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: Adam Lowry.
Adam Lowry put up an impressive tally of 29 points. His even strength numbers were not as impressive, with only ten goals and nine assists despite receiving top-six even strength ice time (ranked 159th in NHL forwards for EV TOI). However, Lowry was able to put up five goals and nine assists on the power play, despite large resistance of his placement from Jet fanbase.
Lowry performed relatively better than his previous season in producing shots, although a large chunk of that came from power play deployment.
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.
Lowry actually gave the Jets a large chunk of value. His actual impact on the team was fifth highest for forwards, sixth highest at even strength. He’s not a terrible player who provides nothing to the team. That said, he was not used efficiently. A large part of his high value comes from high usage. The 6’7 centre ranks 108th in the entire NHL for over all ice time. That’s high-end second line forward usage.
This is not Lowry’s fault; he takes the ice time he is given. Paul Maurice is not totally at blame either with Bryan Little missing large chunks of the season (although there is some evidence that Petan may have fit top-six role better). Dano may have provided the Jets more value relative to his ice time, but Lowry played the position needing more ice time.
Lowry’s value comes predominately from defensive side of the game, combining his EV Defense and Face Off impacts, Lowry can be a pretty solid player. The issue is his offense…
There are two components to GAR’s offensive impact: direct contributions (OBPM: offensive impact through boxscore stats, like scoring) and indirect contributions (OXPM: offensive impact through tilting the ice and improving team expected goal generation). Lowry is actually quit terrible at the former, as we’ll see in the next section. Historically Lowry has sat around or just below replacement level in OBPM impact.
When you compare Lowry against more shutdown or two-way centres that provide top line (like Kopitar, Bergeron, Getzlaf, and Staal) or second line (Couturier and Zajac) impact, you see a distinct separation between these players and Lowry (and not just in offense). The ice time spread of these players is much smaller than you may think, as well.
Lowry is capable, but he is not worthy of top-six usage, even if he is defensively strong.
Lowry definitely has his uses. For a bottom-six player, he’s strong defensively and improves the Jets overall shots and expected goal differentials well relative for his deployment.
As noted earlier, the issue is his point production. Lowry has yet to eclipse 1.2 points per hour pace after three seasons, where 1.5 is the average pace for a third line player. His point production pace is more along the lines of a fourth line forward or a defenseman. This is not what you wish to see of a skater receiving nearly top-line even strength minutes to over the course of a season. Forwards at Lowry’s total ice time score about fifty per cent more points.
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 Lowry performs in the manner he does.
Lowry’s radar chart is fairly interesting as it does not quite fit what I would expect. Lowry contributes a large number of primary shot assists and passes often, but does not build up play much. Normally one would expect the opposite, high number of build up passes and low primary shot assists, for a forward who makes his living cycling the puck.
The big centre does not shoot often, but his quality distribution is fairly good (as well as shot location).
He does contribute much to transition, but his efficiency in zone exits is average and above average in zone entries.
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.
Adam Lowry is an odd forward, statistically speaking.
He does some things very well. His combination of skating, size, strength, defensive awareness, and gritty play makes him a strong defensive centre, but his lack of offense severely limits his usage up the line-up. Also, his defensive capabilities are not enough to make up for his lack of offensive abilities, unlike players like Sean Couturier.
He’s actually a fairly strong contributor on the power play, being a good net front presence (more for his ability to generate a ton of shots close to the net than screening).
Lowry’s a good player and hard to describe. It’s almost like he’s the world’s best fourth line centre. He’s such a good fourth line centre that you may not wish to limit him on the fourth line, but not good enough to wish in the top-six. His limited –but adequate– abilities make him a capable third line centre, but one would need very particular wingers (like he had with Mathieu Perreault, Michael Frolik, and Lee Stempniak in 2014-2015).
As I’ve mentioned earlier, I’m very pro top-nine roster structure over top-six/bottom-six. This places Lowry in a weird spot, where he’s too good overall for a traditional fourth line but too limited for a scoring third line.
The simplest compromise would be in constructing two third lines, like a 3a and 3b type system. One would need a lot of depth in forward to pull this off, but the Jets are one team that I feel have the players in the system to pull it off with some tweaks and development of their youth.
It would look something like this:
You run three scoring lines, spreading out the top talents of Blake Wheeler, Mark Scheifele, and Mathieu Perreault. Each player would have their line filled with two of Nikolaj Ehlers, Patrik Laine, Bryan Little, Jack Roslovic, Kyle Connor, Nic Petan, and any potential returns from trade or free agency. You then fill a fourth line with capable defensive players like Adam Lowry, Andrew Copp, Marko Dano, and Joel Armia.
You role out the three scoring lines fairly evenly in terms of ice time and deployment usage. However, when the team has high defensive pressure for holding a lead, you change your lines somewhat. You start sitting the three weakest of your top nine players (let’s say Connor, Roslovic, and Petan), turning them into a new fourth line, forming a top-six of with your best six forwards, and also promoting the fourth line into a new third line.
While this may seem like a wild way to do things, it’s not entirely unprecedented, even on the Jets. Paul Maurice deployed his defenders similarly earlier in 2015-2016. The Jets were right-side heavy with Jacob Trouba, Dustin Byfuglien, and Tyler Myers being superior on average to Toby Enstrom, Ben Chiarot, and Mark Stuart. So, whenever the game was high pressured, especially offensively, Maurice sat Chiarot and Stuart, placing Trouba with Byfuglien.
All numbers courtesy of Corsica.hockey, @ShutdownLine, or @DTMAboutHeart unless otherwise noted. Please follow them all.