On paper, the Jets have had a very successful week. Four home wins, with the only loss coming to arch enemy the Minnesota Wild in St. Paul. Yet, something about this year’s team seems amiss. The Jets seem to be struggling to beat lesser teams, have not really dominated a true contending team, and are plagued with inconsistent play from all but a few players. This is a team that made it to the Western Conference finals less than a year ago. We expect more. Are we over reacting? Did last year’s team overachieve? Let’s check in with how I’m currently doing using our Weekly Jets Anxiety Check-In using the arbitrary three-level anxiety level scale:
Not At All Worried
Panic/Losing Sleep Worried
Coaching Decisions – Moderately Worried:
I like Paul Maurice as a coach, and overall he and the staff have done a very good job with the team. However, there are some trends that we are seeing as back-seat, amateur coaches that are concerning.
Connor Hellebuyck has been inconsistent this season, while back up Laurent Brossoit has been excellent. Yet, only three goaltenders have played more games than Hellebuyck this season. Perhaps he would benefit from a rest? Say we’re down 2 – 1 in a playoff series, Hellebuyck has a subpar game and lets in a weak one like he did against Andrew Cogliano against the Anaheim Ducks. Will Maurice make the decision to start Brossoit the next game? Will he ride the hot goalie in the playoffs even if that is Brossoit? I have my doubts. Maurice also seems reluctant to mix up lines when things are not clicking. I’m not necessarily in favour of the line matching blender, but, regular season is a time to try different combinations. Will he mix it up in the playoffs to get things going, given his reluctance in the regular season?
Then there is the actual skill development part of coaching. Much has been written and discussed about Patrick Laine, and whatever side of the fence you land in terms of his “superstar” status, let’s all agree that he is not yet a complete player. And, part of that comes down to coaching. His shot is divinely granted, but every other part of his game needs significant development. I’m starting to wonder why he is showing so little improvement in other parts of his game. Either he’s being coached on these things and not getting it; he’s unwilling to do the work to improve his game (not being coachable); or, he’s not being properly coached. We as fans don’t know, and, even if the reality is some type of combination of those three, some of the onus on player development falls on the coaching staff.
Trade Deadline – Panic/Losing Sleep Worried:
I’m repeating this from my last article, as my anxiety level has not subsided. Again, the question I have is which direction the Jets should take approaching the trade deadline.
There are many factors to consider in terms of trades and what makes a GM’s job so challenging is contemplating all of these factors on an ongoing basis, for every roster move that you consider. For this article I’m going to be an unrealistic and isolate one factor only – assessment of where your team is at.
Using those criteria, let’s simplify it more into two categories:
A. Stanley Cup contender this season
B. Not a Stanley Cup contender this season (we’re not a rebuild, but maybe we’re just mediocre?)
If you believe the Jets fall into option A, my position is that with our current roster, we’re not quite good enough. We’re at least a second line center and second pairing defenseman lacking. If we’re setting a trade deadline wish list, I’d also add a veteran “character” forward (preferably center), who will help us in playoff style hockey (paging Wayne Simmonds). Bryan Little has been playing well this season. However, he’s a downgrade from Paul Stastny. He’s also not at the level of these second line centers on Stanley Cup contending teams: Mikael Backlund; Kyle Turris; John Tavares; Brayden Point; Nickolas Backstrom; Logan Couture; Evgeni Malkin. This is not a bash Bryan Little article. Like I said, I like him, but, as a third line center.
Few GM’s have done the fantastic job Kevin Cheveldayoff has building a contending team. Even fewer GM’s are then able to take the next difficult steps to build a team that actually wins a Stanley Cup. The window is now for Chevy, and one of those steps is deciding whether to make an impact trade or two, now. As great as Chevy is, if he does nothing and three seasons from now all we have are some second round playoff appearances, there are going to be questions. Questions that will eventually impact job security.
Thoughts, debates, questions? Please join in the comments section.