The Bigger Problem With Jones

Jonathan Willis
September 09 2011 10:20PM

Ryan Jones is coming off the finest season to date in his NHL career, one that landed him a two-year extension with the Edmonton Oilers. Still, questions about that season – and whether he can repeat it – abound.

I really enjoyed reading Robin Brownlee’s article on Ryan Jones and shooting percentage. Firstly, because Brownlee frames the issue well and gets some nice, relevant quotes from Jones, and secondly because Jones always comes across as the kind of guy it is difficult not to cheer for. How can anyone dislike a guy who responds to the precarious nature of his roster spot by using it as motivation to work that much harder?

Still, I did want to talk a little bit more about Jones’ game. Brownlee quite reasonably identifies shooting percentage as an area of some concern, and notes that Jones wasn’t really way outside the norm last season – slightly above his career average, but not to the point that it was responsible for all of his success. (Tyler Dellow has a little more on that, and it’s worth reading) There is one other thing, though, that troubles me more than Jones’ shooting percentage.

The first item is his performance in terms of scoring chances. The writers over at Copper & Blue did a nice job of gathering the scoring chance data recorded by Dennis King, and interpreting it for each player. Their write-up on Jones is here. I’d like to make a pair of points:

Jones ranked dead last among Oilers players in scoring chance differential – meaning that no other player on the team was on the ice for a greater percentage of opposition scoring chances. On a team that boasted Jean-Francois Jacques as a regular, that’s a damning statement.

The with-or-without (WOWY) numbers show the impact Jones had on his linemates – regular partners like Cogliano, Fraser and Gagner fared much better playing without him than with him.

That’s a problem, and one that I think matches up with what we saw from Jones on the ice last season. The puck simply spent too much time in the defensive zone and not enough time in the offensive zone while Jones was on the ice, and the fact that virtually every player on the team improved away from Jones makes it seem highly probable that he was the problem.

To his credit, Jones told Brownlee that he needs to be more reliable in the defensive zone. I’m cautiously optimistic that he can live up to that goal – the Nashville Predators are a team that take defensive responsibility seriously, and while Jones was eventually waived by that club he was a pretty serviceable depth winger during his time there. The facts that he knows his role and has filled it before elsewhere are positives. Still, it’s a steep hill to climb.

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Jonathan Willis is a freelance writer. He currently works for Oilers Nation, Sportsnet, the Edmonton Journal and Bleacher Report. He's co-written three books and worked for myriad websites, including Grantland, ESPN, The Score, and Hockey Prospectus. He was previously the founder and managing editor of Copper & Blue.
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#1 Colin
September 09 2011, 10:23PM
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Third!

If he can score 10 to 15 and not be a massive liability in his own zone, he will more than pay his keep.

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#2 Poolanov
September 09 2011, 10:58PM
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tight poll

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#3 Poolanov
September 09 2011, 11:02PM
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My guess is; same goals, same assists, better mullet

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#4 BigE91
September 09 2011, 11:03PM
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In a year when the team again gave the fans little to cheer about Jones was a bright spot. The stats really only tell part of the story and IMO Brownlee's account tells us more about Jones the player than the numbers do.

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#5 Poolanov
September 09 2011, 11:05PM
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mark my words

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#6 OilLeak
September 09 2011, 11:31PM
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BigE91 wrote:

In a year when the team again gave the fans little to cheer about Jones was a bright spot. The stats really only tell part of the story and IMO Brownlee's account tells us more about Jones the player than the numbers do.

You were watching Jones through Rose colored glasses last year then. I thought Jones was terrible last year, the math just backs it up. Belanger makes 1.75 and Jones 1.5 million. Which player is going to back up the contract they just signed? I'll bet on Belanger 99 times out of 100.

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#7 gord
September 09 2011, 11:38PM
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If it was a three year deal I would be concerned but a two year deal at 3mil is well worth it for a useful player like jones. The term and dollars suit the team needs and when his deal is up the likes of pitlick and hamilton will be ready for full time nhl duty. I doubt he gets 18 goals again, but still a serviceable transitional player for us.

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#8 justDOit
September 09 2011, 11:40PM
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What does the 'Y' stand for in with or without (WOWY).

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#9 Jon
September 09 2011, 11:57PM
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It's worth noting that when it comes to chances against, Jones was slightly below the team's average. But in terms of chances for, he was second last with a pretty terrible number. But when you consider his historical high shooting percentage (ie making good on the few chances he gets)....I think his terrible scoring chance differential might be overstating his problems as a player.

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#10 rickithebear
September 10 2011, 12:01AM
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@BigE91

10-11 oilers: 82GM 25W 57L 62Points.

The stats really only tell part of the story . they were unlucky. you know i don't like numbers. we really were a playoff team. what does finnishing 30th really mean? I am sure bigE and many stats haters can tell you that we were alot better than the numbers say! LOL.

Sheep do I hear Sheep?

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#11 Wax Man Riley
September 10 2011, 12:05AM
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Haven't read the article yet, but I just want to say:

What a play by Gagner. That guy sucks. He's probably a draft bust. Isn't he like 35 already?

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#12 Wax Man Riley
September 10 2011, 12:09AM
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I just don't see Jones matching last year, unless there are again, too many injuries. He's not going to get the same opportunity or playing time with a healthy lineup....

...and really, the Oilers can't have ANOTHER injury-plagued season!

...can they?

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#13 Wax Man Riley
September 10 2011, 12:16AM
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@ Jonathan Willis

Jones has never been counted on (in the NHL) to produce offense, has he?

Do you think the added pressure of trying to produce offense added to his poor defensive numbers? Or is he just maybe not that good? Since he didn't really do a lot offensively either.

I'm pulling for him. I follow him on Twitter, and he seems to love playing here. However, he has a lot of players ahead of him.

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#14 pelhem grenville
September 10 2011, 04:54AM
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~...it's a sure thing Robin...attempt to use stats as a way to frame a point you want to make when telling the story of the success Ryan Jones had last year and y'get a couple of nerds (JW&Dellow) with even more ammo to take you down...typical nerds and their bloody stats...they always seem to one up you "old school guys" and they gleefully point out short comings of your editorial thrust...be reminded Robin...don't use stats for ANYTHING...the nerds'll use them against you...~

next time try to work in a Corvette angle like >>>

"...On the car itself, there is a code in the VIN, On an L82 car, the fifth digit will be a 4..." see? these guys don't know jack about Corvettes...but i bet you do...

Read more: http://www.vetteweb.com/features/vemp_0711_buy_collector_corvette/viewall.html#ixzz1XXsBo68o

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#15 striker777
September 10 2011, 05:17AM
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Jonesy is still a young guy, who is willing to go hard to the net. This was a no-brainer signing to me. Now we have him and Smitty to annoy the crap out of opposing goalies. Can't wait...

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#16 R-DAWG
September 10 2011, 07:28AM
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Reagan wrote:

All I have to say is WOWY, Ryan Jones is one hell of a player! Those 4th graded stats are a bunch of crap! Too much focus all the time on numbers. This is why the NHL and other sports are becoming bean counting sessions rather than bashing, crashing, scoring and making fantastic saves. Put the calcuators away, and enjoy the F-ing game already!

IF YOU SMELLLLLLALALA...WHAT THE ROCK....IS COOKIN!!!

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#17 rubbertrout
September 10 2011, 07:48AM
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Jones can't skate. He looks like he has tape on his skates out there. It looks like he is a big golden retriever running around on the ice.

He had a few bounce in off of his a$$ which lead to a career year. The scoring chances stat speaks volumes. People play worse when they play with him. It happens with too many players to be a mere statistical anomaly.

The guy just isn't that good. There are depth wingers that can be had for that price or better that you wouldn't need to sign for two years either.

I love his attitude, I love his flow, and I love the fact he wants to play in Edmonton (but as a waiver wire pickup I suspect he'd have this attitude everywhere. I just don't love him as a player. People were able to look past the "good guy" Jason Strudwick was and accept the fact that he wasn't a good player. Too much time looking at traditional box-scores has put a rosy hue to our collective thoughts on Jonesy and hides the fact that he just isn't that good.

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#18 ButtermilkBiscuitsAKAoilers2k10
September 10 2011, 07:50AM
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Now how much different were is WOWY (or whatever the nerd acronym is) numbers? Are we talking decimals here? I watched all but 2 games last season, Jones was often one of the best oilers on the ice..

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#21 Matt Henderson
September 10 2011, 08:13AM
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By virtue of his new contract Jones will be guaranteed his spot. If him and Eager can mesh well they could prove to be a usefull duo. If they cant then they could become toxic in their own zone. It could be a very Jekyl and Hyde season for those two. This could be magnified if their regular Centre is a rookie like RNH or Lander instead of Belanger or Horc.

I'm hoping for the best on this one, but I think that Jones is going to have to become a feature penalty killer if he wants to keep his ice time up this year. He benefitted from an injury plagued lineup and now everyone is coming in healthy. The right side is deep with high end talent and blue chippers.

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#22 ButtermilkBiscuitsAKAoilers2k10
September 10 2011, 08:23AM
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Yeah I gotta agree he is all over the place..sometimes he has to hustle so much because maybe he put himself in a bad position.. Either way, I dont think Jones is a natural checker..I think hes valuable on the PK cuz that role is obvious, keep the puck to the outside, block anything that heads your way..and if theres a loose puck jump on it, Its because of Jones assertive personality and mix of speed and power why hes able to get so many breakaways..If his shooting percentage was even average on breakaways he probably wouldve scored an extra 5 goals last season..

Reason he got waived in Nashville I believe is because of his very average defensive play..and unable to bury enough of his scoring chances.. that leaves him out of the top six..and bottom six on any winning team.. Hes improved in Edmonton.. and despite his only average defensive game..I still think he was one of the best if not best Oiler on many nights..

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#23 Rob Gilgan
September 10 2011, 08:51AM
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"The puck simply spent too much time in the defensive zone and not enough time in the offensive zone while Jones was on the ice,"

The puck generally spends more time in the defensive zone when the third and fourth lines are on the ice, in my experience.

Stats aside, Jones works harder than more talented players, doesn't give up and often makes something out of nothing (or more accurately, less than nothing). His determination and refusal to give up or turn back is an important inspiration - especially for younger players (and fans, of course).

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#24 Robin Brownlee
September 10 2011, 09:11AM
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To Reagan and spOILer: Debate/discuss/disagree over the subject. Spare us the insults and sniping at each other. Those comments are gone.

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#25 Pajamah
September 10 2011, 09:18AM
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Far be it from me to go ahead and assume that both articles on Jones are attacking from two different angles.

Firstly, Reuben's article was about scoring and shooting percentage, and whether or not he can match or beat the totals/perception of him as a player.

Comparing Jones to Belanger as was done in the comments shows me we are not gauging Jones on the same "metric" (stats word, woo!!) in the 2 articles. Of course he isnt as strong of a defensive player.

Unless Jones bleeds goals against this season, the only way he fails to live up to the fans expectations, is if he scores less, most casual fans want to see the Oilers score more, and keep us entertained until they are ready to compete for playoffs/championships

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#26 melancholyculkin
September 10 2011, 10:19AM
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Ryan Jones 2010-11:

GFON/60: 1.80

GAON/60: 2.28

ONSV%: 925. This will regress.

RelCorsi: -11.1, the worst number among forwards who played at least 40 games.

Ryan Jones drives the play backwards at Even Strength and it was only because of an abnormally high ONSV% that more of those scoring chances against didn't go in.

Ryan Jones is a liability. He is an anchor who should not have been re-signed.

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#27 Mitch
September 10 2011, 10:20AM
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The guy scores 18 goals on a team that has no offense in a yr where he was one of the most enjoyable players to watch, and there is a problem with his game? This is the entertainment business and when I have to pay over $100.00 a night Ryan Jones better be one of them guys out there on the ice.

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#28 Dog Train
September 10 2011, 11:15AM
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He has some work to defensively but if our team defense improves, then I don't think that Jones will feel the need to run around as much. He will likely start the year on our fourth line and there are guys in this league who only play a few minutes a night and are nowhere near the player that Jones is. I don't see a problem with him in his current role.

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#29 Jack
September 10 2011, 11:35AM
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melancholyculkin wrote:

Ryan Jones 2010-11:

GFON/60: 1.80

GAON/60: 2.28

ONSV%: 925. This will regress.

RelCorsi: -11.1, the worst number among forwards who played at least 40 games.

Ryan Jones drives the play backwards at Even Strength and it was only because of an abnormally high ONSV% that more of those scoring chances against didn't go in.

Ryan Jones is a liability. He is an anchor who should not have been re-signed.

Can a player have an effect on the goalie's save percentage?

In 2008-09, Ryan Jones had an abnormally high ONSV%, higher than anyone else on his Nashville team.

In 2009-10, Ryan Jones had an abnormally high ONSV%, higher than anybody else on his Edmonton team and higher than anybody else except for 1 on his Nashville team.

In 2010-11, Ryan Jones had an abnormally high ONSV%, higher than anybody else except for 2 on his Edmonton team.

In 2011-12, Ryan Jones had an...

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#30 clemmy
September 10 2011, 12:03PM
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Listen to the song "Smith and Jones" by the Silver Jews and you can't deny the magic. Forever.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ONbooypFSd4

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#31 PaperDesigner
September 10 2011, 12:06PM
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Perhaps one reason to be optimistic about Jones is that he really is not far into his NHL career. How well can we judge a player that has had, essentially, two NHL seasons worth of experience? I think even older players can be expected to improve over the course of their first several seasons. How much better can Jones get? I dunno, but expecting some improvement is reasonable.

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#32 FastOil
September 10 2011, 12:08PM
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I like Jones the guy. Not so much Jones the player.

His place in the Oiler's universe is to bring energy and enthusiasm to the ice, something that not long ago was lacking on the team.

I see him filling the Curt Brackenbury role on this edition of the Oilers. And he's a much better scorer than Brack. Loads of hustle and energy, knowing where to be and what to do, no.

When Hamilton and Harti are ready he'll move on. His detrimental hockey effect is in perfect harmony with high end talent acquisition year three (hopefully there is no four).

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#33 OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F
September 10 2011, 12:14PM
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I do find it funny that people think his shooting percentage is unsustanably high, and is a function of good luck.

Yet his SC against can't be unsustainably low .... and also a function of bad luck.

Far more date is required then simply one season and one teams SC information to form a real conclusion.... Considering the holes already on the team, I think we can risk this next year to see if Jones really is that bad defensivly or not.

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#34 BigE91
September 10 2011, 12:44PM
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rickithebear wrote:

10-11 oilers: 82GM 25W 57L 62Points.

The stats really only tell part of the story . they were unlucky. you know i don't like numbers. we really were a playoff team. what does finnishing 30th really mean? I am sure bigE and many stats haters can tell you that we were alot better than the numbers say! LOL.

Sheep do I hear Sheep?

Wow, and here I thought they missed the playoffs and finished last because Boulin was terrible,the defense was porous and scant few forwards could actually score. You really opened my eyes here, the stats must be true Ryan Jones is dragging this team into the ground.

It is fine to quote stats all day long about his scoring chances for and against but if you were going to do that I would certainly expect the argument to be framed around Jone's quality of competition as well as where he was playing in the line-up. I'm curious as to why Gagner, Fraser and Cogliano's wowy numbers were so much better without Jones, is it possible that they got the benefit of playing sheltered minutes when they weren't with Jones and if that isn't the case then why are Fraser and Cogliano plying their trade in Socal while Jones was resigned to a two year deal. Obviously the stats don't tell the whole story.

I don't hate stats but it annoys me when people build and frame their arguments while only using part of the evidence. I preferred Robin's article because it spoke about Jone's success last year and included what Jones will have to do this year to repeat his success.

JW's article infers that Ryan Jones needs to pick up his defensive game in the coming year, I can't argue with that but you can't argue the fact that the entire team needs to be better not just one guy.

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#35 melancholyculkin
September 10 2011, 01:36PM
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Jack wrote:

Can a player have an effect on the goalie's save percentage?

In 2008-09, Ryan Jones had an abnormally high ONSV%, higher than anyone else on his Nashville team.

In 2009-10, Ryan Jones had an abnormally high ONSV%, higher than anybody else on his Edmonton team and higher than anybody else except for 1 on his Nashville team.

In 2010-11, Ryan Jones had an abnormally high ONSV%, higher than anybody else except for 2 on his Edmonton team.

In 2011-12, Ryan Jones had an...

You'd think so, but in reality the numbers are pretty random.

Pavel Datsyuk last four years:

915, 909, 923, 911

Ryan Kesler:

922, 909, 893, 928

Kopitar:

901, 885, 910, 928

Sam Gagner:

898, 924, 901, 876

Tom Gilbert:

907, 913, 909, 889

Considering Jones bled scoring chances and shots against last season I feel very comfortable saying his ONSV% numbers are the result of good luck.

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#36 Jon
September 10 2011, 02:08PM
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melancholyculkin wrote:

You'd think so, but in reality the numbers are pretty random.

Pavel Datsyuk last four years:

915, 909, 923, 911

Ryan Kesler:

922, 909, 893, 928

Kopitar:

901, 885, 910, 928

Sam Gagner:

898, 924, 901, 876

Tom Gilbert:

907, 913, 909, 889

Considering Jones bled scoring chances and shots against last season I feel very comfortable saying his ONSV% numbers are the result of good luck.

Yes, some players don't seem to have any effect on save percentage but others do. There are players who remain at the top of their teams when it comes to ONSV% every year though. I imagine based on history, Jones is one of them. They aren't too hard to find either:

Just going alphabetically I see that in Anaheim, George Parros has been 1st, 2nd, 1st, 2nd in the past 4 years for ONSV%.

In Atlanta, Boulton is 2nd, 3rd, 2nd, 1st in the past 4 years, Thorburn is 3rd, 1st, 5th, 4th, and Slater is 3rd, 2nd, 3rd, 3rd.

In Boston, there doesn't seem to be any guys that stay at the top ONSV% over the years, and when I don't find what I want I pout and stop. A quick look through other teams show more guys but I won't waste more space here.

Anyways, as you can see there are definitely guys who consistently year after year have high ONSV% for whatever reason. I imagine Ryan Jones will be one of them, since he's already had 3 years of the same.

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#37 TigerUnderGlass
September 10 2011, 07:56PM
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Jon wrote:

Yes, some players don't seem to have any effect on save percentage but others do. There are players who remain at the top of their teams when it comes to ONSV% every year though. I imagine based on history, Jones is one of them. They aren't too hard to find either:

Just going alphabetically I see that in Anaheim, George Parros has been 1st, 2nd, 1st, 2nd in the past 4 years for ONSV%.

In Atlanta, Boulton is 2nd, 3rd, 2nd, 1st in the past 4 years, Thorburn is 3rd, 1st, 5th, 4th, and Slater is 3rd, 2nd, 3rd, 3rd.

In Boston, there doesn't seem to be any guys that stay at the top ONSV% over the years, and when I don't find what I want I pout and stop. A quick look through other teams show more guys but I won't waste more space here.

Anyways, as you can see there are definitely guys who consistently year after year have high ONSV% for whatever reason. I imagine Ryan Jones will be one of them, since he's already had 3 years of the same.

Yep, that's a real series of defensive giants you listed there.

You might be onto something though...maybe Jones isn't actually falling down all the time, maybe he's really just taking away shooting angles.

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#38 Matt Henderson
September 10 2011, 08:48PM
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@TigerUnderGlass

Doesn't it seem common sense that a 4th liner would have a good ONSV%? they are usually deployed against other 4th liners who aren't exactly known for their scoring touch, thus the shared offensive futility leads to higher ONSV%.

At least it makes sense to me.

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#39 TigerUnderGlass
September 10 2011, 09:41PM
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Matt Henderson wrote:

Doesn't it seem common sense that a 4th liner would have a good ONSV%? they are usually deployed against other 4th liners who aren't exactly known for their scoring touch, thus the shared offensive futility leads to higher ONSV%.

At least it makes sense to me.

Yep. What YOU are saying makes a ton of sense.

What doesn't make sense is the idea that these guys had enough effect defensively to affect save percentage.

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#40 Aaron
September 10 2011, 10:18PM
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Ryan you just bring the Jones show, when you step on the ice I suggest you turn the switch on and if you don't know what I mean I suggest you p/u the movie over the top. WHEN YOU THINK YOUR LOW ON OIL REMBER THE GUY WORKING THE NIGHT SHIFT AT WALMART THAT MIGHT PUT SOME JUMP IN IT. GO OIL

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#41 Matt Henderson
September 10 2011, 10:22PM
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@TigerUnderGlass

It really seems to be a better reflection of the luck/skill of the players deployed against you. If that. It might just be another advanced stat that doesnt closely correlate to anything enough to be worthwhile.

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#42 Wanyes bastard child
September 10 2011, 10:33PM
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@Matt Henderson

Common sense is not needed here, please move along to the next topic.

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#43 TigerUnderGlass
September 11 2011, 12:06AM
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Matt Henderson wrote:

It really seems to be a better reflection of the luck/skill of the players deployed against you. If that. It might just be another advanced stat that doesnt closely correlate to anything enough to be worthwhile.

I don't understand what you mean by "doesn't closely correlate enough."

It isn't supposed to correlate, it's contextual. The fact that it doesn't correlate with player performance is what gives it value.

If a player is normally +20 but is suddenly -5 you wonder what happened. This is something to look at, because if his underlying stats remained fairly steady but opponents shot an unusually high percentage you may have the answer. If they didn't you need to look elsewhere. The same goes the other way.

This has tremendous value.

The value is in the fact that most players face a similar shooting percentage against. If it correlated with play more it would have less value, not more.

On the other hand if we want to claim it indicates the quality of opposition more than luck then it is still telling us something valuable. (ie why is Jones being paid 1.5 to get outchanced by 4th liners)

Either way the number provides important context. I'm not sure why you want to throw it out.

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#44 TigerUnderGlass
September 11 2011, 12:07AM
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Wanyes bastard child wrote:

Common sense is not needed here, please move along to the next topic.

Don't you make this exact comment about twice a week?

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#45 Jon
September 11 2011, 12:20AM
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TigerUnderGlass wrote:

Yep, that's a real series of defensive giants you listed there.

You might be onto something though...maybe Jones isn't actually falling down all the time, maybe he's really just taking away shooting angles.

Like I said, "there are definitely guys who consistently year after year have high ONSV% for whatever reason". Obviously that reason isn't defensive giants, what you guys are saying makes a lot of sense, probably a lot more to do with the lack of skill that 4th lines play against. That's the point though, Jones is a 4th liner like all the guys I listed, I don't see why folks are passing on that his ONSV% will drop like it's fact, when there's other guys in similar roles as Jones that always have high ONSV%.

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#46 striatic
September 14 2011, 05:08PM
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WOWY is a fine stat but all that it means is that Ales Hemsky, Jordan Eberle and Linus Omark are better hockey players than Ryan Jones. shocking, i know.

Jones got lucky a few times last year, admittedly. i've gone through the video of all his goals and 5 of them were pure luck. one off his leg. two wristers from the top of the circle dribbling through two very embarrassed goaltenders. one absolutely improbable mid air deflection. one rebound directly onto his stick.

still, every player who gets into positions to score and takes some shots is going to get some lucky bounces. let's not hold that against the guy.

the rest of his goals were complete garbage goals, and i mean that in the very best possible way. dirty goals. downright rancid goals. two of these goals the goalie has his glove covering the puck and Jones is jamming at the puck through the trapper and between the pads, leaving an exasperated goaltender looking up at the ref. Banging rebounds through goaltenders at point blank range. they're all like that.

you can see Jone's complaints about Shooting Percentage. half these goals if he'd missed them simply would not have been counted as shots, they're in that close or if they're not going in it is primarily because the goaltender gobbles up a rebound or a defender clears the puck before Jones can touch it.

Shooting Percentage measures shot accuracy and yet half of Jone's goals have nothing at all to do with shot accuracy. it isn't a great stat to gauge his "luck", since when he's unlucky it won't reduce his percentage.

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#47 striatic
September 14 2011, 05:36PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
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cheers

If you want a player with a similar shooting percentage for the reasons described here, look no further than Tomas Holmstrom, with the same number of goals with essentially the same number of shots.

Holmstrom is a better player than Jones, don't get me wrong, and his goalmouth deflections require more talent than Jone's goalmouth jam sessions, but statistically they mirror one another and score in extremely similar ways [from a statistical perspective], leading to similarly inflated shooting percentages.

seriously, watch all of Jones' goals and then watch all of Holmstrom's goals and you'll see why they both have such great shooting percentages.

done watching? now look back through Holmstrom's S% stats and see how last year's 14.4 was actually a LOW for the guy, and how sustainable his percentage has been over the past half decade. Players who score goals almost exclusively from in close have sustainably high S%. it's the nature of the stat when it encounters this player type.

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