Photo Credit: © Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

Pilot’s Logbook: Shawn Matthias

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: Shawn Matthias.

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Basic Statistics

45 8 4 12 +0 13 0 0 1 1 1 0 51 15.7

Shawn Matthias scores goals. He doesn’t do much more but put the puck in the net and kill penalties. Matthias paced 14.3 goals per 82 games since the 2009-10 season, and put up 14.6 goals per 82 with the Jets. Unfortunately, injuries limited Matthias’s number of games played, capping him to his lowest goal total since 2010-11.

Goals Above Replacement

Goals Above Replacement data courtesy of @DTMAboutHeart.

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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.

Matthias provided some offense, but hurt the team defensively. He was exposed playing on the Jets third line that played a shutdown-type role. Facing tough forward match ups is far from optimal for a player who allows shots against like this:

Advanced Metrics

434 48.7 -1.79 43.5 -8.22 0.69 0.41 1.11

Again, Matthias scores goals. He’s really good at it, but be afraid of using him for anything other than scoring goals. He hurts the team through bleeding shots against, and his impact on shot quality makes things even worse.

While Maurice deployed him like a third line, shut-down player when he dressed, Matthias performed more like an elite fourth line scorer.

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Microstatistics provide a window into the actions that players take that create the results they do in the previous sections. They allow us to see why Matthias performs in the manner he does.

Matthias exited out of the zone quite often, with 82 per cent of his defensive puck touches being exits, but only 50 per cent of his exits were with control of the puck. This tendency to dump or clear out of the zone looks harmless at first, but only about 28 per cent of zone exits actually transition into the opposition’s defensive zone. This could be a central reason for Matthias’ tendency to bleed shots.

Matthias transitioned the puck into the offensive zone just like he exited out of the defensive zone: a lot of volume but not much efficiency. Only 45 per cent of Matthias’ entries were with possession, with the forward preferring to get the puck in deep and get on the forecheck. Only Chris Thorburn and Brandon Tanev tended to rely on chip-and-chase more often. He was actually fairly effective as such, with only Blake Wheeler and Joel Armia producing more shots per dump-in entry. That said, his poor performance in carries, and lack of them, limited his potential.

Matthias can transition the puck often, but his tendency to rely on chip plays ultimately hurts the team. He can forecheck and work the cycle, but struggles to generate set-up plays. He is a strong finisher, producing much of his shot volume from in tight or on the rush.

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.

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Final Thoughts

The Jets likely gave Matthias a two-year contract to stay expansion draft compliant.

He is, however, still a useful depth forward. Matthias will put the puck in the net, forechecks and cycles reasonably well, and can kill the odd penalty.

I’ve talked about this before, but I think the Jets deployed their bottom-six players non-optimally and inefficiently. I’ve been preaching the Jets run a skilled bottom-six where the third line is more like another second line, and the fourth line is more like a third line. Recently, Boucher talked something similar:

Matthias worked well with Armia and I’m sure he would do well with Marko Dano as well. Place either Andrew Copp or Adam Lowry on that line and you should have that new type of fourth line. My preference would be on Copp, since both Lowry and Armia have struggled to produce at 5-on-5.

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This essentially means the Jets need to construct an all new third line to leap frog over what was their third line for the bulk of the season. The team would have two options in how to construct this new third line. They could piece together one with their next best skilled forwards, with some combination of Kyle Connor, Jack Roslovic, Nic Petan, Marko Dano, and potential free agents. They could also spread out their top-six talent of Mathieu Perreault, Mark Scheifele, Patrik Laine, Nikolaj Ehlers, Bryan Little, and Bryan Little so one or two of these players fill out the other top-nine line.

The latter option has started to become more common, as the playoffs have seen talents like Alex Ovechkin, Corey Perry, and Phil Kessel on the third line. It becomes a match up disaster but also allows the Jets to shelter players like Connor, Roslovic, and Petan with talent rather than their past usage, having them drown in odd roles with players like Chris Thorburn.

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.

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