© Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
How good or bad are the Winnipeg Jets? Where are their weakest links? Where are they strongest? Where are they dragging behind?
It’s easy for someone to say a losing team falls short but it becomes difficult to actually say where and by how much. Metrics like WAR do not tell the whole story, but they start to give scale to where a team is performing poorly or well.
Let’s start by looking at the Jets’ blue-line.
A little bit before the Jets bye week, I posted an estimate of the Winnipeg Jets current performance in WAR/60 minutes to pinpoint where the Jets strengths and weaknesses lay.
One problem with the above WAR graphic is that it only contains a snap shot. There is no history or direction.
All players will have their good and bad years, relatively speaking. How does Mark Stuart normally perform? Is this what we should expect moving forward? Is it reasonable that Paul Postma has been performing as a #4 defender?
Note: The following graphs are a player’s overall WAR. This means that the values given are not relative to ice time, just like a player’s overall point total is not relative to ice time. In addition, I’m including special team minutes, which means an above replacement player in power play or penalty kill not given the ice time will lose out on value they could be getting.
Right Shot Defenders
Zach Bogosian carried a lot of potential. His rookie season pre-dates our data, but I would guess it to be somewhere along the lines of his 2011-2012 season, if not better.
Bogosian’s move to Winnipeg seemed to revitalize him and this had an impact on the numbers. He was a 20-year-old defender with size and could skate, performing like a bonafide #3. This was a great sign as players tend to trend upwards until about 24-26 and then don’t really start to decline until around 28-30.
Unfortunately this was not the case for Bogosian, and the Jets did well in getting value for the defender.
Dustin Byfuglien has been extraordinarily underrated throughout his time in Winnipeg. Big Buff has performed as a bonafide #1 defender every season since he was shifted to defense except once in 2012-2013.
I should note that part of the reason for the numbers bouncing around is in part due to his play time as a forward. Byfuglien is a top-end defender but only an average forward. Interestingly, though, forwards tend to impact WAR by a greater degree, lessening the divide between the two.
Byfuglien is a very interesting unique defender as his defensive value is almost zero, perfectly replacement level. Byfuglien improves his team through sheer offensive impact. The overall tradeoff though is highly positive.
I imagine that the Winnipeg Jets – Buffalo Sabres trade started as discussions over Evander Kane, which lead to each team wishing better for their faltering young right-shot defenders. Both teams were likely hoping that a one-for-one swap and a new home would help revitalize the other team’s player and reach their untapped potential.
It didn’t happen. However, the Jets did end up getting the better of the two.
Paul Postma has barely played. In 2013-2014 and 2015-2016 Postma didn’t even accumulate enough ice time to be in the sample. It’s impressive that he has been able to provide the value that he has given the low amount of ice time Postma has played.
Postma has received additional ice time with Myers’ injury this season and with that he’s been trending around a #4 defender.
Jacob Trouba has been developing into one of the top defenders in the NHL. At 21-years-old Trouba has already performed as a fringe #1 defenseman. He’s already trending to be in the top 20 this season.
Trouba no longer “could be something special” but is something special.
Left Shot Defenders
Ben Chiarot came to the Jets in 2014-2015 after a slew of injuries left the Jets’ defensive group decimated. Chiarot sat almost exclusively beside Byfuglien for the duration of the season.
I have mentioned before how this WAR metric likely overvalued Chiarot due to a very unique situation. Byfuglien moved from forward to defense the same time that Chiarot joined the Jets. The model cannot account for this position change difference and likely gives Chiarot the benefit of Byfuglien’s improved numbers from his positional change.
Ever since being separated from Byfuglien, Chiarot has been on a downtrend and may be at or below replacement level this season.
The Jets got Grant Clitsome off the waiver wire, and Clitsome was better than many expected… But then multiple back injuries leading to surgeries sidelined the defender and Clitsome was never the same.
Despite all the aggression some small and vocal fans have over Toby Enstrom, he has still been one of the Jets’ best defenders. Enstrom has performed as a top-four defender for his entire career and a top-pairing defender for most of his years.
Enstrom has faltered this season, and my estimates have him trending just below the purple line. I would not be surprised though if the Jets get some slight bounce back next season, which could be beneficial for the Jets next year with Morrissey’s continued developed.
Speaking of players often undervalued by Jets fans…
Ron Hainsey was not a world-beater by any sort of the imagination, but he was dependable and capable. In his final season as a Jet Hainsey was paid only three million dollars but many could not look past his cap hit and previous salary.
Johnny Oduya was another capable defender that left the Jets, although not to the same value as Hainsey. The Jets were also able to recuperate value from trading Oduya prior to the 2011-2012 deadline.
He had a solid season in the 2012-2013 year, but I’m curious how much of it is skewing from the shortened year.
The Jets saw Hainsey, Clitsome, and Oduya, although all for different reasons, yet Mark Stuart stayed.
I do not fault the Jets for those absences. Clitsome was through injury. Hainsey and Oduya were bound to leave, although in hindsight some return for Hainsey would have been preferred. However, I do not understand the willingness to give a player with Stuart’s history a four year contract.
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