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: Toby Enstrom.
Enstrom had a tough year offensively, which should be expected somewhat as an aging player. Modern research shows that a defender’s offensive impact abilities leaves them far earlier than defensive impact. In fact, it is not uncommon for high-end offensive defenders to evolve into capable defensive defenders later in their career.
Former Jet, Ron Hainsey successfully performed this conversion, and Enstrom has been doing the same. That said, there is a lot of evidence that Enstrom’s offensive production overstates his offensive talent decline and that we should expect some bounce back next year.
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.
Enstrom’s offensive contributions has been declining over the past few seasons. In 2011-12 Enstrom provided 3.06 goals above replacement in even strength offense alone, this fell to 1.8 in 2014-15 and even further to negative 0.2 this past season. While Enstrom’s impact on the power play has fallen more from usage than performance, his even strength offensive decline is worrisome. As I noted earlier, there are indications of poor puck-luck which over emphasized the decline, with his production be below that of his skill level.
His defensive impact has actually been moving in the opposite direction, as Enstrom reinvents himself. In 2011-12 Enstrom posted a 0.63 GAR, which climbed up to 1.56 in 2014-15 and now sits at 2.1 (45th highest impact in NHL for defenders) after this past season.
In terms of overall ability, Enstrom sat 122nd in overall impact and 124th in even strength impact. This suggests Enstrom gave the Jets fringe level impact for a second pairing defender, or elite for a third pairing defender. However, we should expect some bounce back. It was only the year prior that Enstrom put up a 5.21 GAR, which would have ranked him in the 70-80 range.
Enstrom is severely underrated defensively, on a team that could use more players with solid defensive impact. The graph above hilariously shows how many more shots the Jets allow on the left side and in the slot with Enstrom on the bench than they do with him on the ice. Enstrom does this while being a defender with one of the hardest deployments in terms of linematching. Very few fans seem to understand that such a short defender could be one of the Jets’ best shutdown defenders, but Paul Maurice sure does.
The biggest issue with Enstrom is his inability to score as of late. There are flags suggesting Enstrom will never be as good offensively as he once was, but there are also some suggesting a bounce back next year.
Enstrom’s 5-on-5 production rate dived down a cliff last season. He scored half as many points per minute as the season prior, which was already a poor year for him.
What happened? Well, two things…
For one, Enstrom posted a zero percent even strength shooting percentage. While no elite finisher, Enstrom does put up enough shots that he’s typically good for two-to-four even strength goals. Just two goals would have increased his point pace by about 50 per cent.
The biggest deficit comes from assists. Enstrom picked up fewer assists this year, despite the fact that the Jets’ scored a similar number of goals per hour with him on the ice in each of the past three seasons. This year Enstrom assisted on 13.2 per cent of such goals, while typically we would find him assisting on about 25 per cent.
Adjusting for these factors, and Enstrom increases from 5 five-on-five points to about 12. This would bring him to a fairly respectable 0.71 point per hour pace, and much closer to his total 5v5 points the past three years (14, 15, and 13). No longer should we expect Enstrom to put the impressive point pace of over 1.0 per hour like his early years, but he should be good for supportive point pace around 0.7.
So, we can expect maybe just under double the offense that Enstrom provided this past season. While that may not be the impact of a 6 million dollar offensive defender, it is a solid amount of offensive production from a shut down defender.
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 Enstrom performs in the manner he does.
The graph shows the Enstrom we all know. Toby passes a lot but almost never shoots. When he does shoot though, they are fairly high quality shots. That said, the offensive value that Enstrom provides is almost solely in building up play or passing directly to a player in a good location for a shot. Enstrom is a playmaking defender.
Historically Enstrom is the Jets’ best left-shot defender, and it’s not even close. This has all changed with the addition of Josh Morrissey.
Morrissey (82.5%) was the only left-shot defender with a greater percentage of defensive zone touches be exits than Enstrom (77.0%), but Enstrom still was one of the best in terms of percentage of zone exits being possession exits (56.0%) regardless of handedness. Enstrom will often defer possession to the defender on the right side, but when he does take the puck out he does it well.
In terms of entries, Enstrom (24.0%) has a greater percentage being carry-ins than any of the other left shot-defenders, but falls quite short of the Jets right-shot regulars. The team was fairly average in terms of shots generated from entries, whether by carry-in or dump-in.
It’s not uncommon for Jets’ fans to complain that Toby’s size causes teams to try and dump in the puck against him, stating that they can then take advantage of the strength mismatch and gain the puck. What this ignores is that a team dumping in is actually preferred rather than carrying-it in and a big reason why Enstrom has such high dump-ins against is due to him controlling a much tighter gap and preventing clear entries. Enstrom’s opponents also carry a low successful pass per entry attempt, further showing his ability to prevent offense when targeted.
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.
No longer is Enstrom the top-pairing defender that gave him the contract he carries for one more season. We should not expect Enstrom to bounce back and give the Jets top pairing quality minutes next year; however, we should also not expect Enstrom to provide third-pairing value next year either.
Enstrom’s defensive impact has been growing with each season and –if it does not grow further– he should still be one of the Jets best shutdown defenders next year. His offensive impact should improve greatly with his on-ice percentages unlikely persisting so low. While Enstrom’s underlying offensive abilities will likely continue to dip with age, he will provide more value with generating more points at even strength.
Many fans are hoping the Jets sign or trade for a left-shot defender to fill the Jets’ top-four of Josh Morrissey, Jacob Trouba, and Dustin Byfuglien, while pushing Enstrom down the depth charts. But, I feel that Enstrom likely still has one-to-three years of top-four defender quality impact still in him. Finding a player to leap ahead of him would be fairly costly, in either or both assets to acquire and salary to spend.
Honestly, the Jets defensive group should be much better even with no changes made.
Overall, the team’s health will more likely be better than worse. Trouba and Morrissey are at ages where we expect natural progression simply from their aging curves (Morrissey more so than Trouba). Enstrom had a worse offensive season than we should expect for next year, while Byfuglien had a worse defensive season than we should expect for next year. Myers should be healthy enough to be one of the best third-pairing defenders in the NHL, and is more than capable in filling in the top-four for injury issues. Paul Postma, if extended, is only a marginal downgrade over Myers, incase he is injured.
If I had a voice, I would not advise the Jets to find someone to supersede Enstrom, but rather someone to fit in between Enstrom and Ben Chiarot.
The Jets should have one of the better pairs out there with Morrissey and Trouba together. Meanwhile, Enstrom and Byfuglien historically work well together with each making up for the other’s weaknesses, and should see some bounce back next year (especially Byfuglien with being leaned on a bit less and having less incentives to gamble).
This leaves someone needed to pair with either Myers or Postma. Chiarot is a capable fill-in but Jets could use the depth with the commonality that is defensive man-games lost due to injuries in today’s NHL. This addition would give Chiarot, and perhaps Postma, the pressbox duty. While newly signed prospects Sami Niku and Tucker Poolman could win such a job, Niku likely needs some time acquainting himself to the smaller North American ice and Poolman could use time to recover after having two shoulder surgeries this summer.
All numbers courtesy of Corsica.hockey, @ShutdownLine, or @DTMAboutHeart unless otherwise noted. Please follow them all.