Do the Numbers Match the Impression the Jets Made?

Numbers don’t lie (as the TV show says) but they can be misleading at times. Most of the time, though, they do tend to point out the true nature of a player or team and what their strengths and weaknesses are. Often, we find that the hard facts will contradict what we think we know about that player or team, watching them over the course of a week, a month or an entire season.

Like, for instance, the NBA player we’ve been led to believe is ‘clutch’ until we find out that he’s 3 for 21 taking shots in game winning or tying situations on last possessions; how about the NHL player with the reputation as a solid defensive player who turns out to be -21 five on five for the season; or there’s the team with several offensively gifted and productive players who are all well below average in shootout results.

Sometimes numbers can confirm what we believe a player or a team to be. There are a number of statistics that do just that when it comes to the Winnipeg Jets. Some of the more important and telling stats about the team have to do with taking penalties and the Jets ability to kill shorthanded situations.

Although the Jets were only a middling 15th in the league in penalty minutes with 905, they were 9th in number of minor penalties and 11th in penalty kill (PK) time. Coupled with the fact that the Jets were 24th in PK% at 80.1 and you have a recipe for bad results. When you see the Jets actually averaged the same number of shots per game (30.1), both for and against, you can see their goalies would have been facing a larger percentage of difficult shots on average than the opposing goalies would have. Obviously since the Jets have trouble killing penalties, they are going to need to improve their ability to do so, but also avoid the situation altogether by taking fewer minor penalties.

The numbers also tell us the Jets haven’t been as good managing the puck as they could be. They were in the middle of the pack (15th) when it came to giveaways (604) and much lower at 23rd in takeaways (484). Their plus minus of -120 was just 17thin the league. Since they might have to change their defensive system drastically, in order to incorporate more aggressive checking (including a more in-your-face fore check) to cause more turnovers, it might be easier to repeatedly emphasize being responsible with the puck, especially in their own end and reduce the number of giveaways.

Lastly, simple goals for and against statistics also tell us what the team needs to improve, especially when you look at +/- period by period. The Jets were a respectable -21 in GF/A,  but the stats drop off drastically in the critical 3rd period. The team was only -1 in the 1st period, actually +8 in the second, but -28 for the 3rd period. Not surprisingly, the stats show the Jets had difficulty protecting a lead, especially in the 3rd stanza. The Jets winning percentage when leading after 1 was 7th in the NHL at .818, but dropped to 24th at .813 when they took a lead into the 3rd.

Conversely, they didn’t show much of an ability to make a comeback. Their win percentage, when trailing after one, was just .200, a mediocre 18th in the league. When they trailed after 2, the game was all but over, the team only winning 9.7% of those games. They finished 24th in that statistic.

Why were the Jets were so clearly a second period team that faded dramatically in the third? Your guess is as good as mine. Conditioning? Doesn’t seem likely since the team is young and serious conditioning programs are par for the course for all clubs and players in the 21st century. Nerves on a young team as the game got down to a more critical time? Possibly. Is it a matter of a lack of exposure to difficult situations at a high level? That seems more likely.

Whatever the cause of their weaknesses, the Jets do have problems that will need to be addressed if they are to become a more serious contender to make and then compete in the playoffs. You can bet the Jets management team has scoured these and dozens of other statistics to find where they need to improve the most to take the next step and give Winnipeg the Stanley Cup contender that would have the city lose its mind.

Sources: http://www.nhl.com/ice/teamstats.htm#?navid=nav-sts-teams
http://espn.go.com/nhl/statistics/team/_/stat/minor-penalties