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This article was published 20/11/2018 (909 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Tyler Myers has just three points in his 19 games this season, a disappointing start to be sure, particularly when compared to a 36-point total during the 2017-18 campaign. His play a year ago helped solidify a Winnipeg Jets’ defensive unit that dealt with injuries to Jacob Trouba, Ben Chiarot, Dmitri Kulikov and Tobias Enstrom.
Point production isn’t usually something I lean on to evaluate defencemen unless those players are expected to create offence. But with Myers, it’s more than just a lack of points; the eye test indicates he’s been struggling in a big way.
As someone who tries to quantify what players do on the ice, I always attempt to check my perceptions against data to see if I’m missing something with a player. Myers has some nice qualities as a defenceman and some glaring weaknesses, which can lead to lots of frustration when you’re watching him, especially when he’s an important piece for the Jets.
During his career, Myers has typically been defensively porous, allowing passes into the slot, and chances from the inner slot or high-danger area. He has struggled to use his lanky frame and huge reach to successfully defend lanes in the defensive zone. So, the best way to judge his play is to look at his on-ice statistics. When Myers is on the ice, are the Jets’ outplaying their opposition?
Comparing the Jets’ performance with Myers on the ice to when he’s not, it’s evident that despite possessing the best high-danger scoring chance differential of any Winnipeg blue-liner — including the fewest allowed per minute played, he lags behind in shots overall, and is well back in passes to the slot.
Most defencemen don’t have a huge influence in how many passes to the slot their team creates offensively, but they have an enormous impact in how many their team allows. For Myers, this is an area where the Jets’ forward group has been quite productive while he’s on the ice, but with his defensive deficiencies, only his partner, Joe Morrow, is on the ice for more successful passes to the slot by the opposition.
Even with that defensive issue though, take note there is no area in actual on-ice play where Myers strays noticeably below 50 per cent, meaning he’s been an even-up player — or at least the Jets haven’t been caved in completely while he’s on the ice. But in terms of goals against, it’s been tough to swallow as the Jets have being outscored 17-10 at at five-on-five situations while Myers is skating.
In terms of shot location, the Jets haven’t yielded much ground while Myers is on, and because of that it should be no surprise that Corsica Hockey has Myers with an expected positive goal differential based on the shots he’s on the ice for, according to its model. Obviously, that model can’t factor in pre-shot movement, but as we mentioned, Myers is close to even there.
Part of the problem Myers has had this season is just bad luck, with the Jets scoring on just 6.45 per cent of their shots while he’s on the ice. That isn’t nearly as bad as the 88.74 per cent save percentage he’s had behind him.
Pre-shot movement is a huge factor in expected save percentage for goaltenders, but netminders Connor Hellebuyck and Laurent Brossoit have saved a whopping 95.06 per cent of the shots they’ve faced at five-on five when Myers isn’t on the ice. It would be unfair to the veteran defenceman to say the tandem should see a 6.33 percentage point drop due to one player. That really doesn’t happen in the NHL.
This means Myers is playing even hockey despite looking out of sorts at times, and while he plays against the lowest level of competition of any regular Jets defender — not including Morrow and Kulikov who are fighting for the sixth defenceman spot — he also faces those battles with the lowest quality of teammates of any Jets defender when you balance out the Corsi-based and time on ice-based competition and teammate metrics from Corsica.
So, what are people to make of Myers, playing a third-pairing role without much roster help, against weak competition, floating evenly but not dominating, and abysmally unlucky through the first quarter of the season? The trouble with Myers is that he runs so hot and cold, with tantalizing talent but glaring flaws.
Any time Myers is really getting grief, he’s probably getting too much grief. Any time Myers is getting heaps of praise, he’s probably getting too much praise. His overall play is fairly consistent, despite some wild variability in results. It makes him a frustrating player to both watch and evaluate.
Andrew Berkshire is a hockey writer specializing in data-driven analysis of the game.