Seth Jones disappointed with Blackhawks debut season, but he hasn’t been the problem

Plus-minus is a flawed statistic — it reflects team performance far more than individual performance, yet is attached to individuals. But many players still care deeply about it.

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 singlehandedly worse than his minus-25 rating from his first eight seasons combined –it bothers him.

“Any time you’re that ‘dash,’ it’s not a good thing,” Jones said Wednesday, using the 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 admirably honest when evaluating himself all year. His first season in Chicago hasn’t been anything like what he surely imagined, and he hasn’t been perfectly consistent either, but he has at least consistently owned up to those struggles and taken accountability for them.

And as the season winds down, Jones’ overall performance really doesn’t look bad at all in retrospect. His five goals, including zero on the power play, weren’t “good enough” –but thanks to 46 assists, his 51 points are still the second-most of his career and tied for 14th among defensemen league-wide.

Digging deeper, his analytics on defensive zone retrievals and exits and offensive zone entries are all fantastic. JFresh Hockey’s player card puts his WAR (wins above replacement) in the 91st percentile. Still, he’s personally not satisfied.

“I had some good moments in the year, and had some not-so-great moments,” he 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.”

Interim coach Derek King, asked to assess Jones’ season, also gave a remarkably 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 just kicking in this summer, that opportunity does seem likely to eventually 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’ll promptly travel to Finland to play for the U.S. in the world championships.

Then he’ll head back home to Dallas for summer training, of which watching video will indeed be a big part. The Hawks as a team watched more video 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] 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 [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 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.”

His younger brother Caleb will yet again train with him, and Jones predictably lobbied Wednesday for the Hawks to re-sign him, saying this season was “pretty special” together and he’s “looking forward to the future with him.”

Regardless of Caleb’s fate, though, Seth will undoubtedly hope 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.”

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