The Winnipeg Jets started the last week with a 4-3 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins at home, followed up with four wins in a row, including three impressive wins in New York/New Jersey. Full marks to the Jets this week as they collectively stepped up to the challenge of dealing with a rash of injuries and a tough road schedule. Connor Hellebuyck is slowing starting to look like the player we saw last year; and the team is beginning to show the resilience needed to be a contender.
Overall, it’s been a good week for the Jets. Let’s check in with how we’re doing using our Weekly Jets Anxiety Check-In using the arbitrary three-level anxiety scale:
Not At All Worried
Panic/Losing Sleep Worried
Concussions – Moderately to Panic Worried
Hey, remember last week how I casually mentioned my minimal level of anxiety about games lost due to injury for the Jets? Well, flush that down the drain thanks to a sudden rash of injuries including concussions for both Andrew Copp and Dustin Byfuglien . Copp returned for the Devils and Rangers game. He then missed the Islanders game with what was initially an undisclosed condition, later confirmed to be concussion symptoms.
Every fan watching the game on television suspected that Buff had a concussion after running into Jamie Oleksiak, despite returning to the game shortly after being “cleared” by NHL concussion protocol. Many who cover the Jets and the NHL have pointed out the flaws in the NHL’s concussion protocol given that after the hit Buff was wobbling like Timbits hockey player playing his first game. Basically all that was missing were cartoon birds floating around his head. It was absurd that he was allowed to return to the game.
My anxiety revolves around the complexity of head injuries. As a former football coach who dealt with numerous players with concussions, I learned that they are always a little worse than you think. Even when a player seems to be minimally impacted, symptoms often showed up days after the incident. Unfortunately, in my experience players who experienced concussions were never quite the same for the balance of the season, and were certainly susceptible to further concussions. Two concussions in one week for the Jets – moderately to panic level worried.
Defense Depth – Panic/Losing Sleep Worried
Our injury list for defense now includes Dmitri Kulikov (unsure when he’ll return; unsure if he ever has really played); Dustin Byfuglien (see above); Joe Morrow (not sure what or when this injury occurred, but, does not seem to be long term); Josh Morrissey (missed the Islanders game with an undisclosed injury). Add to that Tucker Poolman on the Manitoba Moose who appears to have a fairly significant injury.
Suddenly the Jets are riding with three Moose call ups: Sami Niku; Cam Schilling; and Nelson Nogier. Congratulations to Cam Schilling for being called up for only his seventh NHL game, and for his first NHL point this week. However, if you gave Kevin Cheveldayoff a couple of beers I think he would admit that calling up Schilling was not really in the plans, and is likely not a great sign. Our own Derek Gagnon has Nelson Nogier ranked as the 25th best Jets prospect under 25 years old. He was pressed into action against the Islanders. Again, Nogier playing with the big club would not happen under ideal circumstances.
I’m fine seeing Sami (Hagar) Niku get a good, long look with the Jets. I’d also be fine with Poolman up with the big club. If Schilling and Nogier are anything more than short term call ups, I’d be using up my data plan texting other GM’s trying to see if maybe there’s a second pairing defenseman out there we may want to swap for some of our forward depth. If we’re honest, even from the start of the season we knew we were a bit light after our top three defense. These injuries just reinforce that. Plus, this also means significantly more ice time for Tyler Myers which I fear may cause polite, Canadian style rioting.
The Jets as a Contender – Moderately Worried (with a reduction in worry this week)
This week did a lot to reduce my anxiety about whether the Jets are a legitimate contender or not. It’s a long regular season where even the best teams have bad stretches of games. The Jets are still a work in progress, and I still think we’re an impact player or two away from really being a Stanley Cup contender. However, this past week reminded me that the Jets can win tough games when they play the type of “Jets” hockey that makes them difficult to play against.