After coming over to the Predators in the summer of 2008 (along with the draft pick used to select Charles Oliver Roussel this year) in the Marek Zidlicky trade with Minnesota, Ryan Jones earned a job with Nashville coming out of training camp last fall. Over the course of the season, however, he made multiple trips to Milwaukee as the Preds struggled to find a roster mix that could provide consistent offense. As he continues to negotiate a new contract and prepares for his 2nd NHL season, what does the future hold for the onetime University of Miami (Ohio) captain?
|2008 - Ryan Jones||46||7||10||17||1||22||2||0||1||0||63||11.1|
After the jump, let's break down Jones' play by situation and see what we can expect going forward...
Let's take a look at the Behind the Net data for the Predators wingers, to get a perspective on Jones' performance:
|NAME||GP||TOI/60||Qual Comp||Qual Team||CORSI||GOALS/60||PTS/60||GFON/60||GAON/60||+/-||RATING|
Let's walk through the various columns to get the big picture; his playing time was somewhat limited compared to the rest of the bunch here, and his Qual Comp and Qual Team figures indicate that he faced 3rd- and 4th-liners from opposing teams, while playing mostly with such teammates himself. While I don't have hard ice time data, based on Shots For/Against he spent about a third of his time alongside David Legwand and Martin Erat, with most of the rest spent on lesser lines.
His Corsi number of -4.5 indicates that when he was on the ice, the Preds tended to play more in their own end of the ice (Corsi representing the balance of Shots On Goal + Missed Shots + Blocked Shots, for and against, per 60 minutes of play). His goal-scoring rate was fairly good, comparable in fact to Antoine Vermette and Marek Svatos. On the downside, however, his overall Points/60 of 1.45 is less impressive, suggesting a lack of ability to produce offensive opportunities for his teammates.
On the defensive side of the equation, at first blush things look very encouraging; a Goals Against/60 of 1.19 is remarkable, and his overall Plus/Minus at evens is a +3, not too shabby. However, using data from Vic Ferrari, I found why his Goals Against/60 appears so low compared to the others above, and it was all about the goaltending. Over relatively short stretches (like a guy playing less than 10 minutes a game for just 46 games), it's possible for random swings to color the results, and that appears to be the case here. While Ryan Jones was on the ice at even strength last season, Nashville's goaltenders put up a combined .962 Save Percentage, the highest such figure for any player on the team (which, as a whole, enjoyed a .923).
This, folks, is a fluke that makes Jones' defensive stats look better than they really are. There's little reason to believe that an individual skater has much impact on his opponent's shooting percentage, and even less to believe that in the case of a winger (as opposed to the defensemen and center, who play critical roles in their own end of the ice). Basically, those Goals Against figures, for example, should probably be about double the values seen above. That's not to say that Jones is a horrible defensive player, but it's hard to make an argument that he's a strong shutdown-type forward.
Overall, Jones appears to be a moderately effective goal-scorer when playing against secondary opponents; in other words, a serviceable 3rd-line winger.
With his propensity to set up in front of the net and willingness to battle along the boards, Jones fared relatively well on the power play. Here's a look at the Behind the Net data for 5-on-4 play for the main Nashville forwards:
While he only notched 2 goals on the power play, in proportion to his PP ice time, Jones was one of the more successful scorers on the team. Admittedly, the Preds power play was one of the worst in the league last season, but absent wholesale adjustments to the roster, a sensible tweak might be to have Jones work the crease on one unit, and let Joel Ward man the other.
Jones spent virtually no time killing penalties for Nashville last season (reinforcing my appraisal of his defensive game above).
Perhaps the most unique skill that Jones brought to the team was his ability to generate power plays for his mates. His team-leading Penalty Plus/Minus of +15 was especially impressive given his 46 games played. With 80 games at the same rate of production, Jones would have ranked among the top 5 across the entire NHL. It seems like whenever he has the puck, Ryan makes a determined effort to drive to the net, and that causes opposing defenses to react accordingly. That "offensive aggression" is welcomed on a Predators team that typically plays more of a perimeter game.
In terms of overall points-per-game production, Jones fell right in line with what I had called for prior to the season; I had projected a PPG of 0.42 (30 points in 70 games), and he ended up at 0.37 (17 points in 46 games). If he's able earn more power play time, he might take a step forward here.
At 25 years of age, however, now is the time for Jones to prove himself as a dependable performer at the NHL level; there's no more time for physical maturation or skill development. This season he'll prove whether or not he's a major league regular. According to John Glennon, it sounds like Jones is close to finalizing a one-way contract that will pretty much guarantee a full year in Nashville. The only question is how well he takes advantage of this opportunity.