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 breaking down the team player-by-player from worst-to-best according to statistical impact, with some adjustments made by my own, personal analysis.
Up next: Kyle Connor.
After two elite seasons in the USHL, followed by a near-historic NCAA season, there was a lot of pressure placed on Connor to produce early in his career, ignoring that he was only one season removed from being drafted. He failed to reach those expectations but he did provide some hits of value.
Goals Above Replacement
Goals Above Replacement data courtesy of @DTMAboutHeart.
Goals Above Replacement (GAR) combines multiple statistics in terms of one currency, allowing one to estimate a player’s overall impact. It is imperfect, as it combines many imperfect statistics, but it is also a severely useful tool.
Connor did not provide much in value, which is in part expected given to the low number of games he played. His biggest issue was in offense creation, which combines both individual contributions as well as improving linemate contributions. If you want the silver lining on the cloud, it is good that the biggest issue with young players like Connor and Nic Petan struggle in offense, because you know it will come eventually with talents like that.
While Connor struggled and was not quite ready for the NHL, I think his usage (specifically: linemates) started him at a disadvantage. For the most part, Connor spent a lot of time on the wing of players we’ve already talked about as below replacement forwards: Alex Burmistrov, Chris Thorburn, and Brandon Tanev.
The only really strong players Connor sat with was in two situations: once with Mathieu Perreault (recovering still from injury) and Patrik Laine (who was scoring on the power play but struggling at even strength) or once with Nic Petan and Blake Wheeler (where the line did well in terms of out shooting and out chancing but the Jets’ goalies couldn’t make a single save so Paul Maurice abolished the line).
At Connor’s age, and simply from watching him in the AHL, we should expect drastic improvements in the player between this season and the next. It is a positive sign that he already performed well while with Blake Wheeler and Nic Petan, when he has that much room to improve.
Microstatistics provide a window into the actions that players take that create the results they do in the previous sections.
We already knew Kyle Connor was not going to look good in the microstatistics. He barely played and struggled when he did play, for the most part. However, the speedy winger gave glimpses of the player he will eventually evolve into. If you were to expand out the clustered playing styles, we can make a hypothesis of the type of player Connor will likely evolve into.
Connor projects to be a volume shooter. He likes to shoot often and has put up large shot volumes on multiple stages. He can pass, but his passes will likely be predominately in build up play passes as opposed to primary shot assists.
The one area I expect Connor to excel in down the road is with dangerous shot contributions. Connor uses his speed to separate himself suddenly from defenders, opening him up to passes in the slot. While it will be harder for him to accomplish this in the NHL than he did in the USHL, NCAA, and AHL, he has the ability to do so even against NHL defenders.
Please support Corey Sznajder (@ShutDownLine) for his contributions in manually tracking microstatistics. He has a Patreon page where you can make a donation for his tireless work supporting the community.
It was a tough year for Connor, but still a promising one.
He did not put up the results many were expecting or hoping from him after producing astounding numbers in the NCAA. He did, however, give a taste of the player he will likely become: a shot volume, goal scoring winger who uses his speed to make plays on the rush or separate himself from defenders to open himself on the cycle.
Connor acclimated himself well, being the highest point per game and second highest shot per game under-20 forward with at least 20 games in the AHL. He’s shown that he’s ready to return to the NHL, now the Jets need to place him in the right situations.
Depending on outcomes with the expansion draft, the Jets should be able to construct three dangerous lines that could score. The league has already transitioned this manner, with the third-line shutdown role falling into the abyss as team’s evolve. Too often the Jets carried a third line that either could barely play, or defend but not score. Hopefully Connor could starts that change. Hopefully the Jets start becoming first movers instead of trying to keep up with the Joneses.
All numbers courtesy of Corsica.hockey, @ShutdownLine, or @DTMAboutHeart unless otherwise noted. Please follow them all.
This series was intended to be a Monday/Wednesday/Friday post, but with unforeseen circumstances, I will be accelerating posts and changing the schedule to be Monday-Friday posts for the duration of the series.