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: Andrew Copp.
Last year, I pointed out that Andrew Copp was disappointing but was likely hurt by heavy minutes with anchors like Chris Thorburn. Copp was given a far greater share of minutes with stronger players this year, although the pendulum may have overly swung in the opposite direction, with Copp being given heavy minutes with Mark Scheifele and Blake Wheeler.
He improved his point totals and points per game, although how much was development and how much usage with Jets’ top players remains to be seen.
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.
Copp had a season just like a team should hope from their fourth line centre, although he spent a lot of time on the third line and even some in the top-six. He provided above replacement value in offense and defense. Breaking up his numbers further we see his offense derives predominately from his point production and his impact on team chance creation is fairly negligible.
There was some talk about Copp being the type of player that drove bottom-six lines and could be placed with a top line without causing an anchor effect. There’s some truth to this, with Scheifele and Wheeler doing fairly well while they were with Copp.
Overall the Jets were slightly outshot with Copp on the ice, but they did a lot better in shot quality than their opponent during those minutes. Predictive metrics wise, we expect in the future Copp’s performance to closer resemble his Corsi statistics than his expected goals. Still, it is a promising sign for him also to have an impact on shot quality.
In terms of scoring, Copp put up a point production pace above that of the average fourth line forward but below an average third line forward.
Visual is for minutes played in 2015-16 and 2016-17 combined.
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 Copp performs in the manner he does.
Copp is not an exceptional forward but he definitely showed this season he is a competent NHL forward.
He performed slightly above team average in percentage of defensive zone touches becoming successful exits, although he was slightly below average in percentage being controlled zone exits. Similarly, Copp was slightly above average in percentage of zone entry attempts being carry-ins, but slightly below average in terms of entries with a successful pass generated. Interestingly, the Jets produced a high number of shots per carry-in for Copp but very few shots per dump-in, opposite of norm for a bottom-six player.
Copp did well in transitioning the puck and building up play. Despite scoring well, Copp did not generate more than a typical fourth line player in shot-assists or dangerous shots.
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. Also, give Ryan Stimson (@RK_Stimp) a follow.
Previously in our series I talked about the future of NHL bottom-six construction and deployment. The NHL is evolving into a skill league; third lines are being constructed in the same manner and style as top-six lines, while fourth lines are becoming like third lines of old.
Andrew Copp has shown himself to fit the new role of fourth line players. Copp can transition play and build up play in the cycle, eating up minutes. He has the skill to produce points and move up the line if necessary, even if it is still not optimal to do so. With players like Copp, Joel Armia, Shawn Matthias, and Marko Dano, the Jets should have their fourth line fairly set.
The Jets moving towards players like these instead of their fourth lines of old, with players like Chris Thorburn, Tanner Glass, and Anthony Peluso, is a positive sign for the organization as a whole. However, there are still two caveats.
The Jets were slow to make this change and behind the curve in adopting a top-nine structure. In addition, there are still huge question marks on the Jets third line construction and deployment, which carries a larger impact than the other bottom-six group.
The NHL may be a copy-cat league, but it’s the first movers who has the success coveted and it’s the copy-cats who merely tread water.
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.