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By The Numbers: Armia vs Copp vs Dano vs Lowry

The Winnipeg Jets have a few interesting forwards that provide value in different ways. Adam Lowry, Andrew Copp, Joel Armia, and Marko Dano are all adequate players with capable skill sets.

In all likelihood, the Jets will only be able to protect one or two in the expansion draft, and this has sparked debates over which player that should be. In some ways, having to choose between multiple young and good players with potential is a good problem to have.

Let’s see what the numbers suggest about these four.

Start with WAR

What is WAR good for? Absolutely nothing… Well actually, it’s good for starting off the conversation.

The above graph shows the approximate total value a player has contributed to the Winnipeg Jets in improving the team’s goal differential relative to a replacement level player. At first hand, it appears as though Lowry should indisputably be considered the top player of the four, with Armia, Dano, and Copp being fairly closely clustered together

However, this is just the start.

The next step would be to look at the actual rates of the each area, and I will also split Even Strength Offense into its two components: a player’s direct offensive impact through boxscore stats (OBPM) and their indirect impact on team expected goal for generation (OXPM):

From this we see fairly clearly that Lowry’s edge over the other three is almost entirely due to Lowry’s power play value and playing nearly an additional 50 percent increase on even strength ice time compared to Armia and Copp or an 150 percent increase over Dano.

The gap created due to power play becomes even more apparent when we remove power play from the equation:

Adam Lowry

The above numbers above are in aggregate, but I will discuss below their per sixty minute value.

Regardless of whether or not Lowry is the superior or inferior player of the group, Lowry will always be a fan favourite due to his combination of size and physical play. It will cause a lot of favouritism and bias, not to say that size and physical play does not hold any value.

Lowry creates the impact he does on the ice in part due to his size and physical play. While I cannot directly measure the value of these inputs, they create advantages for Lowry that allows him to do what he does, creating the results in shots and goals the Jets experience with him on the ice.

When we break down his impact, we see a tale of two very different stories.

Offensively, Lowry does not create anything in the boxscore stats at even strength. He’s OBPM this season is -0.09 goals per sixty minutes above replacement (GAR/60), which fits along with his historical numbers of -0.01 and -0.05 over the past two years. What this tells you is that Lowry is below a replacement level player offensively in the boxscore numbers.

This makes sense since we’ve seen Lowry score at 4th line scoring rates over his three seasons. He has paced at 1.07 points per sixty 5-on-5 minutes this season, with 1.05 and 1.10 the previous two years. For context, the median pace for fourth line players and depth forwards is 1.04 points per sixty, and a third line pace is 1.42 points per sixty.

Lowry does provide value elsewhere. He is defensively sound. His defensive impact of 0.12 GAR/60, which aligns with his 0.12 and 0.09 GAR/60 the previous two years. He has developed some moderate face-off value and his penalty differential overall is a slight positive.

There are some concerns.

For one, while Lowry struggled in boxscore stats offensive production (OBPM), he made up for it with improving linemates through expected goal differentials (OXPM). However, I am concerned that Lowry has actually been unfairly attributed by OXPM and stolen from Armia. The last two seasons, Lowry posted a fairly meager 0.06 and 0.12 OXPM, but this season he’s rocketed to 0.27, which is comparable to Bryan Little and Mark Scheifele.

Another concern is Lowry’s power play rating. Lowry’s power play value is being driven by a league leading individual expected goal generation (ixG/60). Lowry has been shooting a lot up close to the opponent net. This is a good thing for the team and for Lowry, but it’s also highly unlikely to last. Lowry’s career ixG/60 generation is about two-thirds of his current pace, and he’s never posted a single season above one-third of his current pace. We also know a good portion of this is driven by rebounds, which isn’t a very highly repeatable skill.

Joel Armia

The above numbers above are in aggregate, but I will discuss below their per sixty minute value.

When we look at relative to ice time, Armia has the third best overall impact and second best even strength impact.

The one area where Armia is lacking is in offensive impact. Armia has a better OBPM, being at replacement level instead of below replacement level, due to his 1.37 5-on-5 points per sixty minutes being slightly better. However, his OXPM does not make any sense, being the lowest on the team after Chris Thorburn. While I understand Armia may not be a world beater offensive, I truly believe that Lowry has stolen some of Armia’s offensive impact. This can sometimes be an issue when you have two players who rarely play apart from the other.

Armia’s history is fairly small with only 470 minutes last year, but still useful. Combined with Lowry’s extreme jump this year, and Armia falling from 0.06 to 0.01 GAR/60 in OXPM, there seems to be an indication that there is a little bit of Armia’s offense bleeding into Lowry’s numbers.

What Armia lacks in offense, whether fairly or unfairly, he makes up in defensive impact. Per minute, Armia provides about 0.21 GAR/60, with being close to his impact last season of 0.24.

Lowry plays in a premium position over Armia, although there is an argument for centres being viewed as more important being slightly self-fulfilling: if centres are viewed more important, stronger players will start their career at centre, making the best NHL players playing centre, making the centre position viewed as more important… and so the cycle goes.

That said, there is an area of impact Lowry gains over Armia via face-offs, although Armia makes up the gap through superior penalty differential.

Marko Dano

The above numbers above are in aggregate, but I will discuss below their per sixty minute value.

Despite playing far fewer minutes, Dano has had a relatively similar aggregate impact on the Jets as Armia and Copp. Right off the top, that should tell you how one should view Dano.

OBPM tells us Dano is the best player in individual offense, which should make sense. Over the past few seasons, Dano has been the superior point producer. He’s pacing at 1.61 points per sixty minutes this year and put up 1.41 and 2.69 paces the years prior. His career point per minute pace is nearly double Lowry’s and Armia’s, and a good deal above Copp.

In terms of the other side of offense, with OXPM, Dano sits just under (the possibly inflated) Lowry with 0.23 GAR/60. That’s actually below his rookie season OXPM posting of 0.34 GAR/60.

Combining the two, OXPM and OBPM, Dano’s offense impact is almost equal to the overall impact of the other three forwards, which is a big deal when accounting for Dano having the greatest defensive impact of the four with a 0.30 GAR/60.

Dano has been the superior player in WAR metrics player, and historically he’s been the better of the four. The only areas Dano is lacking in is with penalty differentials and face-offs.

Andrew Copp

The above numbers above are in aggregate, but I will discuss below their per sixty minute value.

The easiest way to evaluate Copp is comparing him to Lowry, the other centre.

Copp’s offensive production has been superior to Lowry, and he posts the second best OBPM of the three forwards, 0.12 GAR/60. With OXPM, the alternative route of providing offense, he falls quite a bit lower.  Overall, his offense is respectable and likely better than Lowry, but not by much. Defensively, the two rank fairly similar.

So overall, WAR says the two are about the same both offensively and defensively, although how they go about generating their offense is quite different. Copp is more of a player that helps directly, via actually putting up points, while Lowry’s offensive value more comes from indirect contributions in tilting the ice.

It’s the extra areas that places Copp a little bit below Lowry. He’s provided inferior face-off value. While Copp’s been better at avoiding penalties, he has been severely worse at drawing them.

The one caveat to add is that Copp is nearly a full year younger, which means he has more potential for growth.

To compare Copp this season to Lowry last year, Lowry is still worse at OBPM impact and better at OXPM impact, but his overall offensive value falls behind. Lowry’s defensive impact does not change, but his penalty differential and face-off impacts fall closer to Copp’s level.

Overall, Copp still falls behind Lowry in per minute impact, but the gap tightens.

Closing Thoughts

Players listed in order of even strength GAR/60 impact.

Looking at just how each player has impacted the Jets, one would believe Lowry to be the best player overall. This, combined with his fan-friendly qualitative features, likely is why he would be a fan favorite to protect of the four.

That said, when we delve deeper into the numbers, we see the WAR model suggest that Dano is by far the superior player of the four, at least in even strength. Lowry is better only when including power play usage, where his impact is likely unsustainable. Everywhere else, Dano seems better. He produces the most points, has the best defensive impact, and can tilt the ice fairly well.

Not only is Dano the best player this season, but the results do not appear to carry any extreme outliers from his historical performance, like with Lowry’s OXPM this year, adding confidence to the model’s inferences. In addition, he is also the youngest of the four, meaning that he has the largest room for growth, ceteris paribus.

The rest of the three are fairly grouped tightly together, and a lot tougher to separate.

Armia has the next best defensive impact, and I believe his true offensive impact is somewhat has been bleed into Lowry’s numbers, but is a winger.

Lowry and Copp play a position of premium value, they are fairly similar in offensive impact but very different in how they get there. Lowry is a bit better overall, but Copp is also younger.

I did not come here to tell you how the team (or you the fan) should decide. There are qualitative and subjective variables that would go into that. That said, I wanted to provide information, that in turn would lead to one making a better decision.

All WAR numbers courtesy of @DTMAboutHeart, and other numbers courtesy of Corsica.Hockey


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  • s8cc

    I’m sure the team will protect Lowry. They like him and have given him tons of development opportunity. Perhaps more than he’s earned. They also seem to have a hard on for Armia.

    If I had to protect two, I would take Lowry and Dano. I strongly suspect Vegas will end up with one of Perrault or Myers, unless Chevy makes a deal, which he should.

  • t_bison

    I can see Vegas going hard on the metrics for this – it’s going to be pure Moneypuck (which it should be at this point).

    If Chevy doesn’t protect Dano he’s nuts and should be fired immediately – In my mind I’m protecting the top eight guys in ES WAR.

    Can you imagine the last

  • MyDogHasScheifeles

    If we can only protect 3 I would be keeping Lowry Dano and Armia. Right now Copp is the most replaceable of the four players. Thank you for another very good article.