Watching the past few games by the Winnipeg Jets, something seems a little off with them. They seem a little bit slower and a little more prone to making mental mistakes. Could it be that they are suffering from fatigue due to all the injuries that they have had to work with since before Christmas.
The most obvious candidate for fatigue is Connor Hellebuyck. Hellebuyck has not had a consistent back-up this year as Steve Mason has had two concussions and missed significant time because of it. This means that there is a goalie who is not seen to be as good as their back-up behind Hellebuyck and suddenly Hellebuyck starts a couple more games here and there. He is playing almost every game and there are times when he has looked just a touch behind the play which leads to a bad goal against. Maybe a couple more games off would help.
And then there is the defence. Since before Christmas they have been filling in for key players being injured. Moreso than with forwards, it is hard to cover up injuries on the back end. When you are missing both Dustin Byfuglien and Tobias Enstrom, there is a certain amount of strain put on all the other defencemen. Follow that up with Jacob Trouba getting hurt and we have not had a long stretch of the Jets with a healthy defence since December. And it puts pressure on the top players to play more minutes than normal because there are fewer top players to carry the load.
The forwards have had it a bit better since we are finally seeing the outcome of drafting and developing when it comes to Kyle Connor and Jack Roslovic. Even though the forwards have had many injuries, starting with the early injury of Mathieu Perreault, they have the depth to handle them without problem. Connor has been a revelation after struggling in the NHL last season while Roslovic has adjusted nicely and has even figured out how to score goals now. Because of this, the loss of Scheifele was not felt as deeply as it would have been in the past.
The Winnipeg Jets have been affected by injuries this season. While their strong play has been able to mask how the losses of key players has hurt the team thanks to their depth, there could be the side effect of fatigue that is showing up in their recent games. It might help explain why they have looked a little off lately and not quite as sharp as early in the season. What is interesting is that once everyone is back healthy, they could decide to sit players out for certain games to rest for the playoffs. This is a technique that is popular in the NBA and is gaining popularity in the NHL because it means that top players are spared a flight and a game where they could get injured. While it does not seem fair to fans in the city the team is travelling to and even the other players on the team, it is important to remember that the top players have a great impact in the playoffs and that having them healthy then is more important than one regular season game. The Jets might be fatigued right now, partially because of all the top-lineup players who have been injured, but they can work to combat that fatigue and enter the playoffs in the best shape possible both mentally and physically.