By Marc Naples (@Superscrub47)
Pretty much every Flyers fan was relieved with the news that the Flyers re-signed Jordan Weal. The details of the signing seem just about right, at two years with a cap hit of $1.75 million per season. This is enough to give Weal a chance to prove himself after being stuck in the AHL for several seasons, without the Flyers committing too much term or money to an unproven NHL commodity.
The area where Flyers fans may split is to how much they expect from Weal. For the more skeptical, there are obvious reasons for doubt. Weal is undersized, 25 years old, and only has 37 NHL games to his name. The 12 points he has scored in those games also isn’t going to overwhelm anyone.
Nonetheless, Weal had quite a bit of interest from around the NHL this offseason. Part of this is a weak crop of free agents available, but it’s mostly from how Weal played in 23 games last spring for the Flyers. In short, Weal was very good.
In the admittedly short 23-game span, Weal did extremely well on the shot counter, racking up a 55.9% Corsi and a +6.5% relative Corsi. Furthermore, he bagged primary points at 5v5 at a rate of 1.88 per 60. Those numbers easily led the Flyers last season.
Of course, it is not wise to project a 23-game span to a full 82-game season, but for some perspective, you’d have to go back 3 seasons to the best days of the Giroux-Voracek-Raffl line for possession numbers like that. His 1.88 5v5 points per 60 is something you won’t see from any Flyer the last few seasons.
A slightly more fair comparison is to consider the performance of all Flyers down the stretch. I compiled some of those numbers in a previous post.
Weal is in the top-3 in three of the four categories; 5v5 relative Corsi, 5v5 points rate, and 5v5 individual scoring chances. Indeed, the two real standouts of the Flyers stretch run of the season were Sean Couturier and Jordan Weal – Schenn and Weise have good numbers in certain charts, but that is largely from riding shotgun with Couturier.
The biggest value Weal brought to the team, in my opinion, is reflected in the individual chances number. Weal led the team in getting on the end of scoring chances. Although undersized, he went to the net with more resolve and determination than any other Flyer. He reminds me of the dearly departed Danny Briere as a small man who buzzes the net.
This tendency is dramatically revealed in a few pictures. Perhaps it is Hakstol’s system, but the Flyers had something of a phobia of going to the net last season (below).
With Jordan Weal on the ice at the end of the season, the results were dramatically different (below).
Much of this is directly attributable to what Weal himself was doing (right). If you combine this with the Weal’s outstanding relative Corsi, which doesn’t even consider shot locations, Weal was doing hard work in getting shots near the net himself, while also creating favorable shot counts for the team as a whole when on the ice. It’s win-win.
Jordan Weal played only 23 games with the Flyers last season. There’s only so much you can meaningfully take from it, and you certainly can’t bank on him doing the same thing next year for 82 games. Nonetheless, he was an excellent contributor to the Flyers last spring. Even with considerable regression, there’s still lots of room to fall into a quality second liner, all the while the Flyers will be paying Weal about a 4th line salary. It’s simply a great situation for the Flyers.
PHOTO SOURCE: Eric Hartline/USA Today Sports