With just a hair over a quarter of the NHL season completed the Winnipeg Jets find themselves sitting in 3rd place in the North Division with a record of 9 wins, 5 loses and 1 overtime loss after 15 games. Their 19 points accumulated and 2 games in hand gives them little breathing room over 4th place Edmonton. Let’s break down each facet of the Jets organization and grade their performance so far.
Everyone knows Winnipeg has a strong forward group but this group has performed even better than most have anticipated. Offensively speaking they have been very productive and have enabled the Jets to score 3.53 goals per game, tied for fifth in the league; just a tiny sliver behind the Flyers(3.54). Although Wheeler, Scheifele and Connor’s defensive metrics are lackluster, their offensive output continues to make up for it. The ever-versatile Copp and dependable big-man Lowry have both levelled-up offensively. Ehlers in my humble opinion is the Jets MVP with his team-leading 10 goals, +11 +/- rating and wonderful forays into the offensive zone. Appleton and Perreault have contributed lately to the scoresheet and Stastny has been effective. Dubois hasn’t contributed much in the 2 games he’s played but there were a couple moments that highlighted his speed and playmaking.
The biggest question this off-season was if the Jets defence corps was good enough to help them get to the playoffs. Lack of any true top pairing defencemen, not enough depth on the right side and an abundance of fringe starters and young prospects didn’t inspire much confidence. We’ve seen both Morrissey and DeMelo play better. Perhaps more reps will get them back on track. Pionk and Forbort have been a revelation. Pionk has been utilized in nearly every situation: 5-on-5, power play, shutdown… and Forbort has been solid. They have supplanted Morrissey & DeMelo as the top pairing. Winnipeg’s third pair has seen Stanley(he did fine), Beaulieu(PoMo loves his grit but…), and Poolman(just so-so) as of late and in short it makes you wonder when that Heinola kid or even perhaps Samberg will be given a shot.
The Jets goaltending has kept them in games as much as their offence has won them games if that makes any sense. Hellebuyck and Brossoit faced an average of 32.4 shots per game(tied for 5th most) but it sure felt like many more than that on some nights! It took Helle a few games to settle in. And even though there have been a couple of weak goals, he’s made enough high-danger saves for me to say he’s done well for us. There’s still room for improvement, a good thing. Brossoit has been fine this year posting a .918 save percentage and a 2-1 record.
Coaching & Management: B-
It took Paul Maurice a couple of games longer than it should have to break up the defensively weak Connor-Scheifele-Wheeler line and his decision to go with 11 Forwards and 7 Defencemen was an unconventional and ineffective one during Winnipeg’s 2-1 loss to Ottawa last week. Keeping Beaulieu on the playing squad is a head-scratcher. But we have to give him kudos for giving Stanley a chance and moving Copp to the top line too. Chevy executed a fair trade with Columbus that helped out both teams; and 3 parties if you will(Laine, Roslovic, Dubois). In Chevy we trust, right?
The Jets have performed better than hockey analysts and their preseason polls have predicted. But we all knew they were going to! If they can tighten up defensively, prevent late-game breakdowns and continue their offensive consistency then we’ll be talking about more than just making the playoffs later on in the season…
Acquiring a good chunk of points in the next stretch of games is key for the Jets. They face the cream of the Northern Division crop Toronto and Montreal 7 times in the next dozen games with 5 of those with Winnipeg being the visiting team.
Nik Ehlers is currently on pace for 93 points this season; 55 goals and 38 assists. All in just 16:50 of ice-time per game.
“I don’t think that’s the way the coaches drew it up. Or the goaltenders.” – Kyle Connor on the Jets 6-5 win over the Oilers.
Photo source: Source: NHL.com