By The Numbers: Where do the Jets skaters rank among the NHL

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© Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

Often on By The Numbers we discuss the Winnipeg Jets player performances in relation to each other but this lacks context. Knowing which players are performing best works for looking at ice time optimal distribution, but lacks the ability to see where the Jets require assistance in order to become an above average, or even elite, team.

We will break down the skaters performances in relation to the league and see where the Jets holes exist.

Defenders

XPM Model

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XPM is an expected goal model that looks at a player’s influence on both shot quantity and shot quality after adjusting for linemates, linematching, coaches, deployment, and schedule. A player’s performance is compared relative to a replacement level player.

XPM accounts for about 54% of a defender’s impact on their offensive component of WAR and 100% of their defensive component for even strength. It does not paint the complete picture of a player’s overall on-ice impact, but it covers a huge chunk.

These numbers suggest the Jets defensively are a very top heavy team, with two elite defenders in Dustin Byfuglien and Jacob Trouba… and then there is the rest.

Toby Enstrom’s performance falls far out his historical norm and one must ask how much is aging and how much is the impact of off-ice distractions. Meanwhile, Josh Morrissey has been strong for a rookie, but still has some miles to go to become a bonafide top-four defender on a strong team.

Weighted Scoring

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The remaining 46% of a defender’s impact on Offensive WAR comes from a model called BPM. BPM is mostly (about 60%) a player’s 5v5 scoring although BPM adjusts scoring for linemate effects and there are other factors added as well. For this exercise we’ll look at 5v5 scoring for simplicity.

Again the Jets are highly top-heavy, although this time with three top performers. Enstrom again falls short relative to his historical norm.

Overall

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Combining the rankings in these two statistics doesn’t precisely indicate where a player’s WAR would sit but we do get at least a decent estimate this way. The weighting of the two variables is given similar to XPM and BPM in constructing DTMAH’s WAR model. I’ve shown the how the player’s rank in the NHL if it were split into 6 buckets.

Trouba has been elite this year. He ranks 4th overall in the league in XPM and 8th overall in point per hour pace. He is the only Jet that we estimate here as a bonafide #1 defender in WAR, and he could be a potential top-10 performer this season.

Byfuglien has regressed a tad from last year, perhaps due to aging and over use. He still comes out as a legitimate top-pairing defender, or an elite #2 defender. Buff ranked 37th in XPM and 26th in point production.

Paul Postma is chronically underrated and is an excellent third-pairing defender. Yes he has flaws, but so do all third-pairing defenders. Postma improved shot quality and quantity like a #5 but has scored like an average #1. He ranked 135th in XPM and 18th in point production.

On the left side things haven’t been as positive. Morrissey has done well eating big minutes as a rookie, but only ranks 137th in XPM and 93rd in point production. As noted earlier, Enstrom has been struggling this season with a 174th point production ranking and 140th in XPM. Normally his defensive capabilities make up for a lack of offense, but that has not been the case this year. The fringe NHL defender Chiarot ranked 158th in XPM and 124th in point production, and his XPM ratings have been in a free-fall for the past 3 seasons.

Overall the Jets have two top-pairing level defenders, but a weak left side has left the Jets top-four significantly below optimal performance.

Forwards

XPM Model

XPM

XPM is an expected goal model that looks at a player’s influence on both shot quantity and shot quality after adjusting for linemates, linematching, coaches, deployment, and schedule. A player’s performance is compared relative to a replacement level player.

XPM accounts for about 52% of a forward’s impact on their offensive component of WAR and 100% of their defensive component for even strength. The slight decrease is due to scoring being relatively more important for forwards than it is for defenders.

Perreault is actually the top XPM per minute player in the NHL. The next best players: Crosby, Bergeron, McDavid. Not a bad crowd. Now, those players also do additional things better, like score, but this is a serious feather in his hat for Perreault.

The Jets are a lot less top heavy at forward than they were on the blue line.

Weighted Scoring

Scoreing

The remaining 48% of a forward’s impact on WAR comes from BPM. Unlike with defenders though, forward relative importance in goals, primary assists, and secondary assists differ, so there are some different adjustments.

Ehlers, Schiefele, Little, and Laine have all been scoring points at top-line rates. I should note that I’m not looking at predictive statistics but just a player’s actual production. Predictive numbers suggest that Petan and Perreault may be under performing relative to expectations given their individual shots and other factrs, and they will likely trend up in the near future. They also suggest that Copp is over performing and will trend down in the near future.

I noticed that Wheeler has not been producing at 5-on-5 relative his historical levels. Could it be a one off season, usage, or is this a sign of him aging?

Overall

Forward

I split the NHL forwards into four groups to represent four lines. Overall, the Jets’ depth at forward seems a lot better than at defense.

The Jets have three “first-line” calibre forwards. Wheeler comes out as the Jets top forward, despite not scoring to his typical standards. He ranked 14th overall in XPM and 160th in scoring. Perreault fell further due to his 292nd ranked scoring despite being ranked 1st in XPM. Meanwhile, Schiefele sits in the middle with his 60th ranked XPM and his 32nd overall scoring numbers.

The Jets then have five skaters performing as second-line forwards overall. The highly underrated Dano ranks 73rd and 168th in XPM and scoring. Ehlers ranks 170th in XPM while being the Jets best forward at 25th in scoring. Lowry has struggled to score, ranking at 329th, but barely missed 1st line XPM performance being ranked 91st. Little started coming back from his injury ranked like a fourth line player in XPM, but has improved to 268th overall while scoring at an impressive 33rd overall ranked pace.

Laine is the Jets final second-line performing forward. Jets fans should not be disappointed in his 270th ranked XPM. An 18-year-old rookie is not expected to dominate the league in the two-way numbers and he’s already performing as a bonafide second line forward despite his performance in XPM.

Nic Petan may be the Jets most under appreciated and utilized forward after Marko Dano. The 5’9 centre has been deployed like a fourth-line player but his results cast him as an above average third-line player. Petan ranked 189th in XPM while 309th in scoring. Chris Tanev comes next, with being ranked 211th and 351st, although his sample is much smaller than most Jets. Drew Stafford falls after Tanev despite superior scoring numbers due to his struggling two-way game. He comes out as 282nd in XPM and 225 in scoring.

Then we come to our fourth-line performance players. All three of Copp, Mathias, and Armia have been scoring well, as noted by their 148th, 212nd, and 218th ranked point pace, but their impacts on shot quality and quantity pulls them down. I do not believe Copp’s scoring to be remotely sustainable, and will likely settle. I also am curious if the model is overly awarding Lowry and under appreciating Armia, who have played predominately together this season.

Chris Thorburn was technically unranked by XPM as he actually fell outside of a fourth line player in the metric. He would be ranked 402nd and 333rd if we expand the sample size to include players of his calibre. Typically players with Thorburn’s performance are not used in regular games.

Closing Thoughts

No numbers cover the whole picture; however, by combining impact on shot quality and quantity while looking at a player’s weighted scoring pace, we can build a strong estimate in a player’s overall contributions.

The numbers suggest the Jets are built up well at forward, although the actual allocation of ice time may be faulty. This shouldn’t play a significant role to the Jets record, though, as spreading out the talent can actually be beneficial overall.

The biggest issue to the Jets skaters is at defense. A top two defender group of Trouba and Byfuglien should be the envy of more than half the league. After that there is a steep cliff. Morrissey has entered the league well but has not been enough to make up for the falling Enstrom. Postma is an excellent candidate for a number five, but the Jets do not have a capable partner for him.

Some may be wondering about Myers and Stuart. Neither player had sufficient ice time to rank with the defenders. Stuart has been a below replacement player, much like Thorburn, while Myers has been a legitimate NHL player but historically not worth top-four minutes either.

  • ktecACadaptor

    Was starting to get worried about Laine with all these horrible advanced stats on him but thanks for confirming this is to be expected for a young winger’s first year in the NHL. !

    Really want to see if Petan Perreault Dano can actually maintain these types of numbers if they were playing more minutes regularly. Lots of interruptions to fully evaluating Petan and Dano in particular (demotions, injuries, questionable coaching)