Andrew Berkshire

Andrew Berkshire

Andrew Berkshire is a hockey writer specializing in data-driven analysis of the game.

Andrew started writing for the Montreal Canadiens’ blog Eyes on the Prize in 2010, before taking over managing the site in 2012, turning it into SB Nation’s largest hockey community before he left in 2015 to become an independent contractor using SPORTLOGiQ data.

Since then he has written weekly for Sportsnet and RDS, using SPORTLOGiQ’s unique tracking data, while also freelancing for Vice Sports and The Sporting News, contributing to The Point Hockey, and hosting his podcast.

Recent articles of Andrew Berkshire

Stastny a big addition, Forbort not so much

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Stastny a big addition, Forbort not so much

Andrew Berkshire 6 minute read Friday, Oct. 16, 2020

After bringing back Dylan DeMelo on a very team-friendly deal, the Winnipeg Jets looked to the past for inspiration for their next-biggest move of the off-season so far — reacquiring Paul Stastny.

When the Jets had their best shot at a Stanley Cup in franchise history so far, Stastny was a key piece they acquired from the St. Louis Blues to give them depth down the middle. He meshed perfectly with the team, and gave the Jets a punch on their second line that they hadn’t had since Bryan Little’s decline had placed him more in third-line centre territory.

In his previous stint with the Jets, Stastny formed a dynamite trio with Nik Ehlers and Patrik Laine that controlled over 55 per cent of the expected goals at even strength. But Stastny is two years older now, turning 35 before next season begins. Does he still have that much game? Before we find out, let’s look at the Jets’ other addition; unrestricted free agent signing Derek Forbort.

A former first-round draft pick, Forbort has been an NHL regular for four seasons but missed most of last season with a back injury. He went from depth defenceman to Drew Doughty’s most common partner in pretty tough minutes almost right out of the gate in his career, but overall, the results have been mixed.

Friday, Oct. 16, 2020

Jeff Roberson / The Associated Press files
Paul Stastny is returning to the Winnipeg Jets but he’ll be 35 by the time the season starts and it’s likely he won’t make the same offensive contributions he once did. Still, he’s strong defensively and it’s a big upgrade down the middle.

Bruins D-man Krug could be key addition to Winnipeg’s blue line

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Bruins D-man Krug could be key addition to Winnipeg’s blue line

Andrew Berkshire 5 minute read Friday, Sep. 18, 2020

In the continuing search to improve the Winnipeg Jets’ blueline, we’ve gone through what the retention of Dylan DeMelo or the addition of Tyson Barrie might mean for the NHL club. But how about the addition of a bona fide star, instead?

Not that DeMelo and Barrie wouldn’t be significant contributors; all signs point to them as solid fits if the Jets could lure them during the free-agency signing period next month.

But what if Winnipeg general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff made a big splash in free agency and inked the top defenceman available on the market? That's assuming Alex Pietrangelo isn't "the one," since the St. Louis Blues have moved out salary specifically to get him signed to a new contract.

There's growing chatter that the Boston Bruins won't meet the contract demands of Torey Krug, 29, as the perennial 50-point defenceman eyes a big payday after finishing up a four-year contract that averages US$5.25 million per year.

Friday, Sep. 18, 2020

There is talk Boston won't meet the contract demands of Torey Krug. (Jeff Roberson / The Associated Press files)

Tyson Barrie has some flaws, but would improve Jets defence

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Tyson Barrie has some flaws, but would improve Jets defence

Andrew Berkshire 5 minute read Saturday, Aug. 29, 2020

After recently breaking down how well Dylan DeMelo fit into the Winnipeg Jets’ lineup, it’s time to continue our look at players available on the free market this offseason who could help the Jets recapture their competitive window.

The lack of an increasing salary cap ceiling is going to create a crunch where many teams can’t spend much on free agents. That means there may be more players than usual willing to slot into a spot in Winnipeg.

One player who is almost the complete opposite of DeMelo in style, but is worth looking at is Tyson Barrie. Much maligned in Toronto this season, Barrie has a reputation for being all offence and no defence, but the Jets could use a strong transition presence on the blueline to get the puck to their dynamic forwards.

Is Barrie’s reputation accurate? Let’s break things down the same way we did for DeMelo and see how he would fit relative to the Jets’ biggest weaknesses.

Saturday, Aug. 29, 2020

Nathan Denette / The Canadan Press
Maple Leafs defenceman Tyson Barrie (94) turns hard with the puck as Arizona Coyotes right wing Phil Kessel (81) defends during first period NHL hockey action in Toronto on Tuesday Feb. 11, 2020. Barrie is in a strange spot. The Maple Leafs

Who’s a fit on Jets’ blue line? Hello, DeMelo

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Who’s a fit on Jets’ blue line? Hello, DeMelo

Andrew Berkshire  5 minute read Friday, Aug. 14, 2020

The Winnipeg Jets face another trying off-season to stay competitive in the NHL’s Western Conference and provide goalie Connor Hellebuyck with more help from the skaters in front of him. 

The Jets struggled during the 2019-20 season on the defensive side of the puck, losing Jacob Trouba, Dustin Byfuglien, and, to a lesser extent, Ben Chiarot, in one fell swoop. However, the team does have some level of flexibility to address those concerns prior to puck drop for the 2020-21 campaign.

Unlike the summer of 2019 when the Jets needed to make big financial decisions on Trouba and scoring wingers Patrik Laine and Kyle Connor, the only restricted free agent due for any kind of significant raise is forward Jack Roslovic. There’s no way he negotiates big money like the others did.

Some care needs to be taken for new contracts for Laine, Adam Lowry, Andrew Copp and Neal Pionk in 2021, but the Jets have some cap room to work with and roster spots to fill with many unrestricted free agents on the roster.

Friday, Aug. 14, 2020

Codie McLachlan / The Canadian Press files
Jets defenceman and trade-deadline acquisition Dylan DeMelo, right, is an unrestricted free-agent this summer.

A few bright spots amid gloom after Jets’ quick exit

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A few bright spots amid gloom after Jets’ quick exit

Andrew Berkshire 5 minute read Friday, Aug. 7, 2020

Based on the underlying numbers coming into the series, this result for the Winnipeg Jets was likely inevitable. It was only Connor Hellebuyck, some talented scorers, and elbow grease throughout the lineup that kept the Jets punching above expectations all season long despite coming into the season with Josh Morrissey and a bunch of question marks on defence.

Viewed from a wide angle in retrospect, bowing out in four games to the Calgary Flames isn’t a bad result. But for a team that is only shortly removed from being a Stanley Cup contender, the loss still clearly stings.

Even worse is imagining what might have been different had Mark Scheifele and Patrik Laine not been injured in Game 1.

Aside from the injuries, what went wrong for the Jets against the Flames?

Friday, Aug. 7, 2020

Connor Hellebuyck cut down his rebound rate by about eight per cent, but the Flames owned too much territory in front of him in the series.(Jason Franson / The Canadian Press)

Slight difference in the differentials

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Slight difference in the differentials

Andrew Berkshire 6 minute read Saturday, Aug. 1, 2020

Hockey has returned and the Winnipeg Jets are set to begin their play-in series against the Calgary Flames on Saturday.

After nearly five months off from hockey, it’s tough to know how much of the regular season’s play will translate to the these games, but in order to give us at least somewhat more recent data to pull from, we’re going to limit today’s analysis to only games from January 1 onward.

Since that time, how do the Jets stack up against the Flames? To start with, let’s break down the differentials.

Following the Winnipeg Jets this season, it’s been obvious throughout that even-strength has been a struggle. For the most part, the Jets have been startlingly outplayed from the most important areas of the ice, and depended on the exemplary play of goalie Connor Hellebuyck and the high-end talent of their top forwards to swim upstream and battle for wins.

Saturday, Aug. 1, 2020

TREVOR HAGAN / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES
Winnipeg Jets’ Bryan Little and Neal Pionk celebrate after Little scored the game winning goal in overtime on Calgary Flames’ goaltender David Rittich at the Heritage Classic at Mosaic Stadium in Regina last fall.

Jets’ offence needs to play better defence

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Jets’ offence needs to play better defence

Andrew Berkshire 5 minute read Friday, May. 15, 2020

It’s been so long since the NHL’s 2019-20 season was put on hold that watching hockey is starting to feel like a faint memory. All we can do now I suppose, is keep the dream alive that we’ll get some semblance of playoffs.

If the season does resume in some form or another, the Winnipeg Jets are in good position to find themselves in the playoff picture, despite clearly being a fairly flawed team overall.

Connor Hellebuyck has held the team’s defensive game together with gum, Popsicle sticks and a bit of duct tape — a Hart Trophy-level season that guarantees a Vezina nomination and may even guarantee a win. But clearly there’s more that can be done to help the team round things out.

With the benefit of time to reset physically and mentally, the Jets will want to return to the ice like they were shot out of a cannon and capitalize on the strong position they’ve put themselves in.

Friday, May. 15, 2020

JOHN WOODS / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES
Winnipeg Jets’ Tucker Poolman scores the game-tying goal against Arizona Coyotes goaltender Darcy Kuemper in March.

Goaltending, offensive skill kept defensively challenged Jets alive

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Goaltending, offensive skill kept defensively challenged Jets alive

Andrew Berkshire 5 minute read Friday, Apr. 17, 2020

After rattling off four straight wins before the season went on hold, it’s difficult to figure out what might have been with the Winnipeg Jets, a team that seemed to go against all odds all season long on its push into a playoff spot.

Arguably the most unlikely team to be in contention, the Jets of 2019-20 are — or maybe were — a team of stark contrasts. With that in mind, let’s take a look at the biggest weaknesses the team faced this season and its biggest strengths.

Let’s start with the weaknesses:

The axes in the graphs are set at league averages to give context to how far off the Jets are, positively or negatively.

Friday, Apr. 17, 2020

Connor Hellebuyck's ability to stop dangerous shots has been the biggest reason why the Jets were able to stay in the playoff hunt. (John Woods / Winnipeg Free Press files)

Hellebuyck, Laine soar statistically

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Hellebuyck, Laine soar statistically

Andrew Berkshire 5 minute read Friday, Apr. 3, 2020

The 2019-20 NHL season is currently on hold and it’s anyone’s guess when and if it will resume.

So, let’s take a moment to look back at how things have played out in a season that looked very precarious for the Winnipeg Jets from the outset.

From the trading of Jacob Trouba, to the loss of Ben Chiarot and Tyler Myers in free agency, to the Dustin Byfuglien decision to ponder his future in hockey, the Jets started the season on their back foot defensively. Despite those moves, the team never let up throughout the campaign.

At the moment the season was put on pause, the Jets had control of the first wild-card spot in the Western Conference despite all prognostications and expectations. So, lets have a look at the players who stepped up the most compared to last season to get them where they were.

Friday, Apr. 3, 2020

Connor Hellebuyck’s save percentage split by where the shots are coming from is a huge deal. He is one of the rare goalies to post improvement in every area. (Jason Franson / The Canadian Press files)

Wheeler stepping it up down stretch

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Wheeler stepping it up down stretch

Andrew Berkshire  4 minute read Friday, Mar. 6, 2020

With five teams vying for two wild-card spots in the Western Conference playoff race, the playoffs are far from a guarantee for the Winnipeg Jets.

One of the biggest reasons the Jets have been able to stick around in that pack pushing for the playoffs has been a resurgent second half of the season from team captain Blake Wheeler.

Before the season began, I wrote about troubling signs in Wheeler’s game — identifiers that showed things were slowing down for him offensively and his on-ice impacts were falling off as well.

In the first half of the season that trend seemed to be holding steady, but since the calendar switched to 2020… let’s say things have changed.

Friday, Mar. 6, 2020

Jason Franson / The Canadian Press FILES
When Winnipeg Jets captain Blake Wheeler is on the ice the team controls nearly 61 per cent of the slot passes.

Eakin not the player he was, but could help push Jets into playoffs

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Eakin not the player he was, but could help push Jets into playoffs

Andrew Berkshire 5 minute read Saturday, Feb. 29, 2020

On the edge of making the playoffs all season long, the Winnipeg Jets approached the NHL’s trade deadline as bargain buyers. In my opinion, GM Kevin Cheveldayoff hit a home run in acquiring Dylan DeMelo, but he also made a pretty good low-cost deal with the Vegas Golden Knights to bring in Cody Eakin in exchange for a conditional fourth-round draft pick that could become a third-round pick if the Jets make the playoffs or re-sign Eakin in the off-season.

Eakin saw his production crater in Vegas this season after scoring 22 goals and topping 40 points last year, so it makes sense that he was on the trade block and relatively cheap to acquire, but what does he bring to the Jets going forward, and is there a chance he bounces back to his previous form?

Well one thing is for sure: Eakin is nowhere near the impact player on possession that DeMelo is. In fact, he has been getting worse from the inner slot over time, while maintaining incredibly bad impact on slot passes for and against on a team that dominates both.

Looking at how he’s performed and how his game is trending from an on-ice perspective, it’s no surprise that the Golden Knights were looking to move in a different direction. However, we know from experience that on-ice statistics don’t tell us everything we need to know about a player and situational skill sets can allow a player to be effective in an insulated role.

Saturday, Feb. 29, 2020

New Winnipeg Jets forward Cody Eakin scored 22 goals in Las Vegas last season. (Jeffrey T. Barnes / The Associated Press files)

DeMelo’s value to Jets goes well beyond unimpressive offensive numbers

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DeMelo’s value to Jets goes well beyond unimpressive offensive numbers

Andrew Berkshire 5 minute read Friday, Feb. 21, 2020

The eminently quotable Paul Maurice referred to Dylan DeMelo’s first game as a Winnipeg Jet as pure “coach’s porn." Frankly, I don’t think it should be surprising to anyone that Maurice loves the addition of the 26-year-old defenceman.

You could be forgiven for thinking that DeMelo’s zero goals this season indicate that he’s been struggling a bit. He really doesn’t bring much offence directly and you shouldn’t expect him to. However when I saw this trade and how little the Jets gave up to acquire him, I was shocked at the value Kevin Cheveldayoff was able to extract here — especially considering the returns inferior and older defencemen in Marco Scandella and Brendan Dillon were able to bring in to their old teams.

Two seasons ago when DeMelo was acquired by the Senators in the Erik Karlsson trade, he was a player I felt would be an underrated part of the deal, as he was trending up rapidly as a strong defensive presence — and even though I was high on him, I didn’t expect him to be as strong as he has been since then.

Last season DeMelo was the top play driver overall among the Senators’ defensive core, with the caveat that he wasn’t facing the competition level that Thomas Chabot was. That level of performance alone would have been easily worth the third-round pick the Jets gave up in the trade this week to acquire him, but his on-ice impact this year is even better.

Friday, Feb. 21, 2020

DeMelo (12) celebrates with his new teammates after defeating the Ottawa Senators. (Fred Chartrand / The Canadian Press)

Connor a proven goal scorer, but rest of his game might be 'empty calories'

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Connor a proven goal scorer, but rest of his game might be 'empty calories'

Andrew Berkshire  5 minute read Friday, Feb. 14, 2020

It’s fairly common knowledge at this point in analytics circles that Patrik Laine is known as a player who doesn’t have great underlying numbers despite his offensive prowess. He gets a lot of criticism when the production isn’t there because of that.

The amount of attention Laine soaks up acts as a bit of a shield for other forwards on the Winnipeg Jets who have similar profiles — and for whatever reason there are a few of them. Centre Mark Scheifele, for example, hasn’t been a possession driver for a few years now, getting by on offensive talent and control of passes to the slot.

The third member of that top line though, doesn’t really get talked about that much outside of what he does well.

Kyle Connor is an excellent net-front player — a top-line offensive producer who has blossomed into a sure fire 30-goal scorer. Certain analytics, however, don’t shine on him too kindly.

Friday, Feb. 14, 2020

Karl B DeBlaker / The Associated Press files
There are limitation in Jets forward Kyle Connor’s defensive game but he’s a force in the offensive zone.

Young Niku still needs a lot of seasoning

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Young Niku still needs a lot of seasoning

Andrew Berkshire 4 minute read Friday, Feb. 7, 2020

The Winnipeg Jets could have benefited from Sami Niku breaking into the NHL last season as the impact player he was in the American Hockey League last season. Over 30 NHL games between various call-ups he had a decent shot to make his case, but wasn’t able to stay with the big club.

This season with big changes on defence, the expectations were that Niku would make the team and carve out a permanent spot relatively early. That has not been the case.

Spending some extra time in the AHL this season, Niku has only recently cracked the NHL lineup on what appears to be a full-time basis; getting bigger and bigger minutes since joining the team in early January.

Niku has been a dominant force in the AHL since he joined the Manitoba Moose in the 2017-18 season as a 21-year-old. Now 23, has he finally found a way to translate that success from the AHL to the NHL?

Friday, Feb. 7, 2020

TREVOR HAGAN / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS files
Jets defenceman Sami Niku starred in the AHL but is struggling to keep pace in the big leagues.

If Jets can’t beat Blues, playoffs won’t matter

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If Jets can’t beat Blues, playoffs won’t matter

Andrew Berkshire 5 minute read Saturday, Feb. 1, 2020

The Winnipeg Jets have an uphill battle to either outpace the Pacific Division teams for a wild card spot or catch the Dallas Stars for the last guaranteed spot in the Central Division.

No matter which route proves most favourable, the road to crawling their way back into contention includes Saturday night’s game vs. the Western Conference leading St. Louis Blues, which is also a likely first-round matchup if the Jets do climb back into the playoff picture.

The reigning Stanley Cup champions and last season’s first-round opponents for the Jets have had a very different regular season than they experienced in 2018-19, where they bottomed out before storming back in the second half as the league’s hottest team entering the playoffs.

This season, the Blues have been at the top of the conference for most of the season, relying on strong goaltending from sophomore starter Jordan Binnington and backup Jake Allen. Binnington has struggled of late, but when accounting for the difficulty of shots faced, he has been among the league’s best this season.

Saturday, Feb. 1, 2020

Dilip Vishwanat / The Associated Press
Jets captain Blake Wheeler fights St. Louis Blues defenseman Alex Pietrangelo (left) and winger David Perron for the puck. It’s an uphill road to playoff success and it runs through St. Lou.

Answer to Jets’ current woes is located in the slot

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Answer to Jets’ current woes is located in the slot

Andrew Berkshire 5 minute read Friday, Jan. 24, 2020

After holding on to a playoff position, against all odds, for most of the season, the Winnipeg Jets limped into the All-Star break on a four-game losing streak, three points out of the last wild-card spot held currently by the Vegas Golden Knights.

The Jets do have a game in hand on Vegas, but losing the advantage that they’ve had for much of the season in banking points to stay ahead of the rabble looks like it might be really costly.

The ground falling out from under the Jets was something that many have predicted, as they’ve certainly punched above their weight for large portions of the season. It's something they managed last year as well, especially the top line.

Not too long ago, the team appeared to be trending upwards, or at least levelling off at even-strength, hovering near 50 per cent in shot quality and quantity for a nearly 20-game stretch. So what’s happened since?

Friday, Jan. 24, 2020

David Banks / the Associated Press
Chicago Blackhawks right-winger Patrick Kane skates in unmolested on Jets goaltender Connor Hellebuyck.

Jets need a lot more from Morrissey to keep playoff hopes alive

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Jets need a lot more from Morrissey to keep playoff hopes alive

Andrew Berkshire 6 minute read Friday, Jan. 17, 2020

It’s no secret that among the positive surprises on the Jets this season, Josh Morrissey hasn’t been one of them. Losing both his defence partner Jacob Trouba and the defensive depth that supported the Jets’ top pairing from last season, Morrissey has seemed crushed under the weight and pressure of being the lynchpin of the Jets’ defence for much of the season.

The emergence of Neal Pionk has been a bright spot that has allowed the Jets to remain competitive for a playoff spot on the back of a brilliant season from Connor Hellebuyck, but if the Jets hope to be anything more than an easy out in Round 1, they’re going to need a lot more out of Morrissey.

Looking at what he was able to accomplish last season, it’s a bit startling how much he’s struggled this season — or at least how much the Jets have struggled with him on the ice.

Morrissey’s on-ice differentials are worse in every area. He’s only managed to stem the bleeding a fair amount in terms of slot passes, but the shot-based metrics are rough.

Friday, Jan. 17, 2020

Josh Morrissey has seemed crushed under the weight and pressure of being the lynchpin of the Jets’ defence for much of the season. (Tony Gutierrez / The Associated Press files)

Jets’ top five forwards among league’s best shooters, passers

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Jets’ top five forwards among league’s best shooters, passers

Andrew Berkshire 5 minute read Friday, Jan. 10, 2020

After dropping recent home games against the Montreal Canadiens and Toronto Maple Leafs, the Jets travelled to Eastern Canada and took some revenge.

Despite finishing up the road trip through half the Atlantic Division with a close loss to the Boston Bruins Thursday, it was a pretty successful week for a Jets team that had been trending a bit downwards of late.

The wins against the Habs and Leafs kept the Jets in a wild-card playoff spot, a precarious position the team will have to fight tooth and nail to maintain as the season drags on through the second half.

It’s startling how quickly expectations can change but after being a Cup contender in recent seasons, making the playoffs at all this season should be seen as a pretty big accomplishment for the Jets. Connor Hellebuyck will be the biggest reason for it if the team does make it, but there are other players who deserve some credit, as well.

Friday, Jan. 10, 2020

The Jets’ top shooter this season is Kyle Connor, who is eighth in goal-scoring in the NHL. (David Zalubowski / The Associated Press files)

Faceoffs, failed dump-outs killing Jets penalty-killing

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Faceoffs, failed dump-outs killing Jets penalty-killing

Andrew Berkshire 6 minute read Friday, Jan. 3, 2020

This season has been going better for the Winnipeg Jets than most experts expected. The team has rallied around its signature playing style to insulate a relatively unremarkable defensive group and Connor Hellebuyck has papered over most of the defensive weaknesses that remain.

Until the last five games, the Jets were trending upwards by most measures and, although they’re in a bit of a rut at the moment, their season-long outlook is much more positive now than it was coming out of training camp.

For the most part, things have worked out for the Jets, but there is one area where they have really struggled: killing penalties.

Currently the Jets are killing just 71.5 per cent of the power plays they’re giving opponents, the worst mark in the league this season and the worst penalty-kill percentage in the NHL over the last 10 seasons. It’s unlikely it stays that low, since the worst penalty kill other than the Jets over the decade was last year’s Chicago Blackhawks at 72.7 per cent — and the Blackhawks over the last few years have been the single-worst defensive team in the league.

Friday, Jan. 3, 2020

Billy Hurst / The Canadian Press files
Winnipeg Jets defenceman Josh Morrissey (right) skates with the puck as he is pressured by a St. Louis Blues forechecker.

Jets plugging along despite injuries, off-season departures

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Jets plugging along despite injuries, off-season departures

Andrew Berkshire 6 minute read Friday, Dec. 27, 2019

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about how the Jets’ overall season statistics were hiding the fact that in recent weeks they had started to turn their season around. The squad had started to produce similar underlying numbers at even-strength compared to the season before. That, along with Connor Hellebuyck’s phenomenal goaltending appears to have them headed towards another playoff spot despite losing more than half of last season’s defence core.

Since that turnaround started around mid-November we can break things down even further and see which players on the roster have been driving that change in performance. We’ll split forwards from defencemen and include all players who have played at least 100 minutes since Game 20 of the season.

ForwardsInterestingly, the current top line of Mark Scheifele centring Patrik Laine and Kyle Connor is performing in a very similar way to past years where Blake Wheeler was on that line instead of Laine — outplayed pretty significantly in the shots department but keeping complete control of the dangerous passes and, as a result, producing some decent results.

The shot shares that line produces is a bit troubling, but this has been something that Scheifele, in particular, has been able to do for years now, and whether it’s his pure talent level or something that statistics haven’t accurately measured yet, he continuously outperforms his on-ice expected goals-for percentage.

Friday, Dec. 27, 2019

Winnipeg Jets center Mark Scheifele (55) and Minnesota Wild Nico Sturm (7) battle for the puck in the second period of an NHL hockey game Saturday, Dec. 21, 2019, in St. Paul, Minn. (AP Photo/Andy Clayton-King)

Little changes have made a huge difference in Ehlers’ game

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Little changes have made a huge difference in Ehlers’ game

Andrew Berkshire 5 minute read Friday, Dec. 20, 2019

Sometimes the slightest change in fortune makes all the difference in hockey.

Last season, Nikolaj Ehlers was one of best Jets on the ice by the underlying numbers. Despite his 21-goal season — his third straight hitting the 20-goal threshold — from a points perspective, it was a little underwhelming for him.

Ehlers was feeling the pressure to produce last season after disappointing play in two straight playoffs, and coming off of two straight 60-point seasons, his 37 points in 62 games likely didn’t prove what he wanted to. Even adjusting to an 82-game season, Ehlers’ pace would have netted him only 49 points, undeniably less than what’s expected of him.

This season however, Ehlers has already piled up 27 points in 35 games, a 63-point pace right in line with the offensive performance he’s expected to give the Jets. Impressively, Ehlers has managed to get back to first-line production despite not getting much on the power play. His three points on the power play would see him need 82 games just to match his power play production from last season in 62 games, which was already a career low.

Friday, Dec. 20, 2019

Nikolaj Ehlers has shrunk the area of the ice he likes to take shots from overall in order to get more chances from the high slot. (John Woods / Winnipeg Free Press files)

Jets have weaknesses, but are playoff bound

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Jets have weaknesses, but are playoff bound

Andrew Berkshire 5 minute read Friday, Dec. 13, 2019

The Winnipeg Jets are nearly 40 per cent of the way through their 2019-20 regular-season schedule and remain solidly in the playoff picture.

Connor Hellebuyck deservedly gets the lion’s share of the credit for that, since the Jets have been outshot, out-chanced, out-passed and outplayed both at even-strength and overall.

That the team keeps gutting out wins and rarely seems to be out of games is a credit to its effort level and mental fortitude, but is there more going on there? Season totals can give us an understanding of how a team has played overall, but it’s tough to see trends in them.

The Jets certainly started the season on a relatively poor note when it comes to outplaying their opponents, but since then, how much have things changed? Is this a team that was allowed to get its wobbly legs under itself while Hellebuyck held them up straight and is now improving down the stretch? Let’s find out.

Friday, Dec. 13, 2019

The biggest problem area for the Winnipeg Jets this season has been the inner slot, where the team has struggled to control play. (Paul Sancya / The Associated Press)

It’s early, but Hellebuyck looks like a lock for a Vezina nod

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It’s early, but Hellebuyck looks like a lock for a Vezina nod

Andrew Berkshire 5 minute read Saturday, Dec. 7, 2019

The Vezina Trophy is notoriously one of the most difficult NHL awards to get right when it comes to determining who should be the winner.

Goaltending is tough to evaluate at the best of times, and with just 31 busy NHL general managers voting on the award — GMs who would probably admit they struggle to evaluate their goaltending — often the awards seems to go to whoever has the best save percentage or, sadly, the most wins.

Having said that, we’re in a better spot now than when the Vezina would always go to the goaltender with the lowest goals-against average, but we can still greatly increase our understanding of the position.

So with that in mind, even if it’s way too early, let’s break down the best goaltenders in the NHL so far this season and what makes them the best.

Saturday, Dec. 7, 2019

Winnipeg Jets goaltender Connor Hellebuyck has returned to his Vezina-nominated form from two seasons ago. (John Woods / Winnipeg Free Press files)

Pionk proving to be valuable addition to Jets’ blue line

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Pionk proving to be valuable addition to Jets’ blue line

Andrew Berkshire 4 minute read Friday, Nov. 29, 2019

A big part of this season’s success for the Winnipeg Jets has been getting a lot out of players who wouldn’t normally be put in tough situations. The one player who might exemplify this most is Neal Pionk.

Acquired as part of the return in the trade that sent Jacob Trouba to Broadway, it would have been crazy to expect Pionk to take up the second-most minutes on the blue line, but that’s exactly how he’s being used.

Pionk played the second-most minutes on the New York Rangers’ blue line last year, but in doing so he was soundly eviscerated on the defensive end. So, he looked like a depth addition for the Jets to be put in a situation where he was most likely to succeed.

On the surface, Pionk’s performance this season looks pretty decent, with the Jets controlling 51.9 per cent of the shot attempts while he’s on the ice, and 50.6 per cent of the shots on goal. Those numbers rank third and second-best respectively on the Jets’ blue line among players with 100 or more minutes played at even-strength, but things get dicier when you look at shot quality.

Friday, Nov. 29, 2019

(AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)
Winnipeg Jets defenceman Neal Pionk was the main piece obtained by Winnipeg in their trade of defenceman Jacob Trouba with the New York Rangers in June.