On exit interview day in Columbus, John Davidson shared his thoughts on the defensive future of the Blue Jackets: "we feel stronger about our back end with Seth Jones, in particular.”
In January, a true 'hockey trade' brought Jones to Columbus. Jones is only 21 years old, but expectations are high for what he can achieve; so, after playing in Columbus for exactly half of the regular season, how did he respond to a bigger role, a new team and a new defensive partner?
Let’s take a look.
As the above chart illustrates, just before Jones arrived in Columbus, Ryan Murray was beginning to eat big minutes with the Blue Jackets. With the arrival of Jones, the two quickly grew into a top-pairing role for the Jackets.
Playing a lot of minutes is one thing. Performing during those minutes is another - especially when being on the top pair is a new challenge as it was for Jones.
The two charts below illustrate the competition that Jones faced during his time in Nashville and his time in Columbus. The red line marks “average” ice time for each forward and defenseman based on their place in the lineup. The red bars indicate Jones’ time on ice within the lineup.
With the Predators (chart on the left), Jones played more in the middle pair and faced offensive competition that was predominantly in the bottom six of teams’ forward line-ups.
In the chart on the right, we see Jones immediately stepped into a top-pairing role as far as his time on ice, and he was facing an overall higher level of offensive competition.
So we know Jones was facing more time and a higher level of competition, how did he do?
And how did Murray’s contributions change, if at all?
The below chart shows a 10-game rolling average of shot attempts against the Blue Jackets when Murray and Jones were on the ice at even strength (5v5, 4v4 or 3v3). You can see that after an initial increase in shot attempts allowed, the pairing was able to build a trend of reducing the number of shot attempts against them.
While it's still early in Jones’ tenure in Columbus, given the shift in his time on ice and responsibilities, the response to the challenge is worth noting.
And at the other end of the ice? Both Murray and Jones saw a positive impact in their offensive play.
This graph shows score-adjusted Corsi for per 60 minutes (SA CF/60) and score-adjusted scoring chances for per 60 minutes for Murray and Jones, as well as for the Jackets as a team before Jones joined the team compared to after.
In each offensive category (post-trade), Jones and Murray showed improvement and also exceeded the team’s rate totals.
Considering both Murray and Jones were cited by Davidson and GM Jarmo Kekalainen as players who are significant pieces of the Blue Jackets' future, the outlook is encouraging.
“We work pretty well together,” Jones said about Murray. “We were communicating very well, and I enjoyed playing with him a lot.”
Time and usage charts courtesy of Micah Blake McCurdy
All data via War-on-ice.com unless otherwise noted
Rolling charts courtesy of Corsica.hockey