Kyle Connor is currently playing for the Winnipeg Jets in lieu of the injured Mathieu Perreault and he is filling in admirably. It is almost enough to question why he did not start this season in the NHL when he is clearly more prepared than he was last year. He is capable of contributing to the Jets top six, so why should he be in the AHL when he is clearly a NHL talent?
The answer lies in the Jets bottom six. While they have rarely been healthy this whole season, with the bottom six taking a brunt of the injuries. Things are looking up as Adam Lowry and Matt Hendricks are nearing return. But is this a good thing for the Jets or will it only cause more pain in the short-term with no long-term gain?
The answer is almost certainly not. While there is nothing inherently wrong with Adam Lowry as a hockey player, Matt Hendricks is an aging, unskilled player whose greatest strength was being surprisingly good at shootouts a few years ago. Hendricks will not help the Jets in the short or long term; just like he could not help the Oilers.
The Jets are struggling right now, even if they are winning games, and a lot of that has to do with the bottom six players. With players coming back to health it is time that Paul Maurice properly evaluates what makes a good bottom six player and realizes that a good player anywhere in the lineup bring quantifiable value to the team and not just unquantified traits like grit and heart.
The Jets have long fallen into the pit of thinking that the bottom of their roster should be devoid of skill to a certain degree and that is in the bottom six. Sure there are players like Nic Petan in the lineup, but he is a rare sight on the fourth line and struggles to score and produce chances when not playing with skill. If the Jets want to maximize talent they need to learn that the only way to do that is to in fact play talented players more.
The Winnipeg Jets want more from their bottom six and more importantly need more from their bottom six. Replacing players with Matt Hendricks and playing Brandon Tanev over more talented players is not going to achieve that. This will not fix all the Jets problems, but it would be a great start to addressing greater needs.