What is this? Blake Wheeler is scoring again and the Jets are still losing!? But I thought his inconsistencies were the Winnipeg Jets problem.
Oh wait, no. It is Dustin Byfuglien's weight, that is the problem!
Erm, I mean it's Tobias Enstrom's size?
Or is it Evander Kane's selfish play?
Or Andrew Ladd's non-vocal leadership style?
So many damn choices! All I know is if everybody would just try as hard as Mark Stuart and James Wright then this team would be in good shape.
Man oh man there are some stupid fun narratives in Jets land and while they all make for fun discussion, none of those mentioned above are really the problem.
That isn't to say that the issues listed above are 100% make believe -- some of them are even based in reality -- but the idea that the Jets best players are the source of all the Jets' problems is beyond ludicrous. They aren't the problem. It has nothing to do with their heart. It has nothing to do with not caring. Those story-lines are simply a disgusting oversimplification of a beautiful game.
HOCKEY ISN'T A BATTLE OF WILLS.
Will exists and it takes a great deal of will to make it to the NHL; this is true regardless of a player's talent level. But there is so much more to the game of hockey than will. There is this other thing called talent that plays a big part.
But I've seen the Jets put it all together. When they try, they win.
The Jets are not a unique case. They are not breaking new ground with their up an down play. The Jets look exactly like every other non-playoff team does - with wild swings in play from night to night. This is the norm! There are two teams on the ice and both of them are trying to win.
Only one team can get off to a great start.
Only one team can score first.
Only one team can control territorial play.
There are two teams on the ice at all times.
.In the case of the Winnipeg Jets, the other team will usually be better than them.
Acknowledging that sucks, but that is a fact. The Jets currently sit 20th in the NHL by the standings and they actually rank worse by pretty well all the shot based metrics. Simply put, the Jets aren't a good hockey team.
But what about the time they beat [insert good team here]?
Hockey is a crazy game. Goal scoring is infrequent and the best team doesn't always win. Good teams can get cornered and bullied too. This is normal. This isn't Jets specific at all. Teams worse than the Jets have similar stretches and it is important to note - two teams played in those games too.
When Florida is outplaying or beating Minnesota it doesn't mean Florida is playing to their potential. It doesn't mean that Minnesota is taking a night off. It is evidence to just how fluid a game hockey can be.
Okay so beating Toronto isn't that big of a deal, but I thought it was important to point out that Toronto has lost to Buffalo twice. Toronto Maple Laughs.
...and back on topic...
Watching the Jets beating a good team or own a couple periods of play tells us nothing about their makeup. Good teams control play and win consistently. Big wins don't define a team, consistency does. The Jets don't have consistency.
So consistency IS the problem, this is the player's fault after all!
Nope! That isn't even close to the point.
Much of what we call consistency is an attempt to describe natural variance. The difference between what Bryan Little was doing to start the season and what he is doing now is about puck luck, not about consistency. The same goes for Wheeler. Their underlying numbers have largely stayed the same, but the results have done a complete flip flop. Consistency was there, the results were not.
And if you don't buy fancy stats that is fine, just acknowledge that every player will experience highs and lows.
To a degree, a lack of what we call consistency should be assumed, both on the player level and on the team level.
Holy crap! You told me you would identify the problem and you haven't even tried to do this yet.
Background is important! If you don't understand the circumstance, chances are you won't understand the story.
So what is the problem?
The Winnipeg Jets problem is... Talent! To put it simply the Winnipeg Jets aren't talented enough to win much more than they do. Perhaps the coaches could better utilize the current talent (probably). Perhaps coaching strategy could be better. Improvement from special teams could undoubtedly help as would better goaltending, but this is your Jets based on how they are currently constructed.
The Jets best players are not more inconsistent than they should be. The top line is largely comprised of players that average about 60 points a season. They aren't point per game all-stars and they never will be. They are what they are and it has nothing to do with effort. It has nothing to do with "A" games.
It isn't Bryan Little's fault that he isn't Sidney Crosby. Blake Wheeler would love to dominate at Corey Perry levels, but that isn't in the cards for him. Evander Kane isn't Alex Ovechkin. Toby Enstrom isn't Zdeno Chara. It is what it is. It isn't for lack of trying. Blaming these players is dumb. They are the best players on the team and they are doing the best the can. Same goes for Ladd. Same goes for Dustin Byfuglien.
They aren't causing losses.
But if they aren't causing the losses, who is?
This is where things get fun. This is what we have all been waiting for! Right? Well, kind of. If we wanna play the blame game we can swing things two ways. We can swing the blame to the players that cause the losses on the ice or we can swing the blame towards management for putting them on the ice to begin with.
On the ice, the reason that the Winnipeg Jets continue to pile up losses is because their bottom six forwards and bottom end D men are horrible. The Jets 3rd line features a player (Matt Halischuk) that is playing for league minimum salary on a 2-way contract. A bottom feeder that plays in the same division as the Jets let him go when he was available for league minimum dollars. They didn't want him playing on their 4th line and he plays on the Jets 3rd line. Meanwhile the Jets fourth line is comprised of being worse than Matt Halischuk. This is why the Jets are where they are.
The Jets problem is that their depth players are deplorable. James Wright, Eric Tangradi, Chris Thorburn, Matt Halischuk, Anthony Peluso and John Albert are at best 4th line NHLers - none of them are above an assignment to the AHL - yet they all dressing for the Jets regularly. On the back end, everybody who plays with Mark Stuart enters a black hole of Corsi. Their numbers go from OK to some of the worst in the entire NHL.
THIS IS A HUGE FLIPPING PROBLEM!
If you are gonna shit the bed, you shit it out of your bottom, much like the Winnipeg Jets.
How can this problem be fixed?
There are really only two ways to fix this problem and they both involve Winnipeg General Manager Kevin Cheveldayoff.
Option 1: Add superstars - The Winnipeg Jets best players are very good, but they clearly aren't the kind of players that can carry a team on their shoulders and do it alone. They Jets don't have a Crosby, a Toews or a Kopitar. If Chevy can add one or two such players the Jets are instantly a playoff team. Go figure.
Obviously that kind of move is near impossible, so there has to be another way.
Option 2: Build a deep team - If your team doesn't have superstars it needs to have three or four quality lines. The Jets don't have that. It is one thing to dress 4th liners on a 4th line, but the Jets have consistently dressed 4th liners in the top nine over the last three years. Adding depth takes time, but dressing depth players over skill players doesn't.
The difference between cat calls and reality comes when people blame the Jets' inconsistent players for their problems. It doesn't work that way. Consistency is a function of talent, it isn't the other way around. For the Jets to improve they will need more talent.
They can go about this via one of two methods:
a) Increase depth. This can be done internally or externally, but dressing 5-6 4th liners on any given night should never happen.
b) Add a couple superstar (the superstars may eventually be Jacob Trouba or Mark Scheifele, but that will take time). This method is much more difficult.
Regardless of what route the Jets take, the issue is talent. Increase the talent level and you increase both "consistency" and wins. It really is as simple as that. The Winnipeg Jets best players aren't their problem, their problem is that there aren't enough good players on the team. More good players means more people to pick up slack when other falter. Pitter patter let's get at 'er. #whatdidChevydotoday
If it is that simple, why do we get all these bonus stupid story-lines? Well...