Jets’ Penalty Killing Needs to Improve

Posted by Richard Pollock in Columns,Jets Columns,Winnipeg Jets on August 17, 2011 — 2 Comments

When examining the Winnipeg Jets moving forward, a close look at some team statistics demonstrates room to improve in many respects.  Last week we looked at the Jets and the possible effect limiting shots on goal could have on team success. Well, when a team finishes so poorly in the standings there are always more than one or two team issues to rectify.  Another element of the game that the Jets have much room to improve is on the penalty kill.

Here are the Thrashers’ penalty killing rankings over the past four seasons:

Seasons Penalty Kill Percentage Overall NHL Ranking
2007/08 78.8 27th
2008/09 76.0 29th
2009/10 82.2 16th
2010/11 77.5 27th

Once again, Atlanta posted unimpressive totals up and down the charts, aside from an average performance in the 2009/10 season.  Let’s put it this way, 16th out of 30 is nothing to write home about.

Before delving deeper into the players on the penalty kill, let’s see if the team has been preventing shots against on the power play in line with its overall percentage ranking:

Seasons Shots Against Per 60 Minutes of PK Ice-Time Overall NHL Ranking
2007/08 49.9 22nd
2008/09 56.7 28th
2009/10 55.5 25th
2010/11 52.5 21st 

So, it is pretty plain to see this team has been bad however you spin it.

More on the ways to improve after the jump.

Now, the Thrashers did have three coaches over the team’s final four seasons in Atlanta, so this is not a situation like Toronto where a team has been terrible on the penalty kill under the same coaching staff for at least three seasons.

With different coaching staffs having moved through town and an uncertain approach this season (new coach having to acquaint himself with many new and young players), for the purposes of this article, we are going to look at the players that have been most used in the penalty killing department over the past four seasons (most importantly the players still on the Jets roster).

Here are the Thrashers top 6 penalty killers with minutes played for the 2007/08 season:

Players Minutes Played Per Game on PK
Niclas Havelid 3:39
Tobias Enstrom 3:07
Eric Perrin 2:50
Garnet Exelby 2:43
Ken Klee 2:37
Colby Armstrong 2:37

Here are the Thrashers top 6 penalty killers with minutes played for the 2008/09 season:

Players Minutes Played Per Game on PK
Marty Reasoner 3:33
Tobias Enstrom 3:23
Eric Perrin 3:!7
Ron Hainsey 2:53
Colin Stuart 2:42
Jim Slater 2:36

Here are the Thrashers top 6 penalty killers with minutes played for the 2009/10 season:

Players (Position) Minutes Played Per Game on PK
Ron Hainsey 3:46
Marty Reasoner 3:09
Pavel Kubina 2:47
Johnny Oduya 2:30
Chris Thorburn 2:16
Cristoph Schubert 2:14

Here are the Thrashers top 6 penalty killers with minutes played for the 2010/11 season:

Players (Position) Minutes Played Per Game on PK
Johnny Oduya 3:03
Radek Dvorak 2:13
Mark Stuart 2:01
Zach Bogosian 1:53
Andrew Ladd 1:53
Chris Thorburn 1:52

Of all of the above charts, the most interesting with respect to this analysis are the most recent two seasons.  Even so, four of the players in the above two charts (Reasoner, Kubina, Schubert and Dvorak) are no longer with the team.  Clearly there has been turnover with regards to the team’s penalty killers—maybe that lack of familiarity and chemistry is partly to blame for the team’s struggles?  That’s not the point of this article, however.  Instead, we are attempting to determine which players have struggled playing on the penalty kill and which players have had relative success.

Here are the team’s top six penalty killers last season in terms of minutes per game (including Mark Stuart—acquired from Boston along with Blake Wheeler, but whose stats are not divided between teams):

Player Goals Against per 60 Mins of Penalty Kill Time Goals Against per 60 Mins of PK Time when player not on ice
Johnny Oduya 9.35 6.34
Radek Dvorak 4.95 4.42
Mark Stuart 5.12 6.50
Zach Bogosian 7.75 8.70
Andrew Ladd 7.72 8.32
Chris Thorburn 6.99 8.63

Let’s also examine the six players who received the most penalty killing ice time on the Thrashers last season and their respective Relative Corsis (Relative Corsi: Goals, shots on net, missed shots and blocked shots when player on the ice minus goals, shots on net, missed shots and blocked shots when player off the ice):

Player Relative Corsi
Johnny Oduya -15.4
Radek Dvorak -4.6
Mark Stuart -4.4
Zach Bogosian 16.6
Andrew Ladd 1.2
Chris Thorburn -7.8

What have we learned?

Johnny Oduya should almost assuredly be moved off of the team’s top penalty killing unit.  His speed is an asset, however his decision-making can be questioned and the numbers seem to bear that out.  Conversely, Zach Bogosian should see added responsibility on the penalty kill—especially considering his power play ice-time has not increased significantly with the usage of Enstrom and Byfuglien on the first power play unit.

Additionally, Tobias Enstrom’s Relative Corsi has not been a negative on the penalty kill in any of the past four seasons.  He is not a big defender but is quick and has very good hockey sense—all good qualities for usage on the penalty kill.

Mark Stuart’s physical presence and willingness to shot block, as well as improved numbers over his time killing penalties in Boston, leads one to believe he should continue to log penalty killing time.

A top unit of Enstrom and Bogosian and a second unit of Stuart and Oduya may improve the team’s penalty killing efficiency.  This will also allow Dustin Byfuglien to continue to conserve his energy to post very impressive offensive figures on the power play and at five-on-five.

Remember, the team may use Oduya more so early on to increase his trade value—he is an unrestricted free agent next summer and should garner some interest from around the NHL once some of his salary has been paid.

In terms of forwards, of the players signed or traded for by the Jets this off-season, only Tanner Glass really has NHL experience killing penalties and even he only played 1:02 penalty killing minutes per game last season and 45 seconds per game the season prior to that.  Both Eric Fehr and Kendal McArdle did not step foot on the ice on the penalty kill last season.  Expect Glass to log second unit penalty kill minutes this season.

As a result of their limited options, it appears the Jets are going to have to improve on the penalty kill by changing (or mastering) their scheme, as well as internal improvement and added responsibility from some of the team’s young defenders like Bogosian and Enstrom.

As is the case with the team’s shots against total, the only direction the team can really go is up.