The NHL Holiday Roster Freeze has begun, and the Winnipeg Jets, who are now 15-17-3 after last night's game against the Vancouver Canucks, have a few questions going forward. 2 games will be played during the freeze (Dec 22 @ Vancouver, Dec 27th @ Chicago), which will see the Winnipeg Jets ice a team identical or similar to the one seen in Vancouver last night.
Two important forwards in Joel Armia and Shawn Matthias will soon be available to come off the injury reserve list and rejoin the team, as both have been skating with the team and are preparing to be game ready. In their place during their injuries, a few other players have come in and contributed to the team's play rather than be "just a skater", namely Marko Dano and Andrew Copp. Nic Petan, who was injured but returned last night, is also a standout who seems to be ready for full time NHL work. However, with Petan drawing back in, something had to give, and give it did with Jets' stalwart Chris Thorburn being the benchwarmer. With that said, let's take a look at the Jets' team and see how it will shape up once the NHL returns to normal after the holidays.
During the December 20th game against the Canucks, the team had a forward lineup that looked like this;
Most recently, Alex Burmistrov has been relegated to the press box due to inconsistent play and quite frankly, questionable decision making. It's been suggested on several occasions that Burmi's offensive play has declined so much that he barely resembles the 1st round pick he was several years ago. Add that to the growing list of questionable decisions he's made on the ice, such as bad penalties, poor dump-ins, line changes and failed zone clear-outs, and most notably missing a face-off, the team felt it was necessary to press box Burmi and try to facilitate a trade. That hasn't happened, and with the 23 man roster in jeopardy of being overcrowded, Burmistrov is a likely candidate for the waiver wire and demotion to the Moose, if not claimed.
Drew Stafford is also a player who has recently come under fire for declined play. Stafford recently came back from injury, and has played a total of 20 games for the Jets as of today's article, yet has only put up 1 goal and 3 assists. In comparison, Joel Armia, who as mentioned earlier, will be returning from injury soon, has put up exactly the same numbers as Stafford with half the amount of games played (10 games). On top of that, Stafford is playing the final year of a two year contract that pays him 4.35 Mil.. In my opinion, Stafford will be the first Jet likely to be traded as soon as possible in order to free up cash and a space, dependent upon a trade partner with suitable cap room.
In Chris Thorburn, the coaches and management have him in the lineup because he's willing to do the dirty work, and take on the "goons" the other teams dress. However, fighting in the NHL is down, and most fights seem to be generated to justify the spot. Most recently, Thorburn fought fellow tough guy Cody McLeod of the Colorado Avalanche, a fight that served no purpose what so ever...no one was sticking up for anybody, no one caused a penalty...it just seemed to "happen", and fall within the category of staged "pro wrasslin". Of the 29 games Thorburn has played this year, he has 3 "Johnny on the spot" goals and is a vocal leader in the dressing room.
Brandon Tanev was kid hero earlier in the season, scoring two goals in one game, his first and second markers of the season. Tanev also has 2 assists to go with the goals for a total of 4 points in 35 games. Known for his speed and tenacity, Tanev is the prototypical 4th liner and has held the role since last season when Matt Halischuk passed the torch to Tanev and wasn't resigned. With that said, Tanev has the favor of the coaches who promoted him to the 3rd line. But, with the return of Matthias soon coming, the Jets will likely have Tanev seated next to Thorburn soon, if not sent back down to the Moose, as he is waiver exempt.
With moving higher potential, but disappointing talents in Burmistrov & Stafford out, while retaining Tanev & Thorburn to limited playing roles, the Jets can move in Matthias and Armia, and increase their chances of goal production and puck possession.
On the defensive side of the lineup, things are similar with Tyler Myers currently in the sickbay and has not recently skated, suggesting that his injury, once listed as "day to day" was more serious than originally thought. Last night's lineup is likely how we'll see things for the foreseeable future...
With the 23 roster limit on active players and one unofficially designated spot for a defenseman, the return of Myers will most notably affect Mark Stuart, who has been left out in favor of Paul Postma. Stuart, who you can see, has 2 years left on his current deal, is being paid 2.625 Mil.. If the Jets elect to keep Stuart within the True North organization and not trade him, he will require waivers. However, so will Chiarot and Postma, so you don't need to do a proper risk analysis to determine that one of the three maybe lost to another team without compensation. But, again, Stuart is the oldest of the 3 with another year left on his current deal and won't garner as much attention, if any on the waiver wire as a inexpensive Chariot or Postma would. Josh Morrisey is going nowhere and not being sent to the Moose, as he's proven to be a delightful surprise to the Jets in light of the Jacob Trouba holdout situation.
One scenario that hasn't been put forward yet is the thought of packaging and trading any or all of the five aforementioned players, along with pending UFA goalie Ondrej Pavelec for future or current assets. I'll leave that thought processes to you, the readers, as it will more than likely take some sweetening to see something that dramatic happen to the club.
Finally, once the dust has settled, In my opinion, we could see a line up similar to this come the later days of December, if not the early games in January, 2017, barring any trades or demotions to any of the non-untouchable players listed below;
Ok, Armchair GMs, what do you think. Will the roster freeze thaw out and put the Jets in a better position to win, coaching aside? What's your thoughts?
Merry Christmas, and Happy Holidays!
On Wednesday, Dec. 28th, in order to comply with the mandated 23 roster limit, The Winnipeg Jets sent Brandon Tanev and Andrew Copp to the Manitoba Moose. As a result, Alexander Burmistrov and Chris Thorburn maintain their statuses in the press box, while Drew Stafford has started a new role and has given the 4th line a scoring presence, working along side skilled forwards in Nic Petan and Marko Dano. No changes as of yet with the defensive core as Mark Stuart will continue to be the 7th man, while Tyler Myers still isn't skating due to injury.
As for the Jets' moves, these are simple ones, but I was hoping for and expecting more from the club. However, we don't know what was done behind closed doors. We do know that Chevy and Co. were actively seeking trade partners for Burmistrov, but that likely cooled over the Christmas break. Both Thorburn and Burmi hold value in the eyes of the team, and to lose them over the waiver wire for nothing in return would not be suitable moves. It makes sense to have experience in RW Thorburn and C/LW Burmistrov sit on the bench rather than youth, as C/LW Copp and LW/RW Tanev were both waiver eligible, and while disappointing for them, they will be valuable additions to the Moose for the time being.
RW Stafford has accepted his new role with the Jets, acknowledged his slump and wants to contribute to the team's success. In the two games that Stafford has played on the 4th line, he scored a goal and has become a renewed threat around the net, so it appears it's a Win/win so far, while his chemistry with Petan and Dano is apparent.
"You want to contribute in certain ways to help the team win in whatever way you can, in whatever role you're put in." -Drew Stafford pic.twitter.com/frt4MS8VYh— Winnipeg Jets (@NHLJets) December 28, 2016