Now, you saw the details of the business and the massive contract Jones is set to sign next week – eight-year-old, $ 9.5 million per season. That would make Jones the third highest paid defenseman in the National Hockey League behind Erik Karlsson and Drew Doughty. Jones isn’t the third best defenseman in the NHL, but that’s not how it works. Karlsson and Doughty aren’t in the top three either.
There is no shortage of debate as to whether the Hawks gave up too much to get Jones or whether he is worth the massive sum of money Chicago is about to pay him, but for the sake of this article, let’s just assess Jones in as a player. . He is one of the most polarizing in the league, exceptionally talented but flawed at the same time. Labeled as elite by some and downright bad by others. My take, far from hot, is that it falls somewhere in between.
You may have read that the analytics paint a pretty bleak picture of Jones. Well, the funny thing about analysis is that a certain degree of interpretation is required. Analytics never say one thing or another about a player. Data is collected, modeled, interpreted and presented. Much like scouts who watch videos, analysts whose primary source of analysis comes from studying data may have different opinions about a player depending on what information they use and how they interpret it.
I don’t believe Jones is an elite advocate, as some who use traditional valuation methods believe. I don’t think Jones is a below average defender as some believe whose analysis is based on data. My take on Jones is that he’s a top defenseman who ranks comfortably well above average in several key performance areas.
Using Sportlogiq’s archetypal player model, here’s a look at Jones’ percentile ranks in key performance areas using a two-year weighted average.
These are not the kind of numbers that justify a long term contract at $ 9.5 million per year. Nor are these numbers crying below average. Let’s break it down into more digestible terms.
Jones has seen his points-per-game total drop over the past two seasons to 0.52 from 0.64 in the previous three seasons. Despite a year of decline last season, Jones still ranked 26th in scoring chances among even-matched qualified defensemen, by 60 minutes. Jones is still an elite skater (we’ll get to that in a minute) who placed 17th in scoring chances and 37th in expected goals. Again, not the cream of the crop, but still impressive in a season that was likely an outlier for a Blue Jackets side struggling to generate offense.
The Blackhawks are a top-notch team who like to trade chances in transition and Jones will likely benefit offensively by playing a system quite different from the traditionally defensive approach at Columbus. The Hawks placed in the top five in rush odds and goals last season. If Jones has carte blanche to get into the game, Hawks fans should expect his offensive numbers to increase.
In total, 174 defenders played at least 500 evenly minutes last season. Seventeen had a worse expected goals-against rate than Jones who was on the ice for 2.85 goals against per 60 minutes. Jones’ expected goals for a 44.6% percentage ranked 144th. Not really encouraging. To make matters worse, only four teams had a worse goals-against rate than the Blue Jackets last season and Chicago was one of them. Jones’ new team were worse defensively than their old team, so there will be nowhere to hide in Chicago.
That said, quantifying the defensive impact is not as straightforward as evaluating the numbers “on the ice”, even the isolated impact. The reality is that there are far too many variables that currently cannot be factored into to say with 100% certainty how good or bad a player is defensively. Know what you don’t know – and there’s still a lot we don’t know about assigning a defensive impact value to hockey. Is it possible to be more right than wrong? Absoutely.
What we do know is that the Blue Jackets gave up a lot more than they created in terms of scoring opportunities with Jones on the ice last season. The same can be said of all of Columbus’ top four defensemen. Columbus was a bottom five team. Rod Langway in his prime would have struggled to post an expected positive goal share.
Jones is by no means an elite defender, but neither is he a big handicap. Last season, Jones ranked 29th in blocked passes every 60 minutes evenly. No, that doesn’t mean his overall defensive play is great, but it’s tangible proof that a player has a positive impact on play away from the puck. Adam Pelech, MacKenzie Weegar, and Jaccob Slavin – all excellent defensive defenders – placed in the top three by that measure.
Jones is also not a handicap when it comes to returning the puck. Evenly matched, Jones returned the puck on 11.4% of his possession in the defensive zone, 32nd among defensemen qualified. Where Jones struggled was defending the starters and limiting the odds against cycle. My suspicion from watching him play is that Jones often finds himself out of position in the defensive zone, which gets him in trouble.
My assessment of Jones as a defensive back leans more towards the average than well above or below. As mentioned, there won’t be anywhere to hide in a Blackhawks team that was one of the worst defensive units in the league last season, so don’t expect Jones’ expected goal differential to be. much better next season.
WASHER IN MOTION
Jones placed 30th in even-matched 60-minute controlled zone exits last season, sandwiched between Jakob Chychrun and Victor Hedman. In the controlled zone entries, Jones placed 18th among qualified defenders. Transition play is always an area where Jones excels and it will be a welcome addition on a Chicago team that likes to move the puck quickly out of the defensive zone.
The Blackhawks are not a dump and chase team and Jones will have every chance to skate the puck with his new club.
Jones goes from a Blue Jackets team that played a fairly low style of hockey for most of their tenure at Columbus, to a Blackhawks team that is the exact opposite. Chicago creates a ton of chances and allows just as many against. Whether Jones’ on-ice impacts improve on a very different team style remains to be seen, but, like in Columbus, he will be required to eat big minutes in all situations as his team’s best defenseman. .
Jones isn’t a substitute-level defenseman, far from it, but it’s hard to imagine him fighting for a Norris Trophy in Chicago. Fair or not, players are often measured by their caps and the 26-year-old, who turns 28 when his extension goes into effect, is unlikely to live up to the gigantic contract the Blackhawks are on the table. point of signing it.