There are calls for Ondrej Pavelec to be brought back up from the Manitoba Moose to play goal for the Winnipeg Jets instead of Connor Hellebuyck or Michael Hutchinson. While neither goalie has been Devan Dubnyk or Sergei Bobrovsky level, they have not been the abject failure that so often defined Pavelec’s time in the Jets crease. The cries for change are also odd when you consider Pavelec was considered the team MVP when he achieved a 0.905 save percentage and Hellebuyck has some wanting to cast him aside with a 0.909. He has not been good lately, but he does deserve the same benefit of doubt that Pavelec received for many years.
Hellebuyck has not even been that bad 5 on 5. His save percentage is 0.920, which is down from the 0.939 last season but still a slight improvement from Pavelec’s 0.917 last year which is also his career average. Hellebuyck has not even been that bad on the penalty kill with an 0.853 save percentage which is right where Pavelec was last year. For some reason, fans have little appetite for goaltending that is not all-world if it is not coming from Pavelec. Pavelec cannot even crack 0.910 in the AHL, let alone the NHL.
The fundamental problem with the Winnipeg Jets goaltending is probably not goaltending itself. Yes, Hellebuyck can be better, but the problem might stem from a team that plays low-event hockey instead of higher event hockey that is better suited for their forwards and their top-four defence as it stands today. Yes, the goaltending it struggling, but it could be helped simply by allowing the forwards to push the play more and open up a bit. There might be more goals against this way, but there might also be more goals for and that is a bonus.
The Winnipeg Jets have not had the benefit of above-average goaltending this season. Connor Hellebuyck and Michael Hutchinson have struggled this year. The solution to these struggles, especially Hellebuyck’s, is not to call-up Ondrej Pavelec for more of the same type of goaltending he has given the Jets since they were the Thrashers and resided in Atlanta. What the Jets and their fans need now is patience and understanding that Hellebuyck needs the same courtesies that were extended to Pavelec for much of his time with the Jets: he is young, he is improving, his best years are ahead of him. Enough with the “Pavelec should be recalled/Hutchinson should be starting” because those ideas do not fix the fundemental issues with the Jets and instead feed into the idea that if you get a different goalie all will be well. There is a lot more to it than that. With goalies you do not want one like Jonas Gustavsson who can lose you games. There is nothing wrong with an average goalie who might not steal many games, but also allows you to win the games you deserve to win. Maybe that is what Hellebuyck is doing right now: simply letting the Jets win the games they deserve to win and nothing more.