For the life of me, I can’t figure out what Josh Jooris has done to warrant being a healthy scratch so many games this season.
It has nothing to do with him being the first feel good story of the 2014-15 season, a season filled with seemingly nothing but. Prospects surprising you into an NHL spot is nice and all, but it doesn’t really mean anything unless said prospects can actually play.
Jooris is one of those guys who can, though. He isn’t anybody who was really on anybody’s radar, as evidenced by his being undrafted. But he’s still only 25 years old, and in just his second season, which is young enough for him to prove he deserves to be a part of this team night in and night out.
Is Jooris ever going to be a major scorer? In all likelihood, no. He scored 12 goals and 24 points through 60 games in his rookie year: a .40 point per game pace. This season, he only has three goals and seven points through 29: .24 points per game. Part of that is due to his reduced ice time – his P60 is actually up from 1.19 to 1.39 this season – but the point is, Jooris probably isn’t ever going to be relied on for scoring.
What he does, though, is play with intelligence and energy: enough so that he drives possession forward. What he does with the puck may not cause it to go in the net, but it has a greater chance of doing so, considering his actions on the ice put the puck closer to the opponent’s net than his own.
Here’s the Flames’ forward usage and corsi chart, via War on Ice:
The basic gist of the chart is the bluer your circle is, the more you drive possession relative to the rest of the team. The redder it is, the more the puck goes against you. All this while the placement on the chart indicates a forward’s usage: the higher up you are, the tougher the competition you face; the further to the left you are, the more you start in your own end.
Top players will often be found higher up, so take a look down at the bottom half of the chart, where you’ll find guys whose names you associate with bottom six players.
Only one of them is blue. Only one of them is actually driving puck north, and that guy is Jooris. Amongst his peers, who are also facing easier competition, he’s the only one who isn’t seeing play go more against him than for him.
True, he isn’t starting in the defensive zone as often as some of his compatriots, but he has improved on that front. In his rookie season, his relative offensive zone starts were +4.49%; this season, they’re -2.39%, and he hasn’t seen a drop in corsi percentages (rather, they’ve increased, albeit marginally, from 47.61% to 48.35%). It’s possible he could handle tougher zone starts and shift to an even more defensive role, but we won’t find out if he isn’t afforded the same opportunities as others, despite proving time and time again that at absolute minimum, he is capable of playing at this level.
He hasn’t been afforded the opportunities Joe Colborne has this season, for example. Markus Granlund is getting more of a chance than he is, even though he appears to be getting killed out there. He’s roughly on par with Mason Raymond as far as chances go: a player considered overpaid and who went through waivers unclaimed; an older player who has shown less both in scoring and in possession.
Jooris doesn’t stand out as much as other forwards. He’s not the insane talent Johnny Gaudreau is, he’s not as great as driving possession as the deep blue trio of Mikael, Michael, and Micheal (!) are. He’s just quietly doing his job on the bottom six – and he’s doing a better job of it than several of his teammates.
Not everyone is going to be a superstar. But your lineup still needs capable forwards from top to bottom and, well, Jooris fits the bill. He can be bumped into the top six if need be, he proved that in his rookie year. In the meantime, he’s, at worst, a functional forward – more functional than some of his peers, more energetic, more creative and driving.
The Flames already lost Paul Byron, another ideal bottom six forward type, for nothing. There’s no need to potentially head down the road to making the same mistake twice.