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Photo Credit: © Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

Pilot’s Logbook: Josh Morrissey

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: Josh Morrissey.

Basic Statistics

GP G A P +/- PIM PPG PPP SHG SHP GWG OTG S S%
82 6 14 20 +6 38 1 1 0 0 3 0 99 6.1

Morrissey provided the Jets 20 points and 99 shots despite playing as a rookie with little power play time (60 minutes). The young defender only provided six goals, but hilariously half of them were game winning goals (“clutch!”). A 6.1 shooting percentage should be considered about average for expectations moving forward, although could rise up a bit with power play ice time.

The biggest piece of value Morrissey provided in the box score statistics was in being healthy for 82 games played.

Goals Above Replacement

Goals Above Replacement data courtesy of @DTMAboutHeart. Reminder that GAR is an aggregate statistic, so it is not relative to games played or ice time.

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.

Morrissey came to the Jets and provided what they needed most: a competent left shot defender. Unfortunately, both Dustin Byfuglien and Toby Enstrom had tough years while Tyler Myers was unable to stay healthy, causing the value Morrissey provided to merely diminish the impact of the team losing value from their three top veteran defenders.

At even strength, Morrissey performed as a fringe top-pairing defender, with 5.2 goals above replacement when combining offense and defense. This was good enough to rank him 44th in the NHL last season. It was the additional areas that held Morrissey back from being a bonafide top-pairing defenseman.

A mere 60 minutes of power play time severely limited the potential of gaining impact through those areas and Morrissey’s penalty differential was just “okay” and not enough to push him to the next level. The power play time will be a tough battle for the young left-shot defender. Teams tend to do better with only one defender on the power play, and all the other Jets’ top defenders are highly reputable offensively.

Advanced Metrics

TOI CF% REL CF% G60 A60 P60
1412 50.6 +3.60 0.21 0.47 0.68

Morrissey had the strongest impact on shot differentials between all of the Jets’ regular defenders. A good portion of that is due to Morrissey rarely ever playing without one of Byfuglien and Trouba, who are strong shot differential defenders. But, Morrissey is no anchor and helps those two perform at their best.

While Morrissey has helped the team a great deal offensively by tilting the ice and improving the team’s expected goal generation, the rookie still lacks the scoring punch he was projected to carry in junior.

Microstatistics

Visual is for minutes played in 2015-16 and first half of 2016-17 combined.

As we just noted, Morrissey provided offense more indirectly than directly last season. The visual only contains data from the first half of the season, and Morrissey did improve as the year went on, but the data does connect with the low 5-on-5 point production pace. Morrissey provided a lot of shot volume but could improve upon his game to make his time in the offensive zone produce more goals.

The good news is that Morrissey was only a NHL rookie last season and there was a noticeable positive trend throughout the year.

In breakouts, Morrissey had the highest defensive zone exits per possession of any defender, although was slightly lower in efficiency than Enstrom and most of the Jets right-shot defenders in terms of the those exits being with possession of the puck. In zone entries there seems to be three very clear tiers in performance: the Jets right-shot defenders (Byfuglien, Trouba, and Postma), then Morrissey and Enstrom, and then the AHL fodder the team attempted to dress as depth defenders.

Entry defense also had three clear tiers, but I believe this was more systematically based (ie: Paul Maurice) than talent. The Jets had Dustin Byfuglien defending entries very well, but then everyone else was grouped together afterwards. The only exceptions were Mark Stuart, Nelson Nogier, and Julian Melchiori, who seemed to bleed entries left, right, and centre.

As a puck moving defender, I decided to look a bit into Morrissey’s passes. He definitely moved the puck forward with multiple stretch passes, but rarely did he create offense through passes into the home-plate areas, or into danger areas, or produce low-to-high passes. Typically these type of passes produce high-percentage shots, and begging to develop in these areas will make Morrissey a much more well-rounded player.

Overall you could get an idea of what was going on with Morrissey. He was a rookie and so he played it a bit safe. He got the puck out of the defensive zone, but sacrificed possession sometimes for it. He passed the puck out, but didn’t produce passes through traffic to create scoring chances. He shot the puck, but didn’t drive deeper into the offensive zone to get closer to the net.

That said, we know from Morrissey in junior and in the AHL that he has the ability to produce the offense he lacked this year. It was only his first year so this is just the tip of the iceberg.

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.

Final Thoughts

Morrissey could be a good number two defender for a long while. I do not think he’ll ever project to being a dominant, all-things, number one defender like Dustin Byfuglien once was or Jacob Trouba has become. However, there’s nothing wrong with having a smart, two-way, puck-moving defender like Morrissey as a number two. This just accents the fact that the Jets need to extend Trouba longterm so that they may key in on the young pieces they have now.

Morrissey and Trouba should be a dominant pairing for a long while now. Byfuglien, despite his warts, should give the Jets first-pairing value despite playing behind those two for the next few years.

The questions on the Jets defense comes afterwards.

Enstrom is losing his offensive punch, although he had a bad luck season last year, and is only signed for one more season. Myers has struggled with injuries, although he is a capable #4 defender when healthy. Postma is not much worse than Myers, but isn’t trusted by the Jets’ management and moves to free-agency.

The future is a bit murky for the Jets defensive prospect cupboard as well. Poolman has the tools to be a NHL defender but there are questions on his upside with his age. Niku and Green have upside but they are long shots. Stanley is a long shot as well but I question he even has any upside beyond being a better and taller Ben Chiarot.

At least the Jets have the top end figured out; that’s the hard part… provided they can keep Trouba long term.

All numbers courtesy of Corsica.hockey, @ShutdownLine, or @DTMAboutHeart unless otherwise noted. Please follow them all.


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  • ProfessorPottyMouth

    I think the offence will come for Morrissey, but honestly it’s not what the Jets need most. I though Morrissey was very responsible defensively, and made some great goal-saving plays to bail out his less responsible partners.

  • Travis

    Yaaaaasss! Morrissey! I like that you have him placed higher on than Byfuglien on the impact roster. His is the unsung rookie story of the Jets’ 2016-17 season, which perhaps suits such a quiet, calm, mature defenceman. If anything, I think your text review of him is a little too harsh. Yes, he was a ‘fringe’ first-pair defenceman, and is far from perfect, but this was in his rookie year! How many defence prospects earn a spot on the top-pairing in their first year in the NHL? And he’s clearly gotten better throughout the season. The future is very bright for this kid, and for the Jets’ high-end defensive pairings.

    I remember fondly the game where we hosted Washington. Morrissey’s assignment was to shut down Ovechkin, and he did so very ably – I’m not sure Ovi got a single shot on goal. There is a sequence where Ovi is coming in the Jets’ zone, one-on-one against a backwards-skating Morrissey, who simply reaches in with his stick and disrupts their captains’ control.