By The Numbers: The Jets best forward seasons

The Winnipeg Jets 2.0 have been around now for five full seasons (well… four full and one partial, lockout-shortened, season). This gives us ample data to construct some fun lists of the best and worst statistical seasons for performers.

We take a look at some of the best and worst statistical performances by Winnipeg Jets’ forwards.

A Primer on GAR

(Note: if you read this section in the last article in the series, feel free to skip)

What is GAR?

Fans of baseball or basketball should already be familiar with the statistic WAR, or Wins Above Replacement. WAR combines the many output measures of a player into one currency, making it easy to compare between two individuals in their overall performance or understanding the relative importance in different aspects of the game.

GAR, or Goals Above Replacement, combines the different outputs of a player and estimates their total impact on a team’s goal differential, relative to the estimated impact of a replacement level hockey player. The number of goals it takes to equate a W in the win column differs on the year.

The statistic looks at things such as shot differential, shot quality, faceoff, special teams, and scoring performances and then compares them relative to their ability in garnering and predicting wins.

It should be emphasized that the purpose behind GAR is not to be a be-all, one number to rule them all. But rather, it should be a starting point, with studying each component and microstatistics afterward in player evaluation.

DTM About Heart, of Hockey-Graphs, constructed the GAR we will be using, and he is posting a piece on his model all week. I will note that I am excluding penalty differentials for this series, which matters (as Jets fans should know more than most) but I excluding due to some huge outliers in the Jets’ data and more research being needed in area.

Jets Forward GAR

GAR

2012-13 numbers have been extrapolated to estimate a full season’s value. Sorry, image needed to be squeezed to fit.

Just like with the defenders, for the most part the list of good to bad is as expected. The strongest players are on the left, while the weakest are on the right. There are a few surprises, but for the most part it makes sense.

Now, to reduce the impact of coaching choices and games missed, we can look at these numbers relative to ice time:

GAR60

Sorry, image needed to be squeezed to fit.

Again there is not much movement, especially on the left side. For the most part, the Jets have played their best players the most. On the right side there is a bit of movement, as in the previous graph there were some weak players who had played large minutes, pushing them past the even weaker players that had even fewer minutes played.

Notes:

  • Like Dustin Byfuglien was on defense, Blake Wheeler has been something special for the Jets at forward. For those that say the Jets do not have any top-tier players, Wheeler and Byfuglien would like to say something about that.
  • Wheeler’s strongest GAR performance was just this last season (and with a “Wheelers” typo), which is pretty interesting that it was not just point totals that peaked to new heights that year.
  • Wellwood was underrated during his time in Winnipeg, much like Perreault was in Anaheim. Wellwood though retired instead of finding new appreciation, as his heart and body were not up for the continued physical demand of NHL hockey.
  • Ladd and Kane were strong players and they will be big gaps for Ehlers and Laine to fill. Both of these wingers played their final seasons in Winnipeg through injuries, and it is not surprising to see that those were their worst GAR seasons.
  • Frolik is also a strong winger player who will be missed, and another role for a young Jet, like perhaps Kyle Connor, to fill.
  • Setoguchi is the only real surprise for me relative to my own “eye-test” and I’m not really sure how or why he is there. I wonder how much of the results are due to him being tied to the waist of a very poor GAR player that is Olli Jokinen and them doing better during those minutes.
  • Scheifele’s development into a bonafide number one centre has been something spectacular for the Jets. Little has always been under-appreciated but the Jets have struggled down the middle and this should help the team in the long run.
  • Stapleton comes up pretty high due to an exceptional display on the power play, and solid even strength scoring in limited ice time. Some may remember his spectacular performance in the Jets’ skills competition.
  • Stafford is a decent player, although he’s not as good as his goal totals would leave many to believe. This was the issue with Stafford. It is not that he is bad, but that he (and his type of player) is over valued by the league. Stafford was signed at a 4.35 million dollar AAV for two seasons, while similar impact players in Ponikarovsky (traded away for peanuts), Tlusty and Stempniak (both walked to free agency) are available cheap. The other three may not score goals as much as Stafford, but the help out in other areas.
  • Ehlers being this low may seem both confusing and disappointing to some, but it was only his first season, and at nineteen years-old. To compare, look at where Scheifele stood in his rookie season, and realize Scheifele was a year older and physically more mature.
  • I don’t want to waste time on all the depth players, but there they are. There is an interesting trend to note: depth players are always going to be the weakest links in the chain, but the Jets have let superior players like Fehr and Tangradi move aside to make room for pieces like Thorburn, Wright, and Peluso… although the thought process this season seems be different.

For your enjoyment, here are the total GAR/60 for each forward over their duration in Winnipeg:

GARcareer

The above are just snap shots of averages. Players with small samples can have outliers that skews the mean for individuals. It also doesn’t show any direction or projection of future performance either. 

For example, Kyle Wellwood struggled in his second season, but was played a lot fewer games and minutes due to his weakened play. This causes his average to be weighted more heavily by his stronger season. The same thing happens in even more extreme fashion with low icetime players like Thorburn and Slater, with Slater even having two seasons missing due to injuries and poor play.

Alexander Burmistrov is a unique contrast to that effect. Burmistrov had a very poor season last year, but was played a lot, and so his worst season actually holds the largest weighting on his average.

Closing thoughts

One must remember that GAR is not a perfect measure.

Just like in all performance, the smaller the sample a player is looked at, the more likely it is that outlier performances skew the results from the player’s “true talent” level, as we just spoke about.

The model is also still in early developmental stages. While we are at a Minimal Viable Product, there is still likely research that will influence the weighting of the components that go into the model. While the number in general seems to match my eyetest and the results come out as I would mostly suspect, that does not mean minor adjustments could change a few rankings here or there.

One-number statistics are of course the starting point. It gives us a general idea how each player has performed in relation to others, despite differences in skill sets. However, performances are not exclusively by individuals and their skillsets, but also how these individuals perform in the particular environment. Different environments, like coaches, systems, chemistry, and psychological factors, could cause a slightly weaker GAR player fit better than the slightly beater GAR player in the situation.

GAR also does not tell you how best to deploy your players. Nor does it tell you which areas a player needs improvement upon for developmental purposes.

What it can do is combine the performance statistics into one currency and give you a handle of how different players have performed for the Jets.

The Jets have carried some strong skaters like Wheeler, while they have some promising players like Scheifele and Ehlers. They have also carried some large drags for far too long, like Thorburn.

Overall, GAR gives us another way to look at the Jets and their players and also see who has performed their best.


More From Garret

  • Good read and explanation of the data thanks, @Corey is right though the work deserves a .pdf d/l or another means to make the graphs expandable.

    Setoguchi; the numbers are interesting too bad he didn’t re-group when he was here.

    Also after looking at the graphs my wish list would include a side by each analysis of Lowry and Copp.

    O/T
    Q: Lemieux/Copp/Lowry with Copp and Lowry interchangeable is that a possibility this year?

    • Lowry’s and Copp’s GAR are pretty similar. When you have this similar, you want to look at each of the factors within GAR, and then also take into account want you want most with their roles. GAR is a time saver helpful for taking a cursory look in comparing players, but when they are close you should look further and beneath the layers.

      This would lead to a much larger article that would take too much room for this. But, maybe I’ll keep it on the long to do list and get to it for you later. 🙂