Usually, I like to give some grandiose introduction for a recap. Perhaps you enjoy these sidebars and silly stories. This time, however, we’re just going to skip to the meat of what was a thoroughly painful game. The Jets lost 5-2 in Vegas and it’s hard to say any of us are surprised. It was the second half of a back-to-back and the Jets were still down Nik Ehlers. To make matters worse, Dylan Samberg also took a knock and had to make way for Logan Stanley. Adding to the Fun Pile was that realization that David Rittich was starting. Big Save Dave sadly hasn’t lived up to that moniker in a while, and failed to do so again in his first Jets start. Winnipeg got dusted on mistakes and poor goaltending in the first period, so we’re going to switch gears and talk about some positives and adjustments the team could make before the weekend.
One positive worth cheering about is Cole Perfetti’s continued excellence. He had another big game for the Jets and notched an assist for his efforts. I’m still waiting to see that booming wrister of his, but setting up linemates for tap-ins will do plenty for now. Another happy thought is the 4th line, which continues to smash minutes. David Gustafsson and Sam Gagner just seem to click together. Their forechecking skill and ability to find soft spaces between defenders usually leads to quality scoring opportunities.
Gustafsson and Gagner are so good together, in fact, that I think the Jets need to make them featured parts of the top-9. Neither skater is a 4th liner, and it’s time the coaching staff recognizes that. I’d go so far as to take a look at whether or not Gus can handle 2nd line minutes, especially if Dubois gets traded. Gustafsson has such a dominant 2-way game that shines alongside skill. I’ve been an advocate of his for a few years now, but this feels like the first time he might get a bigger role with the team. Gagner, to his credit, can play almost anywhere in the line-up. I’d like to see him given more featured ice-time to help with Winnipeg’s goalscoring issues. Sam has already potted 2 this season, and I think he could help Scheifele out in the event that Ehlers misses more time.
For all of the positives I just mentioned above, it has to be said that the Jets really needed to do better asset management to avoid what we’re witnessing now. Winnipeg is extremely short on depth, and it’s showing badly with just a few injuries. This team, even at full-strength, would be a Wild Card squad on the optimistic side. If anyone in the top-6 misses significant time....whoof. Adding insult to injury, Svechnikov, Comrie, and Kovacevic all seem to be finding success with their new clubs. All 3 probably would have been able to step up and help the Jets right now. What, exactly, is the plan with this team? The burgeoning crop of kids is very exciting, but the Jets still have a number of important players right now who want to win. Would it be too much to ask the front office for some roster help to get Winnipeg back into the post-season?
- Wheeler’s reduced role has paid dividends. The former captain looks refreshed and seems to be acclimating to the measured minutes quite well. It’s crazy what happens when you put a talented player who’s aging into the role that matches their body.
- Per Scott Arniel, it doesn’t sound great for Ehlers. The interim coach suggested the return of Ehlers will be discussed on Saturday, but didn’t sound overly optimistic. If Nik misses significant time, this team is beyond screwed.
- The Jets seriously need some backend help that isn’t Stanley. I know Heinola has his share of issues, but he does so much more to promote offense. If Samberg still can’t play this weekend, free Ville.
- It might also be worth calling Brad up for a game. The Jets are desperate for some forward support, and an NHL debut at home for Lambert would be a great reward for his efforts thus far. If Lambert somehow kills it in his debut, maybe he kicks off his Jets career early!
- Saturday should be Rick Bowness’s true debut for the team. We’ve only had him behind the bench for camp and pre-season. It’ll be good to see what Bones can conjure out of a team needing a magician to fix things.