Every member of the weary Winnipeg Jets desperately need to be better after their players’ break, but for one player — backup goaltender Laurent Brossoit — getting back on track will be especially important.
Brossoit One of Jets’ Biggest Underachievers so Far
Brossoit hasn’t been much support for the overworked Connor Hellebuyck through the Jets’ first 51 games — he has struggled mightily all season.
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The numbers lay it bare: Brossoit hasn’t been good enough to put between the pipes unless absolutely necessary. His 3.71 goals against average and .883 save percentage aren’t anywhere near NHL calibre. He has allowed three-plus goals in nine of his 15 appearances, and in four of the appearances in which he allowed fewer than that, he played less than half the game.
For Brossoit to be so subpar this season was not something the Jets were expecting: last season, the mostly unknown goaltender — who signed a modest one-year deal after languishing in the Edmonton Oilers’ organization — was a revelation. Big, calm, and positionally sound, he was perhaps the NHL’s best backup and provided the team with just as good — if not better — a chance to win as Hellebuyck did.
This season, he’s allowed his fair share of softies and his rebound control and positioning — two of his hallmarks last season — haven’t been as good. His most recent start, a 4-3 loss against the Columbus Blue Jackets, is a microcosm of how he’s regressed.
With his team ahead 3-2 late in the second period and playing better than they had in a while, he allowed a weak wrist shot from Pierre-Luc Dubois to leak through his five hole. The puck sat on the goal line and Gustav Nyquist banged it in.
Any hopes the Jets had at getting even a point were washed out when Brossoit allowed another inopportune goal, this time, to Oliver Bjorkstrand with less than six minutes to go in the third.
Bjorkstrand’s tally, a simple flick of the wrist over Brossoit’s glove, was the second short-side goal the 26-year-old allowed in the game. Seth Jones scored short-side in the first and the Blue Jackets made a concerted effort to shoot there throughout the contest.
Jets Need Last Season’s Brossoit Back for Back Half
It’s no secret that the Jets’ success starts and ends in the crease. Their defence is legendarily leaky, so while it makes some sense that Brossoit’s numbers have dipped, they need him to recapture his past form regardless.
The Jets give up far too many high-danger scoring chances, allow too many passes to the slot, and don’t control the puck for the majority of five-on-five play. If they don’t get lights-out goaltending, they don’t win. It’s really that simple.
Luckily, Hellebuyck has mostly provided that lights-out goaltending and got the Jets to 20-11-2 by mid-December. He’s been the team’s undoubted MVP and was named the mid-season Vezina Trophy winner by the Professional Hockey Writers Association last week. However, he’s showing signs of fatigue from being barraged night after night.
The Jets’ defensive woes are systemic and deep-rooted and won’t be rectified with a week off. They won’t suddenly be a stifling, shutdown squad when they hit the ice Friday at Bell MTS Place to face the Boston Bruins and their high-powered offence.
While their chances at a playoff berth are looking bleaker and bleaker as fan frustration grows higher and higher, the Jets will need both their goalies — not just one — to be superb down the stretch if they want even a few games of postseason play.
Brossoit will need to step it up and take some of the pressure off Hellebuyck, since the Jets have four more sets of back-to-backs this season and 15 games in February alone.
Brossoit’s Career at a Crossroads
Brossoit’s performance between now and the season’s end will likely dictate his future in the NHL. If he continues to struggle, teams won’t be reaching out to him and offering a potential starting gig like they would have if he’d have proven his strong 2018-19 was not a one-off.
The Jets might not be interested in retaining him for a third go-around either, as exciting and enigmatic goaltender Mikhail Berdin is waiting in the wings with the Manitoba Moose.
Berdin’s AHL numbers — an 18-17-0 record, 2.85 GAA, and .914 SV% —aren’t quite as good as a season ago, but keep in mind he was run completely ragged in November and December before Eric Comrie returned to the organization to provide the Russian youngster some much-needed support.
Indeed, as important as Brossoit getting back on track will be for the Jets, it may be even more important for him personally.
Declan Schroeder is a 26-year-old communications specialist and freelance journalist in Winnipeg, Manitoba. He holds a diploma in Creative Communications with a major in journalism from Red River College and a bachelors in Rhetoric and Communications from the University of Winnipeg.
Deeply rooted in the city’s hockey culture, the original Jets skipped town when he was two and the 2.0 version came onto the scene when he was 17.