Slicing and Dicing the Jets: Where did the Jets special teams go wrong?

The Winnipeg Jets missed the playoffs for the fourth time in five seasons since the move to Manitoba, and the 14th time over 16 seasons over franchise history. The season does not end for us though at Jets Nation.

Welcome to our series where we take an analytical approach, dissecting what went wrong with the Jets 2015-2016 season and how to improve the team for next year.

This time for our series, we look at the Jets performance for special teams..

Saying the Jets struggled at special teams would be a fairly large understatement. The team posted a league worst power play (by PP%) while posting the sixth worst penalty kill (by PK%) in the league. Combining the team’s PP% and PK% (which I sometimes coin ST%, and where league average is 100), the Jets’ 93.2 ST% only out-performed the Calgary Flames and the Ottawa Senators.

Shot metrics do not suggest a much better story either. The Jets were 21st in 5v4 shot generation per minute, and 26th when removing blocked shots. The team was 28th in 4v5 shot suppression per minute, and 27th when removing blocked shots.

It’s not just in shot volume, but the Jets have been poor in shooting up close on the power play or keeping the opposition outside on the penalty kill:


One consistent issue that has plagued the Jets’ special teams is a sore lack of skilled-player depth.

For almost every season, the Jets have struggled to carry a full complement of bona fide top-nine forwards and top-four defenders. In addition, the Jets have dressed some of the worst performing fourth-line and third-pair regulars. The Jets have also regularly dressed the worst performing penalty kill regular in the entire NHL.

These factors combined cause the Jets to over-rely on their best players: Dustin Byfuglien, Andrew Ladd, Bryan Little, Blake Wheeler, and Toby Enstrom. Outside of those individuals, the Jets have carried very few players that have been adept performers for both even strength and special team minutes: Kyle Wellwood, Michael Frolik, Evander Kane, (2011-13) Alexander Burmistrov, and Mark Scheifele. The blue line has only really had Jacob Trouba, plus Grant Clitsome when healthy.

After those lists of individuals, the rest of the roster has been extremely limited.

But things have not always been the same. The team has carried some acceptable years in special teams performance.

Here we see the Jets’ ranking versus the 180 teams to play over the past six seasons (so including the final Atlanta Thrasher season as well):


*2013 is shortened season due to lockout and experienced larger variance

The Jets have never dominant on special teams, but they have been above average four times in either penalty kill and power play performance. It is not surprising to see the Jets performed well in both the only season the team went to the playoffs.

Another major factor in special team performance is a team’s penalty differential. Two equally teams who strive on the power play but struggle to kill penalties will have very different impacts on their goal differentials if one team is constantly drawing more penalties than they are called for while the other team does the opposite.

To account for this, I present a graph showing the Thrashers/Jets short handed and power play running shot differentials, which are impacted by both opportunity and performance:


To fix the Jets’ special teams will take multiple steps, as there are multiple factors going on to the team’s performance.

The Jets need more skill and less “grit and leadership” at the lower end of the roster to both provide alternative value and alleviate some of the pressure on the team’s top players. The team also needs to adjust their systems switch their shot volume between the perimeter and the low slot. The team could also use to be more disciplined, especially with stick and holding penalties, to improve their penalty differential. Not previously discussed but also important, the team could also use better goaltending in penalty kill situations.

The good news is some of this may be addressed as the Jets impressive prospect group begins to graduate into the NHL and have an impact. That said, it’s still a long ways to go and how much the youth movement offsets the aging performances of players like Byfuglien, Enstrom, and Wheeler remains to be seen.

All numbers are courtesy of and are adjusted for score, venue, and faceoffs, unless otherwise provided.


  1. Where did the goals go and come from?
  2. What happened to the Jets at evens?
  • #12MorrisLukowich

    Agreed with almost everything you said (since most of it smacks you in the face and I don’t know how much farther you can stretch the obvious Garret) however these new prospect insertions are NOT coming from the AHL…

    we’re a FAR cry from that

    NO…they are stepping into the line-up right out of Jr. via the “Elite Talent” venue…e.i. these kids destroyed the league’s they were in.

    This is as new to the Jet organization as it was to the wayward pundit when Atlanta 1st arrived to our fair city

    This “infusion” of talent will be much better than any UFA purchase.

    We’re talking a minimum of 3 High End insertions to the starting line-up:
    Patrick Laine
    Kyle Connor
    Brendan Lemieux

    The Jets have always relied on ONE scoring threat…and for the most part have made a go of it.

    Without a doubt next year they should have 2 DOMINATING lines. This would be A 1st !

    Since a new battle would brew between Lowry & Burmistrov centering the 3rd line, Lemieux would squeeze in between the 2 very nicely

    and what of Stafford, Perrault, Tanev, Dano…?…How can Thorburn be in this group ??!!

  • FishWhiskey

    “The Jets need more skill and less “grit and leadership” at the lower end of the roster to both provide alternative value and alleviate some of the pressure on the team’s top players. The team could also use to be more disciplined, especially with stick and holding penalties, to improve their penalty differential. Not previously discussed but also important, the team could also use better goaltending in penalty kill situations.”

    Garret you are a true diplomat. Beyond the obvious culprits of Stuart, Thorburn and Pavelec that you have subtly eluded too there is now the lingering threat of gritty leader Ladd coming back to take a few more stupid penalties. Fingers crossed that door is closed.

    That dumb penalty issue is one I find disconcerting as it points an accusatory finger at Paul Maurice. Do the players respect him? Do they want to perform for him? How could he not shut the tap off on avoidable stick penalties? As much as I liked Ladd the team seemed to smarten up on penalties after he left.

    The alpha dog on the team has to be the coach. His word has to be gospel. I hope he shows that in the coming season.

    • t_bison

      I’m pretty sure the door to Ladd has closed. Personally I think he has a year left, MAYBE two. Plus he would be taking valuable roster & cap area from someone who will eclipse him in the next season or so.

  • #12MorrisLukowich

    Yeah Fish penalties are a problem

    But the #1 penalty leader in the NHL this year went to the playoffs and almost beat San Jose.

    Jets are in the top 6

    Buff’s in the top league top 10

    You want to change Buff’s game ?

    PK was the big loser this year i.e. goaltending

    Still don’t know why you liked Ladd…terrible checker…

  • FishWhiskey

    Smash mouth hockey is great so long as it gets you more goals than it costs you.

    By letting Frolik walk and keeping Pavelec the Jets pretty much doomed their ability to play winning bully hockey. (What was Chevy thinking?)

    To make matters much much worse the Jets weren’t just taking the calls that inevitably come from banging and crashing. They were habitually taking dumb and pointless stick infractions. Often in the offensive zone and far to often at critical times when they had momentum only to lose it by giving up a power play goal.(Why was PoMo unable to enforce discipline?)

    The reason I liked Ladd dated from the first year of Jets 2.0. Ladd came to the Peg full of enthusiasm and energy and tried to be everything a good Captain should be only to have the life slowly sucked out of him. Yet he soldiered on and made the best of a bad situation. For this I liked him. Still, he was not a great hockey player, made team crippling contract demands and seemed to need a change of scenery. Glad we had him, glad he’s gone.

    • #12MorrisLukowich

      …because they have Grrrit !

      Don’t think Ladd EVER made a good captain…however, if you live in Winterpeg long enough and you’re from Vancouver or TO, you WILL “…have the life slowly sucked out of you” for $4.4 mil every 6 months…

  • X

    The reason to like Ladd was that he was good at hockey, the evidence to support that is pretty overwhelming, you can dislike his style or prefer other players but the idea that he wasn’t a great 1st line LW is just silly.