Who Gives a Fact? The Winnipeg Jets Should

Winnipeg Jets' Logan Stanley (64) gestures to the crowd after being sent off for fighting against the Toronto Maple Leafs during the third period of NHL action in Winnipeg on Sunday December 5, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Fred Greenslade

“Pfffft. Facts are meaningless. You can use facts to prove anything that’s even remotely true. Facts schmacts.” – Homer Simpson

The longest running TV Dad has a point. Facts CAN prove (or disprove) just about anything. Let’s test it out. Jets pundits continually insist that the Jets are in ‘playoff contention’. I disagree.

FACT: Depending on the algorithm used, the Winnipeg Jets have an 8-12% chance of making the playoffs. For simplicity, let’s say the Jets have a 1 in 10 chance.

FACT: Being ‘in contention’ is defined as “having a good chance of success in a contest”.

Does a 10% chance equate to having a good chance of success? Let’s frame it thusly: Forbes has stated that 1 in 7 Americans have had a threesome (the odds are significantly lower here at the Airport Lounge). Put simply, if the odds of having a threesome are better than the odds of your favourite team making the playoffs – it is not a good chance of success. Facts win.

Let’s see if facts can confirm or refute these other “truths” about the Winnipeg Jets:

1.Logan Stanley can’t hit the Net.

FACT: 39.3% of Lurch’s shots miss the Net. That leads the Winnipeg Jets this season.

Want to guess who led the Jets in this category last season at 34.4%? I’ll give you a moment. The 39.3% mark is good for 12th worst in the NHL this year, so can we please get the big guy some Lasik? Remember, we protected Stanley over DeMelo in the Expansion Draft (also a fact).

2. Mark Scheifele turns the puck over a lot.

FACT: Mark has a registered 54 giveaways this season, tops of any Winnipeg Jet.

Scheifele is tied for 8th in giveaways league wide with the enigmatic Connor McDavid. This comparison inevitably leads to the counterargument: “But Mike, players with high puck possession are prone to more giveaways.” Fair.

What about defensive zone giveaways? Defensive giveaways are less about puck possession and more about bad defensive decision making and awareness. No.55 is 3rd overall in the NHL in this category, sandwiched between Kyle Connor at #2 and Andrew Copp at #4. That means, in a league with 400 or so forwards, the Jets have 3 forwards who are in the Top 5 in defensive zone giveaways. Holy fact!

3. Paul Stastny is a sharpshooter.

In today’s NHL, 15% is a good shooting percentage amongst premium goal scorers. For the purposes of this article, a premium goal scorer is any player that reaches 30 or more goals during the season. And for reference, the average shooting percentage per player rests around 9% give or take +/- 1%.

FACT: Pauly Walnuts currently sits at 19.1%, well ahead of the usual leader in this category– Mark Scheifele.

For context, the former sharpshooting Winnipeg Jet (still hurts) Patrik Laine is currently at 19.5%. We are talking really good numbers here.

For the past 3 years, Stastny has averaged a very respectable 12.7%, and has historically been above average. This level of marksmanship however is an anomaly (especially at this stage of his career). Let’s hope Paul keeps “trucking” along though.

Fun fact: Neal Pionk is shooting at a 2% clip in 2022.

4. The Jets are unlucky this year.

“Luck” is not really a quantifiable premise. The closest metric we have to analyzing luck is our good ‘ol friend ‘AxDiff’ (now available at your local pharmacy). ‘AxDiff’ or ‘Goals Differential Above Expected’ indicates a team is converting or stopping an inordinate number of good chances compared to league average.

FACT: In 2020 the Jets were 2nd overall in AxDiff (24.72), and in 2019, the Jets were once again 2nd (32.18). This year, the Jets sit 21st overall at -6.66.

What happened? Some of this dramatic dip can be explained by weaker goaltending and inefficient shooting (lower shooting percentage), but not all of it (in my opinion). For example, over the past 3 years, the Jets team shooting percentage has been 8.01%, 8.54%, and 7.23% respectively. A dip in 2022 for sure, but not a statistically significant one.

So, while impossible to objectively determine, I submit that the AxDiff cratering is a result some bad luck, or, at the very least a regression to the mean. Hockey Reference says that a negative differential would indicate a team is getting more good chances than its opponent, but is not converting or is allowing more than league norms. This could mean just being unlucky. Not very factual though.

The fact is, Homer Simpson was right. But what have we learned here? Just the facts ma’am, just the facts.

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