Seth Jones disappointed with debut season with Blackhawks, but he hasn’t been the problem
Jones’ accountability when evaluating himself and the Hawks all season has been impressive. He has objectively played better than he has given himself credit for, though.
Plus-minus is a flawed statistic. It reflects team performance far more than individual performance, yet it is attached to individuals. But many players still care deeply about it.
Blackhawks defenseman Seth Jones is one of those players.
And when he looks at his unsightly minus-38 rating this season — the second-worst mark in the NHL and worse than his minus-25 rating from his first eight seasons combined — it bothers him.
‘‘Anytime you’re that ‘dash,’ it’s not a good thing,’’ Jones said Wednesday, using hockey slang for minus. ‘‘I know a lot of guys are ‘dash’ on the team this year. We didn’t score a lot, and we had a lot of struggles. But we really can all take better steps to be better defensively.’’
Jones has been honest when evaluating himself all season. His first season in Chicago hasn’t been anything like what he must have imagined, and he hasn’t been perfectly consistent, either. But he at least has owned up to those struggles and taken accountability for them.
And as the season winds down, Jones’ overall performance doesn’t look bad at all, in retrospect. His five goals — including zero on the power play — aren’t enough for him, but his 51 points are the second-most of his career and tied for 14th among defensemen leaguewide.
Digging deeper, Jones’ analytics on defensive-zone retrievals and exits and on offensive-zone entries are fantastic. JFresh Hockey’s player card puts his wins above replacement in the 91st percentile. Still, he’s not satisfied.
‘‘I had some good moments in the year and had some not-so-great moments,’’ Jones said. ‘‘I obviously have put a lot of pressure on myself to be the best player I can be. . . . [I’ll] watch a lot of video this summer on how I can be better in those areas and be that player that this team needs me to be.’’
Asked to assess Jones’ season, interim coach Derek King also gave a sincere answer.
‘‘[At the] start of training camp, I was like, ‘Hmm, I don’t know why they signed this guy,’ honestly,’’ King said. ‘‘Just watching him, I was like, ‘Uhhh . . . ’ But he got comfortable in his surroundings . . . and then he just took off.
‘‘He’s an elite hockey player. He’s a stud. He impressed me a lot. If he were a little more vocal, too, which he’s starting to be, I wouldn’t doubt seeing him wearing a letter — like, a big letter — down the road, if ever an opportunity comes for him, because he’s a class act.’’
With his eight-year contract extension kicking in this summer, that opportunity eventually seems likely to come. Jones has said all the right things about wanting to anchor and lead the Hawks through their rebuild.
As soon as this season ends, however, he will travel to Finland to play for the United States in the world championships. Then he’ll head back home to Dallas for summer training, during which watching video will be a big part. The Hawks watched more video in the second half of the season, which Jones thought helped them, and he wants to start reviewing his own clips more thoroughly — particularly on the power play.
‘‘I don’t think I was aggressive enough [on the power play in] the first half of the year, whether it was shooting the puck or acting like I was shooting the puck and moving it to create space for [wings Alex DeBrincat and Patrick Kane],’’ he said. ‘‘Because ‘Cat and Kane are so good at finding each other in that seam and making plays down low, and I kind of got caught watching [it] myself, like a lot of penalty kills do.
‘‘When I got the puck [in] the second half, I started shooting it a little bit more, trying to be more aggressive. That’s going to open up more space for them. That’s something I need to focus on.’’
Younger brother Caleb will train with him, and Jones lobbied for the Hawks to re-sign Caleb, saying that this season was ‘‘pretty special’’ together and that he’s ‘‘looking forward to the future with him.’’
Regardless of Caleb’s fate, however, Jones hopes the future brings better times in his Hawks career.
‘‘It’s been very frustrating, obviously, when you’re not winning games,’’ he said. ‘‘Hopefully we can become better out of this adversity.’’