats? Your empty net goals did not seem right to me so I checked the box scores. The Jets have had 10 empty net goals scored against them this year rather than the 5 you suggested in the article. (Oct12NYI, Oct27LAK2, Nov7PHA, Nov12DAL2, Nov23Col,Nov27Col, Dec6CHI,Dec22Cal).