What's the best way to utilize Seth Jones going forward?

Is the Blackhawks' highest paid player one of their best?

What's the best way to utilize Seth Jones going forward?

So bear with me here...

The plot of the 2000 sci-fi/horror classic "Pitch Black" – Vin Diesel's best movie besides "The Iron Giant" – follows a deep space transporter ship that crash lands on a desolate planet. The remaining faction of passengers and crew that survived the crash (which includes a pilot, a "space cop" transporting a vicious criminal, a Muslim priest guiding pilgrims, a lone teenager, and a pair of prospectors) suddenly realizes that the planet experiences a solar eclipse every 22 years, which is when a horde of hibernating, flesh-eating monsters come out to feed and, wouldn't you know it, said eclipse is about to happen any minute.

The survivors are then forced to traverse across the planet's rocky terrain, dodging monster attacks and losing members all the while, in order to gather enough fuel cells to successfully power up the lone remaining dropship and escape the planet with their lives.

After watching both the organization's reputation and roster disintegrate all around him since his arrival in the summer of 2021, last Monday's lottery results have to make Seth Jones feel like he just scored the very last ticket on that dropship.

Given that next season is only the second year of the mammoth 8-year, $76 million dollar extension that he signed, it's safe to say he isn't going anywhere, anytime soon.

So how is he best utilized moving forward? Let's start by trying to figure out exactly what he is (or isn't).

As an Offensive Defenseman

Jones put up 12 goals and 25 assists last season. While his 37 total points are down from the numbers he put up the season prior (5 goals, 46 assists), those 51 points were aided by being part of a much more offensively competent roster – which we'll hopefully see traces of again next season.

But 37 points ranks him 42nd in the entire NHL in scoring by a defenseman, right behind names like Gustav Forsling (maniacal laughter!), Aaron Ekblad and Noah Hanifin. In 2021-22, his 51 points had him all the way up at 16th.

The most points he's ever had in a season was 57 (16 goals, 41 assists) for Columbus in 2017-2018 – which just so happened to be the year that Artemi Panarin arrived and the CBJ power play exploded (Seth's 24 power-play points that season is easily the highest mark of his career). The only other year he topped 50 points was his first season with the Blackhawks, when his total was again boosted by being on the first unit of a decent power play (the Hawks' power play was 21st that season).

He averages 0.51 points per-game for his career, which converts to about 41 points per season. That drops him in around 30th overall in scoring by a defenseman, league-wide. I'd like to think that Kevin Korchinski, who absolutely should be on the roster next season, could put up similar numbers if given the opportunity to run the top power-play unit. For reference, Jones put up 56 points in 61 games during his final season in the WHL while Korchinski just put up 73 points in 54 games in the very same league.

His All Three Zones player card shows he's elite offensively at creating chances by shooting for deflections and generating one-timer assists, and that's about it.

So Jones isn't really a traditional offensive defenseman, and probably won't even be the best scoring option from the blue line in Chicago if Korchinski makes the team.

As a Possession Defenseman

Seth Jones finished with a 50.4% shot attempt share last season, which is the highest mark of any defenseman on the Blackhawks, and his career mark is even higher at 51.5%. He was also part of their highest rated defensive pair: when skating with his brother Caleb, that number jumps all the way up to 52.73%. So, he's possibly the Blackhawks' best current option at generating shots from the back end.

As far as expected goals, he was at 48.8% last season, third best of all the defenseman on the team and just behind his brother Caleb (who is an RFA and not guaranteed to be back) as well as Filip Roos (who saw very limited action last season). So, he's also probably the Hawks' best current option at generating quality shots.

He leads the Blackhawks in creating chances in all three zones (high, medium and low-danger) by a significant margin, meaning he's the strongest defender when it comes to converting possession into quality chances.

While he's tops the list of Blackhawks' defensemen when it comes to possession, Jones' name doesn't show up until No. 92 in shot attempt share and No. 107 in expected goal share (right behind Nikita Zadorov – woof!). So, that's an area of improvement the Blackhawks will need to focus on heading into next season, and their possession numbers relative to the rest of the league should (hopefully) show a marked improvement once they start adding better players to the roster, which in turn allows them to properly utilize the ones they already have.

As a Defensive Defenseman

For goals against per 60 minutes, Jones was at 3.52 last season, which ranks him ninth (out of 12) on last season's team – with the only players ranked lower being Wyatt Kaiser (small sample size), a probably not going to be re-signed Ian Mitchell, and a probably going to be bought out Nikita Zaitsev. Not ideal.

That number also puts him at 202nd overall in a league-wide perspective, which is definitely not what you're looking for in a defense-first defenseman. (Side note: our boy Filip Roos is in the top twenty, which is admittedly at least partially fluky, but the Blackhawks really need to give him an extended look next season).

Heading back to All Three Zones again, I decided to compare his card against Jaccob Slavin's (the best shutdown defender in the NHL) to check for similarities and there really aren't any. While Slavin is incredibly gifted at shutting down opposing players both on the rush and disrupting chances once they enter the Hurricanes' zone, Jones is above average at denying zone entries (which can be partially attributed to Jones' size/reach and skating), but woefully inefficient at preventing chances once possession has been established . That means, once the opposition gets into the Blackhawks' zone, there's very little Jones is able to do to prevent them from generating scoring chances.

So I definitely wouldn't categorize him as a shutdown defender.

Seth Jones averaged 24:27 of ice time last season, which led all Blackhawks defenseman by basically five entire minutes (Jake McCabe was next with an average of 19:29). That number puts Jones 12th in the league, right behind tippity-top defenseman like Adam Fox and Roman Josi – however, Fox scored 72 points and Josi scored 59.

Jones was a minus-38, and the Blackhawks were outscored by 20 goals at even strength with him on the ice (which is a trend for his entire career, no matter what team he's been on).

Looking at all the comparison points in totality, Seth Jones is not a No. 1 defenseman (and never really was) – even if he's most certainly paid like one, and given ice time like one.

Ideally, he slots in on the second pairing next season, partnered with another defenseman who has the ability to skate out of trouble and move the puck (his best possession numbers last year came when he was paired with his brother, Caleb, or with Kaiser). He should get easier assignments, skate fewer minutes, and be bumped down to the second power-play unit in order to maximize the impact of the things he's actually really good at.

We won't know whether or not anything of those things happen until a few months from now but, as far as Seth Jones goes overall, there's one thing I can say with absolute certainty: You do not have to re-sign Caleb Jones just because they're brothers.

For whatever reason, this seems to be a common refrain. He's stuck with us for seven more years, and we're stuck with him. There's no need to appease him by giving roster spots to his family members, especially when they should be used to find out whether or not any of the stockpile of young defensive prospects the Blackhawks have accumulated are legit players moving forward.

Korch 4 Eva.