Quick Numbers: Jets should change up the top-four

Updated: January 11, 2018 at 1:01 am by Garret Hohl

In addition to my normal, long-form analysis with Behind the Numbers, we will be adding a new series to Jets Nation called Quick Numbers. In these posts I’ll just be putting up some quick numbers and/or graphics related to Jet-centric topics.

Gary Lawless of TSN raised some points about switching up the top four alignment for the Winnipeg Jets, and frankly I agree. Here is a quick demonstration why.


The above graph is XPM which is expected goals relative to a replacement level player but adjusted for usage. Expected goals is a shot differential like Corsi or Fenwick, but the shots are weighted by shot quality factors, such as shot distance, angle, and the shooter’s history. XPM takes this another step and adjusts for usage, like linemates, linematching, zone starts, coaches, and schedule.

In terms of overall impact, I will always be quick to defend that Dustin Byfuglien actually improves more than he hurts. I will always be quick acknowledge Byfuglien does indeed hurt the team defensively. He still is a legitimate top-pairing defender and I’m glad he’s on the Jets.

That said, Jacob Trouba is turning into a bonafide potential super-star. Trouba is literally fourth in the entire NHL for defenders by this metric! While this metric is not meant to be used as a holistic, all-assuming statistic, it is a major input for one. DTM’s WAR statistic uses XPM to account for 52% of a defenders even-strength offensive impact and 100% defensive impact. The missing pieces are things like a player’s scoring, penalty differential, shot volume, and other individual contributions.

We are given three options here with this information:

Option one would be to keep the status quo, and increase the Enstrom-Trouba pairing’s ice time. Trouba has been the Jets best right-shot defender relative to ice time and Tobias Enstrom has been the best on the left side.

Option two would be a power overload. Recombine the Jets top two defenders with Trouba on his off-hand side with Byfuglien and watch that paring dominate. Of course, this would cause the second pair to suffer as one of Josh Morrissey or Enstrom would be on their off-hand side.

The final option would then be what Lawless brought up, with swapping right hand shots for the pairings. The Jets spread out their talent more efficiently this way, but there is another positive that comes out of this combination: the return of Buffstrom.

As the graph above (and simple eye-test) shows, Byfuglien’s strength is creating chances for the Jets and improving their goal scoring. Unfortunately Byfuglien’s offense comes at a cost at defense. Enstrom on the other hand is nearly the polar opposite. While not as effective as the Chris Tanev or Marc-Edouard Vlasic elites, Enstrom is the best defensive defender the Jets have.

There of course is also the talk of Byfuglien’s ice time. Byfuglien is too effective overall to bench, but his effectiveness has been hurt by playing huge minutes and playing relatively less conservatively than in 2014-15. This is one way to control his minutes while trying to reel Big Buff back a step, while still acknowledging he is still a great asset to the team.

Those are my quick thoughts. What say you?