Jaden Schwartz is the Blues’ Key Difference Maker This Season

The St. Louis Blues have had a lot of stars young and old(er) alike share the spotlight throughout the first half of the 2014-15 NHL season, but none seem to have a bigger effect towards the team’s overall win totals than Jaden Schwartz. Though he is regularly line-mates with some of the most electric players in the game today, he seems to be one of the cornerstones to the Blues’ impressive offensive efforts led as of late by the Backes, Steen, and Oshie line.

How does a player on a completely separate line have an impact on the Backes line scoring, and what’s the big deal with Jaden Schwartz anyway you ask? Well here we dive into those questions to see exactly what the Jaden Schwartz effect is, and how it has helped the Blues’ gain more wins this season.

 

Oct 2, 2014; St. Louis, MO, USA; St. Louis Blues center Jaden Schwartz (17) passes the puck during the third period against the Minnesota Wild at Scottrade Center. The St. Louis Blues defeat the Minnesota Wild 4-1. (Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports)
Jaden Schwartz uses his high hockey IQ to make plays in all 3 zones. (Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports).

Stats on Stats on Stats

Jaden Schwartz is currently on an 8-game point streak (6G, 6A, 12P, plus-6) dating back to before he was sidelined with a broken foot against the LA Kings on December 18th while blocking a Drew Doughty laser cannon, which is not only impressive because he didn’t miss a beat upon his return, but also because he finished that game and was still a difference maker even with that broken foot. His 8-game point streak is the longest by a Blue this season, yes, not even the dangle-snipe king Vladimir Tarasenko has been able to string together points in 8 straight contests yet this year, although Taro does have 2 separate 7-game point streaks. The team is undefeated (5-0) since he’s returned (and are 28-8-2 with him in the lineup this season), they have scored 29 goals over those 5 games (5.8/ game average), and the power play seems to find better rhythm and more movement while he’s in the lineup.

 

In fact, the Notes’ power play converts on 5.5% more chances while he’s in the lineup (20% without him, 25.5% with him). In addition, and as the below graph shows, Jaden Schwartz helps create more chances for, and less chances against while on the ice. Yes he does have Vladimir Tarasenko and Jori Lehtera at his sides who are just as skilled (if not even more so if that’s possible) and who both have insanely high hockey IQs just like Schwartz, but the facts show that Schwartz is a key piece to the Blues’ winning efforts, and fans must remember that he wasn’t part of the ‘STL’ line for the entire year. Injuries have moved him up and down the lineup as needed, yet his impact for the team has remained constant, he’s just that good.

Schwartz Effect Graph
Jaden Schwartz is among St. Louis’ best forwards, and he creates opportunities in all 3 zones. (War-On-Ice Player Tables)

 

What Does ^THAT^ Even Mean?

What this graph displays is the Corsi (positive or negative) events each Blues team member has created for the team each game (on average) relative to the scoring chances the Blues’ receive with that particular player on the ice. That means those in purple circles see more chances for the Blues than against them while they’re on the ice, which naturally (and as the graph illustrates) should directly correlate to more scoring chances for the Notes team while those same players are out there during their normal shifts. As the graph shows, Jaden Schwartz is among the best on the team in creating chances for the Blues, while minimizing chances against them. It also shows that he has a higher conversion rate than Steen and Tarasenko, based off of less scoring chances generated for him (Schwartz), and he still has almost as many points as both of them (he is tied with Steen with 35 points on the season). Lastly, the graph also shows that Mr. Schwartz and his very talented line mates combine to create more positive plays for the Blues than any other members of the team (that is why their circles are shaded dark purple), which is just one more reason he’s a cornerstone to the team’s overall success.    

May the *Overused Star Wars/Spaceballs Reference* Be With You

All of those ‘fancy stats’ are fine and dandy but to get to brass tax, it’s the intangibles that make Schwartz the amazing play-maker he is. He knows exactly where to be in every zone and situation to be effective, so that he sets himself and his teammates up for prime passes, and easy (or at least easier) goals game in and game out. He has a knack for digging pucks out of corners, and doesn’t back down from anyone ever, which is what makes him electric. His foot speed powers him past the opposition, and his creativity/chemistry with Lehtera and Tarasenko haunt opposing team’s dreams, which is a delight for any Blues fan to behold. Because of this, Schwartz and his line-mates beat down the opposition with their speed and skill, which allows other lines like the Backes, Steen, Oshie line (who have been red hot as of late) to gain more room to make their own creative high-quality plays.

Oct 23, 2014; St. Louis, MO, USA; Vancouver Canucks goalie Ryan Miller (30) blocks the shot of St. Louis Blues left wing Jaden Schwartz (17) during the second period at Scottrade Center.  (Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports)
Schwartz isn’t afraid to battle for pucks in any area of the ice. (Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports)

That, mixed with his amazing team-first mentality, is why he is the difference maker for the Blues, and why the team has been on a tear since his return on January 3rd. The greatest part of the Jaden Schwartz’ effect is that he is still young and up-and-coming in the league, so fans will get to enjoy his inventive and opportunistic playing style for a long time to come. Mixed with Tarasenko and most likely Lehtera as well, Schwartz should provide the Gateway to the West with plenty to cheer for now, and for many years in to the future. The only question that remains to be seen is if this line can continue to dominate when it really matters, the playoffs.

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