What makes the Kid Line effective? Jurco, Sheahan, and Tatar have what is considered to be the most energy and the best chemistry on the Wings today. But why? What makes this line so exciting and why do these three players play so well together? Well let’s see if we can’t answer all those questions in the subsequent paragraphs.
First let’s assess each player individually, and their contributions to their respective lines. For more in-depth looks at Jurco and Sheahan click here and here. Both of those articles are much more in-depth than I will go here and they are analyses of the players on a more individual level. This article will look at how these players contribute to the line today and will ignore projections and developing skills. I am only interested in what they are able to do right now.
Let’s start with the center. Generally I don’t like to talk about stats because I find that they have little quantitative value when discussing player progression and player performance. Stats only have value because there is an expectation of repeatability, however in Juniors and the AHL the talent gap is pretty big from team to team and player to player, so the stats generally don’t tell us much. However, I find them to be extremely relevant because there is much more repeatability in the NHL along with a greater sense of parity. Riley is averaging .58 points per game, if he were to play a full 82 game season he would get 48 points, that’s a pretty high number. Sheahan has great vision on the ice. I want to cite the Kyle Quincey goal against the Devils on the 7th to show a great example of this. Sheahan steals the puck in the offensive neutral zone and carries it in to the offensive in a quasi 2 on 1. He passes it across the ice and as I was watching I remember thinking, “Oh Riley no one’s there you should’ve shot the puck and looked for a rebound don’t force the obligatory 2 on 1 pass it wasn’t there.” There comes Kyle Quincey and fires it past Schneider for the goal. The vision here by Sheahan is tremendous. He is able to survey the ice and fire a precise blind backhanded pass to a streaking Quincey. I have watched the goal many times and still cannot figure out how he saw Quincey. Sheahan adds to this line defensive responsibility and a great ability to get to the puck into scoring lanes. One stat of note here is that Sheahan’s shooting percentage(goals divided by shots) is almost 15. This is a number that is extremely high. The league average is somewhere around 9%. This means that Sheahan either has a great shot selection and finishes very well(something that the rest of his hockey career would disagree with) or that this number will go down by about 6% over time, we are still working with a small sample here, but a regression might be on the way for Riley’s goal production.
Now let’s move on to Tomas Tatar. He is the most dynamic player on this line. He is on pace to score about 40 points this year. I calculated this number twice because it seems like he has been much more productive than this but then I remembered that he was not all that productive at times this season, playing with a guy like Cleary will do that to him. Tatar thrives when the game speeds up. He has great speed and good enough hands. There is a correlation between speed and hands, the faster you are the less you need to deke someone because there is less time for them to react to your move and you go by them quicker. Tatar’s hands are good enough for his speed to take him past the defense. A good example of this is the goal he scored against Dallas earlier this year. This goal is a great display of skill and control, however Tatar doesn’t make any great moves here, he makes one little dip juke type move to avoid a defender and then just kind of shoots the puck through Lehtonen. The more the game speeds up the more purposefully random it becomes and the more mistakes are made. Tatar’s speed has value due to his control, which minimizes the randomness from him as well as his mistakes. When he moves quickly and uses his speed he is still able to make the right plays, whether it be to shoot or pass, or which lane to skate through. This skill makes him quite dynamic and can drive this line.
This brings us to Tomas Jurco. Jurco is the weakest player on this line today. His GF% Rel(This stat measures the rate at which a player scores goals in relation to the rest of their team) is a -1.1% which starkly juxtaposes the numbers or Sheahan(+5.7%) and Tatar(+10.3%). Tatar’s numbers being higher is probably a product of having different line mates throughout the year. However, let’s keep talking about Jurco here. He is on pace for 32 points if he played a full 82 game season. This is quite a contrast to the near 40 and 50 point paces that Tatar and Sheahan are on at this point. Why is Jurco seemingly unproductive? Let’s looks at Jurco and see if his points come off plays he makes or creates, or if they are the product of unintentional randomness. Let’s look at the goal he scores against Toronto and break down this play for a while. A few things to start off with, this is a high skill play by Jurco, as well as a goal that shouldn’t have been scored. The beginning of this plays shows Jurco checking a leafs defenseman(Gardinier I believe) right as he gets rid of the puck. However he gets wide open because no one picks up Jurco as he moves towards the net. He moves to the net because Gardinier falls down in the corner . The first aspect of this play can be awarded to part randomness, and part skill. Jurco never gets picked up by another defenseman because the Leafs are in transition to the offensive zone. Jurco’s pressure on Gardinier caused him to rush his pass which wasn’t there, it was intercepted and then the Wings are able to reclaim possession. The fallen Gardinier isn’t able to cover Jurco as he moves towards the slot. He then controls a bad pass in a small space by kicking the puck forward to his stick and controlling it. If he uses a bigger space than he probably gets the puck poked away by Reimer, this is a repeatable skill. The next part of the play is Jurco’s shot. The spin-o-rama is actually quite unnecessary here. Reimer is slow to get over and Jurco has a ton of the net to work within the far side. He probably would have been better suited shooting an elevated forehand shot above his blocker. However, Jurco anticipates that Reimer is going to overcommit to the far side and goes to the short side with the spin-o-rama move. If he is going to make this move then he needs to throw the puck in the short side corner. He has the room there, but he doesn’t really have it anywhere else because Reimer is slow to move with Jurco’s speed. He ends up shooting it at Reimer and somehow the puck finds its way past him. This is mostly a lucky play by Jurco. There is definitely skill and control involved in this goal but this is by and large a product of poor goaltending from Reimer. Jurco still does have positive possession numbers with a CF% of 57.8% (5.6% higher than the team average). This means that out of all the shots that occur in a game 57.8% of them are from the Wings. Jurco possesses the puck well with his teammates but he doesn’t seem to be finishing the way that Tatar and Sheahan are right now.
So now let’s look at these three guys as a unit. Sheahan adds puck possession, defense, and passing ability. Tatar adds speed, offensive transition ability and a good shot. Jurco, being the most raw of the 3 doesn’t contribute as much comparatively but still has value nonetheless, he shows flashes of great skill and sees the ice well. This line has a great set of complimentary skills and when these guys are on their game they can work together and really control the game when they are skating. But, these guys are often prone to defensive mistakes and can be anywhere on the spectrum for any given game. But even with the inconsistency, this line is a huge asset for the Wings moving forward, and getting them experience and acclimating them to the Red Wings style will be fun to watch.
Don’t forget to follow me on twitter @ProspectGuy, I live tweet Red Wing games and most Griffins games. I am also in the process of throwing together a mailbag article featuring popular questions about prospect and player development. Shoot an email to [email protected]
All stats are courtesy of Extraskater.com