Do The Thrashers Have Large Talons?

Monday, July 21, 2008

Jason Williams Analysis

Jason Williams was an undrafted OHL player who signed with the Detroit Red Wings. He put up few points during his draft year but then took a big step forward at age 19. That was enough to catch the eye of the Detroit organization.

He played a small number of NHL games during his age 20, 21 and 22 seasons but didn't really cracked the roster until age 23 when he appeared in 49 of 82 regular season contests. After the lockout the formerly big spending Wings needed to keep to get under the salary cap and Williams was young and cheap. He became a full NHL season guy in his age 25 and 26 seasons with Detroit. Towards the end of the 2nd post-lockout season (2006-07) he was traded to Chicago. Williams was expected to be a top six forward for the Blackhawks but ended up missing almost half the season with injuries.

This upcoming season with the Thrashers Williams will be only be 28. Along with the Hainsey signing and the Reasoner signing the Thrashers organization appears to have learned from past mistakes and are avoiding older players in their decline phase (which usually starts after age 33--unless you are a Hall of Fame level talent).

Williams is more of an offensive guy since he plays very few short handed minutes and receives significant power play ice time. But he has not received big even strength numbers so far in his career--something that will likely change with his arrival in Atlanta. Those ES ice time numbers could go up sharply if he ends playing right wing with Kovalchuk. Ilya plays roughly 300 more ES minutes than Williams typically does in a full season.

Jason Williams Time on Ice Profile
Year EStoi PPtoi SHtoi
2004 09.18 0.20 .02
2006 10.95 3.93 .03
2007 12.08 2.96 .37
2008 11.84 4.35 .35

While William's Even Strength ice time has been rather moderate (right around the NHL average for forwards) his Power Play ice time has been much higher. The last three seasons, Williams has been in the top 1/3 of all NHL forwards in the number of PP minutes played per game. Last season he moved up into the top 10% of all forwards in PP minutes so he has probably maxed out his potential for PP ice time already. Look for more ES minutes though.

How effective is Jason Williams in his scoring ability? One way to get a handle on scoring efficiency is to simply look at a player's point per hour (which is better than points-per-game because some players get more or less ice time in a game). In Williams case his Even Strength scoring rate per hour was very solid three of the last four season, he has ranked 64%, 79%, 34% and 73% in his four NHL seasons.

What do those percentile rankings mean? If you're ranked 64% that means that 64% of all NHL forwards were worse than you and that 36% were better than you that season in scoring rate per hour. If you're an offensive (top six) guy you should be above the 50% line and Williams was above that line three of the last four season. One season Williams even cracked the 75% barrier which ranked him with the bottom 1st line players in the NHL (if I recall correctly he was on a line with some high quality players much of that year in Detroit).

Jason Williams Scoring Profile
Points per hour of ice time
Year Total ES PP
2004 1.69 1.73 0.00 (very little PP ice time in 2004 with Detroit)
2006 2.92 2.33 4.59
2007 1.60 1.46 2.08
2008 3.03 2.00 6.10

In terms of Power Play scoring efficiency, Jason Williams has been up and down, but was VERY good last season. His Power Play Scoring Efficiency Rankings the last three years are 68%, 58%, and 95%. Those numbers indicates he was above average, barely above average and way above average the last three seasons. His numbers last year in Chicago were extremely good and the coaching staff keep giving him more minutes on the PP.

Should we count on Williams being terrific on the power play next season in Atlanta? Not necessarily, PP scoring rates are much less consistent from season to season than are ES scoring rates. I expect that Williams will better than the NHL average for forwards but not necessarily an elite PP guy.

Summary
So what do we have here? A player still in the peak section of his career. A guy who has demonstrated above averaging scoring ability, but is not really an elite 1st line scoring threat. A guy who probably will see more even strength ice time here in Atlanta and if he stays healthy could put up new career highs in points.

Overall I give this signing a thumbs up. Every player comes with upside and downside risks. In the case of Williams there appears to be more upside potential than risk of collapse. On the other hand, Williams is not an elite/impact sort of guy, he's more of a 2nd line NHL forward on a playoff team and you can't expect him to push the Thrashers into playoff contention by himself. If expectations are kept in check, he will likely end the season in the "pleasant surprise" category for many fans.

7 Comments:

  • Excellent blog post, Falconer. I agreed very strongly with it.

    --Brendan

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 12:36 PM  

  • Good analysis. One note, on XM 204 last week, Williams was interviewed. He talked about his PP success on the Point. So, that creates an interesting situation for the team. We've now got 4 guys who are used to playing the Point on the PP (Enstrom, Kovalchuk, Hainsey, and now Williams). I think it makes sense for Kovy to move up to LW on the PP. He's got the ability to be successful anywhere on the ice. Does Williams have that capability too? Can he move up to RW or C and leave the blueline on the PP to Hainsey and Enstrom? Good problem to have, in my opinion.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 12:56 PM  

  • My guess is that Williams can play elsewhere on the PP. He certainly wasn't manning the point when he was in Detroit but playing one of the forward positions.

    By Blogger The Falconer, at 2:38 PM  

  • What other forwards do you think we are going to go after? Do you think the Knuble deal is possible since Philly is about to sign Lupul? Or, do you think we will go after someone else? I don't see DW or ASG going after Schneider or Schneider coming here after playing in Anaheim. It is kind of hard to play for a Stanley Cup Winner and then come down to Atlanta unless it means that no one else will pick him up off FA.

    What are your thoughts, Falconer? Or do you see someone else available that would help the Thrashers?

    Personally, the more I read from your blog and other comments, ASG and Waddell did pretty well to get Hainsey, Reasoner, and Williams, but they agree with you in that they don't think it is enough to get into the playoffs or go far into the playoffs. However, the critics have been wrong; Gary Green thought Anaheim was going to all the way last season. Dave Reid thought that Montreal would win the Cup too. No one picked Philly to go to the Eastern Finals. So, who knows? Best case, in my opinion, 2nd round of playoffs, but no farther. Now, if they get one more high impact forward or someone has a breakout year such as Little, Christensen, or Armstrong, maybe. Odds are that this may not happen, but who knows. Maybe Sterling will be a surprise too.

    On another note, what is going on with Darren Haydar? Are we going to resign him or are we going to let him go?

    By Anonymous Steve, at 3:12 PM  

  • Falconer-
    Interesting stuff. I hope Williams turns out well, and I do think he's a reasonably good signing.

    Steve-
    Haydar's gone to Detroit. Also: good point about Philly. No one expected them to do as well as they did last year (they were much, much worse than we were in 07-08) and look what happened.

    By Blogger Mortimer Peacock, at 7:43 PM  

  • Mort,
    Yeah, I saw about Haydar; I wonder why he was not resigned and Sterling and Little were when Haydar had better numbers.

    Any thoughts Falconer?

    By Anonymous Steve, at 8:09 PM  

  • "My guess is that Williams can play elsewhere on the PP. He certainly wasn't manning the point when he was in Detroit but playing one of the forward positions"

    --Detroit fan here. Actually, Williams on the point during most of his power play time with the wings. He has a powerful shot and is adequate at defense. There was a feature with him one time on FSN Detroit where they showed him shooting wristshots from his own goal line all the way down the ice and over the glass on the far end!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 2:16 AM  

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