The Blackhawks continue trying to reinvent the wheel with their forward lines, and the success they have received from the often-random groups is a consistent as the lines have been.
One forward who hasn’t received an increased work load is Jamal Mayers. But he has certainly earned more ice time.
Through all of the ups and downs of this season, Mayers has remained consistent. Through the first half of the season Mayers is averaging only 9:29 on ice per game, which ranks 11th among the Hawks’ regular forwards. But looking deeper into the numbers shows that Mayers has been one of the better forwards on the Blackhawks’ roster.
Mayers ranks fourth on the team with 56 hits, is winning 56.3 percent of his faceoffs (including 59.6 percent at home), and has been the most likely forward to step up and drop the gloves when a teammate needed to be defended or the team needed a momentum-altering fight.
Utilizing some of the advanced statistical metrics available at BehindtheNet.ca, we find that Mayers has performed better than his ice time would indicate.
In beginning our look deeper into Mayers’ performance so far this year, we’ll focus on his performance during 5-on-5 play.
One statistic that is available is the overall team plus-minus while a player is on the ice per 60 minutes. Mayers is plus-0.18 to date; among the Hawks’ regular forwards, Marcus Kruger (-o.32), Michael Frolik (-0.91), Bryan Bickell (-0.95), Dave Bolland (-1.01) and Andrew Brunette (-1.23) are all negative.
Another intriguing statistic that is available is the average relative plus-minus of teammates, weighted by ice time together. This indicates that only three regular forwards on the Blackhawks have played, on average, with worse players surrounding them than Mayers has: Bickell, Frolik and Bolland.
Of course the numbers for those three are a function of the poor play by the three together, but the (lack of) quality of the players around Mayers amplifies his personal performance in the first statistic.
It’s interesting to see that Mayers ranks fifth on the Blackhawks in primary assists per 60 minutes (0.73), behind only Patrick Kane, Marian Hossa, Daniel Carcillo and Viktor Stalberg. Mayers also ranks ahead of Brunette, Bickell, Frolik, Kruger, and Bolland averaging 1.65 points per 60 minutes.
If we look at Mayers’ performance while short-handed, his numbers are even more impressive. BehindtheNet tracks the zone in which a player starts and ends his shift. Mayers has the highest percentage of short-handed shifts ending in the offensive zone (51.7 percent), an indication that the Hawks’ penalty kill is most effective at clearing the zone when Mayers is on the ice.
We’ve looked at a lot of non-traditional numbers, so we’ll circle back to a simple reality to close the discussion. Mayers has six points since the start of November. Frolik and Bickell have seven points combined in the same time frame.
Mayers is a physical, emotional leader that understands his role on the team and plays it perfectly. There aren’t many players on this roster that can honestly be associated with any of those attributes. It’s time for Mayers’ role to expand, and his ice time to increase.