It’s Time To Give Tomas Jurco A Chance

Last season, the Detroit Red Wings faced a rash of injuries and were forced to bring up some of their young players ahead of schedule. Among those players was 21-year old Slovakian forward Tomas Jurco. Jurco was able to chip in eight goals and 15 points in 36 games, and drove puck possession with a dominant 54.4% 5v5 ZS-adjusted Corsi For%. Many were excited for what the 6’1″, 203 lb forward could bring to Detroit in the following season.

This season has been a different story, or so many would have you believe. Jurco’s ice-time at 5v5 has dropped a full minute from last season and overall his ice time has dropped from 13:27/game last season to just 11:55/game this season. He struggled with a back injury for part of the season and has only recently re-joined the lineup. However, he’s been stuck on the 4th line with Joakim Andersson and Drew Miller. He has just two goals and 11 points in 43 games after scoring eight goals in 36 games last season. Is Jurco regressing, or are we missing the big picture?

Tomas Jurco’s Comparisons

It’s time for my favorite game! I’ll show you player A and player B’s stats and let you make an objective decision as to who should receive more ice time.

Player 5v5 ZS-adj CF% 5v5 CorC% 5v5 SCF% 5v5 ZSO% 5v5 CorT% 5v5 P/60
A 57.1 50.7 60.2 55.4 50.8 1.5
B 51.7 50.3 52.1 61 51.4 1.3

From this table we see that Player A has a higher Corsi For%, has a higher Scoring Chances For%, plays against a higher level of competition than Player B, plays with worse teammates than Player B, but scores more points per 60 minutes of 5v5 ice time than Player B. You’d be hard-pressed to find a person who would take player B over player A, right? Well player A is Tomas Jurco, and player B is Gustav Nyquist and these are their 5v5 numbers from this season.

(James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports)
(James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports)

I have to state that we are looking at a small sample size of about 440 minutes for Jurco and 700 minutes for Nyquist. However, it’s evident from these numbers that Jurco has driven possession and scoring opportunities far more than Nyquist. In fact, Jurco has 11 points at 5v5 compared to just 15 points for Nyquist, despite Nyquist playing 250 more minutes than Jurco. Nyquist has made his living this season on the powerplay, where he has scored 12 goals and 21 points in only 153 minutes of powerplay ice time. The point of this article isn’t to bash Nyquist. The guy is still electrifying when he has the puck, but what I wanted to show is that Jurco has been extremely effective in the limited minutes he’s received to the point where he deserves to have an opportunity on the top-6 or at least more minutes with Riley Sheahan.

Dynamic Duo: Sheahan and Jurco

This season, Jurco has been extremely effective when paired with center Riley Sheahan. Check out his numbers I pulled from HockeyAnalysis.

Tomas Jurco’s 2o14-2015 5v5 ZS-adjusted stats w/ Riley Sheahan

Teammate TOI Together GF/60 GA/60 CF/60 CA/60 CF%
Sheahan 155:19:00 3.09 1.55 62.58 37.47 62.5

From this table you can see that in the 155 minutes the two have played together, they have absolutely dominated the opposition. They have doubled up the opposition in goals, and have nearly done the same in shot attempts. Five of Jurco’s 11 5v5 points have come in these 155 minutes. When paired with Sheahan, Jurco is averaging 1.93 points/60 minutes at 5v5, a rate that would rank 2nd best on the Red Wings behind only Stephen Weiss’ 2.6 points/60 minutes.

Jurco’s Usage-Adjusted Corsi For%

In fact, Jurco is one of the more impressive players when we strip usage effects away from his Corsi numbers. Domenic Galamini (@mimicohero) runs Own The Puck and he has developed HERO charts, which strip away usage effects such as quality of teammates, quality of competition, and zone starts, allowing us to objectively assess the impact a player has on puck possession. Check out Jurco’s HERO chart which includes data from 2013-2014 and this season.

Screen Shot 2015-02-16 at 2.15.32 PM


You can see that Jurco receives the Ice-Time of a 4th liner, but his usage adjusted Corsi For% is clearly that of a 1st line player. In fact, of the 390 forwards to play at least 660 minutes at 5v5 over the last three seasons, Jurco’s usage-adjusted Corsi For% ranks 46th. That’s better than Alex Ovechkin, John Tavares, Henrik Zetterberg, and Patrick Kane. I’m not advocating that Jurco immediately be promoted to the first line, but you can see that when we strip away the effects that teammates, competition, and zone starts have, Jurco drives puck possession at the rate of a 1st line player. Can you imagine how huge of an asset this would be on the 3rd line when paired with Sheahan? The Wings could use this 3rd line to dictate play for 12-15 minutes a night, making it even tougher for the opposition to generate shots attempts.


Utilizing Jurco Moving Forward

The main reason everyone has been on Jurco’s case is the goal numbers. Jurco has just two goals this season, due to a paltry 2.9% shooting percentage. However, it’s not as if Jurco isn’t shooting the puck. In fact, Jurco ranks 4th on the Wings in 5v5 shots/60 minutes at 8.00, 4th in individual 5v5 Corsi attempts/60 minutes at 14.50, and 3rd in 5v5 scoring chances/60 minutes at 29.6. We are focused on those goal numbers because last season Jurco’s shooting percentage was 10.4%. He’s generating even more chances than he did last season, and at some point we have to expect his shooting percentage numbers to progress back to the mean.

The Red Wings have been using Sheahan with Luke Glendening and Stephen Weiss but it looks like for the game against Montreal, the Wings will move Drew Miller up and Stephen Weiss down to the 4th line. I think if the Wings are looking to get some more scoring from their 3rd line, the Wings have to consider moving Weiss and Jurco up to play with Sheahan and moving Glendening and Miller back down to the 4th line to play with Joakim Andersson. Jurco has been one of the most dominant puck possession forward for Detroit this season and I understand if Babcock is being tougher on him than others, simply because Jurco has the potential to be very good. We’ve seen how well Tatar has responded to Babcock being hard on him, so we have to trust his judgment. However, if the team hits a dry spell on offense, I wouldn’t hesitate to flip Jurco up to the 3rd line or even the 2nd line, because he’s competing at a very high level.


Data from War-On-Ice and HockeyAnalysis

13 thoughts on “It’s Time To Give Tomas Jurco A Chance”

  1. The one thing the numbers don’t explain–why doesn’t Jurco dominate against the other teams 3rd or 4th line players? I mean, there is evidence to suggest that he is a top line ‘type’ player, but in reality, those numbers don’t equate into an on the ice demonstration with similar results.

  2. Nice article. Getting Yandle means giving up quality, unfortunately, so here goes; Howard,Andersson, Ferraro, Kindl for Yandle and a 3rd pick. Ouellett, Pulkkinen and Marchenko up, Gus and Petr ‘Griffin” in net. Am I getting close?

    • Hey Thomas thanks for commenting. I think you might be giving up too much there! I personally think a deal of 2015 2nd round pick, Tomas Jurco, and Ryan Sproul for Keith Yandle. I think that might get the Coyotes to bite (pun very much intended)!

  3. Interesting article. I had/still have really high hopes for Jurco….which I can admit is partly because his youtube clips were pretty incredible. There’s no question he has not been as productive as he could be. Last year Jurco was being put into the same sentence as Tatar and Nyquist and while they have obviously progressed this year, Jurco, partly due to injury, has regressed. I would actually be ok with trading Jurco, something I would not have said this time last year. Whether they end up getting another good defenseman or upgrade at forward, the Wings have a lot of young talent in GR that could replace Jurco if he does not start improving, namely Pulkkinen. A question I have is with all the Wings shootout struggles, why have they not used Jurco in those situations? I hate to use his youtube clips as evidence, but it seems like he would not be a bad option and if he can put the puck in the net during shootout, I’d imagine it would only improve his lacking confidence.

    • Hey Nick, thanks for commenting! I’m actually of a similar mindset to you in that I wouldn’t mind trading Jurco. I’ve entertained the idea of moving him in a package for Keith Yandle. As for the shootouts, Jurco has taken one shootout attempt this season against the Colorado Avalanche and he missed. I definitely agree that he should be given a chance in the shootout, because at this point the Wings can’t do much worse.

  4. After watching last night loss to the Canadiens, I have decided we need to take a look at some sloppy defense plays. They say how great Erickson is at moving the puck but he has to learn to move it to his team and not throw it in front of the net to the opposition. Howard made some great save on the usual wings turnovers.What ever happened to ” Kromwall”. is he slowing down?

    • Hey Philip, thanks for commenting! I agree regarding Ericsson. I think his turnovers have been far more noticeable this season, because the rest of the defensive group isn’t making as many. Kronwall I think has had to shoulder such a huge load that he isn’t really playing his game anymore. He would love to be paired with a steady stay-at-home guy that is defensively sound, which would allow Kronwall to pinch more offensively. I think if Kronner got the chance to play with DDK, they might be very successful, but I’d be reluctant to break up the Quincey-DDK pairing.

  5. I think trading Jurco would be a mistake, if we were to trade with Arizona I think it would be Anderson/ Kindl a 2nd round pick for Yandle, I know I am probably wrong but that is what I would do, I believe Jurco will have a breakout year really soon if not this season then next for sure To me though this makes the most sense

    • Hey LJ thanks for commenting! Unfortunately, I don’t think a package of Andersson/Kindl + a 2nd rounder will be enough for Arizona. In fact, I think it might require Jurco + Kindl + 2nd rounder as a starting point for Yandle, maybe even more.

  6. I get what you are saying to an extent, but there’s one glaring omission to the equation. A player with a shooting percentage of 2.3% doesn’t belong anywhere but on the 4th line. There’s just no way around that stat.

    Jurco has to take better shots and put the biscuit in the basket, or he’s just not going to make it. I know some of that is luck, but good players put themselves into better position to be lucky.

    Nyquist hasn’t been as good lately either, and it’s because he just doesn’t seem to be in the same dangerous areas he was as often earlier in the season. First part of the year he was wide open a lot back side and had a lot of easy goals. Now, not so much. He hasn’t been as open recently.

    Point is, goal scoring and shooting percentage is not magic, and not exactly luck. It’s partly putting yourself in the posiion to be lucky and get goals regularly, and that’s something that right now Jurco either has zero sense for or just can’t physically do because his back is slowing him down. Either way, you can’t put the guy on a scoring line until he can show he can score.

    All the secondary stats like Corsi and Fenwick are interesting and useful, but at the end of the day the game is directly won by goals and things like possesion percentages are only indirect indicators. You have to produce to pay the bills in any business, and Jurco just isn’t right now. Good kid and you probably won’t be incorrect for assuming the scoring touch will develop over time, but right now the results are just horribly lacking. I’m honestly surprised he hasn’t been sent down to G.R. yet this season; he seems like he needs more time on the ice and to get some confidence back. He’s still a young kid and he’s been in a rut all season in the NHL.

    • Hey thanks for commenting! To answer your point, take a look at the scoring chances stat I posted. While Jurco is on the ice, the Wings are generating 29.9 scoring chances per 60 minutes. Individually, Jurco has actually generated 9.2 individual scoring chances per 60 minutes. These are high quality shots that he is personally taking. Nyquist on the other hand is generating 7.05 individual scoring chances per 60 minutes. So Jurco is taking better shots or having better scoring chances than Nyquist, he’s just not finishing. When you have a shooting percentage as low as 2.3% despite the fact that you are generating a high number of individual scoring chances, we expect this to progress back towards a mean shooting percentage of about 8.0%. If Jurco’s shooting percentage were 8.0% this season, we would be talking about Jurco having 6 goals instead of 2. I expect him to progress back towards a mean of 8.0% and we’ll talk about how he’s getting on a hot streak instead of recognizing that this is just progression to the mean.

    • Hey Andrej thanks for commenting. What do you think that deal might look like? I’ve been imagining the Wings trading him to Arizona as part of a package for Keith Yandle

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