Mattias Janmark’s terrible analytics a curious case for Blackhawks

Janmark has been productive scoring-wise in his first 16 games for the Hawks, but he ranks dead last among 569 NHL skaters in shot attempt differential.

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Mattias Janmark’s first 16 games with the Blackhawks have produced mixed results.

Mattias Janmark’s first 16 games with the Blackhawks have produced mixed results.

Tom Pennington/Getty Images

On the surface, Mattias Janmark seems like a good addition for the Blackhawks.

In 16 games entering Monday, Janmark had already scored five goals — one shy of his total from each of his last two seasons with the Stars — and nine points. 

His quick, shifty skating ability and clever puck placements have been impressive. He has spent most of the season in a top-six role, too, showing coach Jeremy Colliton’s trust in him.

Yet, one glance at Janmark’s possession statistics paints a far uglier picture.

Janmark ranks last among 502 NHL players this season in scoring-chance ratio: 33% (61 for, 124 against) during five-on-five play. 

He also ranks last in shot-attempt ratio: 35.8% (129 attempts for, 231 against) during five-on-five play. And the Hawks have been outscored 12-5 during his five-on-five ice time.

The divides between Janmark’s eye-test and data-driven evaluations are as confusing as they are vast. 

Although hockey’s possession proxy statistics have their fair share of critics — shot attempts more than scoring chances — they usually align with the visible ups and downs in player performance. Many analysts would conversely argue the statistics provide more thorough, objective and quantifiable assessments than human perception.

Asked this weekend about the strange contrast, Colliton understandably defended his player but hinted he knew about Janmark’s poor underlying stats.

“It took him a few games to get going, but after that, he had a really good stretch,” Colliton said. “Maybe had a little bit of a drop-off lately, but he’s a veteran guy, he knows how to play. He does a lot of little things that make it easier to play. The possession numbers and different things that we track, we take that into account. But it’s just one piece of the puzzle.”

Making Janmark’s terrible analytics this season even stranger is the fact he graded very well analytically throughout his Stars’ tenure. 

His scoring-chance ratio was above 51% three of his four healthy seasons in Dallas and 54.4% last year, ranking 74th in the league.

But when signing with the Hawks in October, Janmark spoke eagerly about his preference for the Hawks’ offensive, counterattacking style over the Stars’ defensive, structurally sound system. 

He came to Chicago hoping that a change of scenery would change his game, and it indeed has. Janmark looks like a more assertive, creative playmaker now than he did in his penalty-killing-specialist role with the Stars.

The data, though, indicates his increased box-score production might be a mirage: four of his nine points have come on the power play, and in five-on-five play, he’s actually taking far fewer shots than he did in Dallas. And the data definitively doesn’t favor his overall play across all three zones.

Janmark has also dropped from the first line, to the second, to the third in the last week. Dylan Strome, who briefly centered him on the second line, offered an explanation this weekend for Janmark’s stats.

“Holding onto the puck isn’t necessarily his forte,” Strome said. “[He] helps get pucks back, finds a way to get open. [I] wouldn’t say it’s a bad thing that he doesn’t have a lot of possession, but that’s what happens.”

The flaw with Strome’s explanation is that getting pucks back and distributing to teammates should still lead to shot attempts and scoring chances for the team, which would show up in his numbers. That hasn’t happened.

The good news for Janmark is Saturday’s win over the Blue Jackets was his best game in a while. The Hawks held advantages in shot attempts (13-8) and scoring chances (6-4) during Janmark’s ice time — a huge contrast from the last five games, during which the Hawks suffered a 54-11 scoring chance deficit when he was on the ice.

Janmark will hope many more good statistical performances like that will eventually balance his underlying numbers with his visible performance.

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