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Pilot’s Logbook: Special Teams Review

The Winnipeg Jets’ 2016-2017 disappointing season finally ended. While the extent of disappointment may be subjective from individual-to-individual dependent on expectations, fans without a single franchise playoff win prefer their seasons to carry some post-season excitement.

So, what went wrong? What went well? How do the Jets measure up against their competition? Which areas actually require improvement relative to others?

If your car breaks down, you need to know what is wrong with it prior to dropping cash to fix it. With that in mind, we continue our in-depth investigation on the Jets’ performance this season with special teams.

Power Play

The Jets’ power play was fairly powerless. For 5-on-4 situations, the team generated only 5.29 goals per hour (24th in NHL).

The team was just below average in terms of generating shot attempts with the player advantage, but they were above league average in terms of getting their shots past blocking penalty killers and on net.

They actually did a fair job at generating these shots in prime areas as well, giving the Jets the 10th highest expected unblocked shot shooting percentage at 9.5 goals per a shot.

Given the Jets number of shots and where the shots were located on the ice, we expect an average team to score somewhere between 45-to-50 goals… but they did not. The Jets only converted 39 goals, which places the Jets poor finishing impact worth between 1-to-2 wins in the standings.

That’s a big deal.

Ten goals, two wins, and four standings points doesn’t throw the team into the playoffs, but it pushes them into a positive goal differential and places them really close.

Some of the discrepancy could be attributed to poor luck, but a good portion seems to come from pre-shot puck movement; the Jets were fairly stationary in their power play set up relative to the league.

Another issue that came up was the Jets’ ability to gain clear and controlled zone entries with quick set ups. Lack of proper set up led to many shots simply coming off the rush or being wasted at the point without forwards in strong position for screens or rebounds.

Team expected goals for and against per hour with player on ice. Closer to bottom-right corner is better; however, be careful with the axis being different. One square to the right is worth a goal, while one square up is worth 2-tenths of a goal. Therefore, look more at how far right a player is more so than down.

The Jets best power play performance typically came from the veterans. Their top expected goals differential per hour were players like Little (6.25), Perreault (6.17), Wheeler (6.05), Byfuglien (6.02), and Enstrom (5.13). The only young ones above five expected goals per hour were Laine (5.33), Scheifele (5.27), Petan (5.23), and Lowry (5.21).

Morrissey (2.65), Armia (3.62), and Dano (4.53) struggled the most, but only played under small samples.

Penalty Kill

With 51 4-on-5 goals against, the Jets were hurt a lot on the penalty kill. Unlike the power play, the skaters were not just struggling in the fortune and shot quality departments. The Jets were bottom-ten in shot against, whether or not including blocked or missed shots.

While the Jets were not great defensively on the penalty kill, their actual performance in keeping shots clear from prime areas was fairly league average. Given shot location and other factors, we would expect the Jets to have a league average unblocked shot save percentage.

Overall, we estimate the Jets to have the 8th worst expected goals against per hour rate with a player short. Unfortunately the Jets goaltending made a poor situation turn terrible. The Jets’ goaltenders allowed 51 goals against when most teams would be expected to allow around 45.

Again there was an issue with puck movement across the blue line. The Jets were fairly decent in getting the puck out of their own blue-line but struggled immensely in preventing the opposition to gain clear and controlled zone entries with quick set ups. All the problems the Jets carried in converting on the power play were non-existent for their opposition.

Team expected goals for and against per hour with player on ice. Closer to top-left corner is better; however, be careful with the axis being different. One square to the right is worth 2 goals, while one square up is worth 2-tenths of a goal. Therefore, look more at how far left a player is more so than up.

While the veterans led the way on the power play, the penalty kill was more of a mixed bag.

The team’s best penalty killers in terms of carrying the highest expected goal differential per hour were Scheifele (-3.80), Morrissey (-3.95), Wheeler (-4.82), Copp (-4.88), Armia (4.97), and Byfuglien (-4.98).

Those that struggled the most were Tanev (-7.81), Stuart (-6.79), Little (-5.96), Lowry (-5.95), Trouba (-5.94), and Thorburn (-5.70).

Closing Thoughts

Special teams are kind of important. When you are a team that plays the fourth fewest minutes at 5-on-5, you better be confident on your abilities for special teams…

The issue is the Jets were pretty poor there.

Bonus Extra: Jets’ Defenders and Shots

A lot has been made of the Jets relative difference between their right and left side defense.

It’s not surprising that the Jets generate far more shots from their right side (plus some rebounds from the left):

What I find really interesting is how much better the Jets also do defensively in preventing shots from the right side as well:

Next week we’ll start a Monday, Wednesday, Friday series breaking down each player, one-at-a-time. All numbers courtesy of Corsica.hockey or @DTMAboutHeart unless otherwise noted.