Jets’ Loss to Stars Shows Their Transition is Far From Complete

The Winnipeg Jets hit the road to take on the Dallas Stars on Monday night and demonstrated that their transformation is still a work in progress. There are areas that need to be addressed, and this game highlighted a few of them.

Mark Scheifele Winnipeg Jets
Mark Scheifele has scored three goals in the Jets’ first two games. (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

After a promising start – getting on the board three-and-a-half minutes into the game – it seemed the Jets’ speed and forechecking would be too much for Dallas. Mark Scheifele scored his third goal of the season, and it seemed like the new-look Jets were for real. However, the Stars caught their breath, settled down, and adjusted halfway through the period. They took control of the pace and dictated the flow of play in a convincing 4-1 victory. Here are three takeaways from the Jets’ loss.

Jets Still Have Old Habits to Break

For the second game in a row, Winnipeg came out of the gate like thoroughbreds in a six-furlong sprint and slowed to a trot in the middle frame. This time, however, they weren’t able to pick up the pace in the third period as they did in their home opener against the New York Rangers.

Related: Jets’ Rick Bowness is Demanding More Speed from His Players

In the first 10 minutes, the Jets’ relentless forecheck had the Stars pinned in their own end. They implemented the game plan coach Rick Bowness has been preaching, and it worked. They dominated at both ends, but as soon as there was some pushback, the Jets fell back to their old habits, and for two-and-a-half periods, they were pushed around.

Rick Bowness Dallas Stars
Rick Bowness is working to transform the Jets as he successfully did in Dallas. (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Ironically, the Stars played the exact game the Jets were hoping to play. They forced the play, imposed their will on Winnipeg, and made them look disorganized and discombobulated. If every team wants to be the hammer and not the nails, on this night, they were definitely the nails. The good news for the Jets is that the Stars were playing a system originally implemented by Bowness, so with some work they should get there. After eight years under head coach Paul Maurice, a complete change of system will take time to learn, and they’re obviously not there yet.

Logan Stanley Was a Liability

During training camp, the final roster spot on defence was a three-way contest between Ville Heinola, Dylan Samberg, and Logan Stanley. Surprisingly, Stanley won the job, while Heinola was sent to the minors, and Samberg was named the extra defenseman and will mostly watch from the press box. Unfortunately after two games, it looks like management made the wrong decision. Look for Samberg to replace Stanley and make his season debut against the Colorado Avalanche in Denver on Wednesday.

Bowness stated that Stanley won the sixth defenseman position because of his size, physicality and ability to kill penalties. Against Dallas, he was slow, took needless penalties and was unable to keep up with the pace of the game. Basically, he was ineffective on the blue line.

“I don’t believe in the Logan Stanley project anymore. I used to. I used to think that there was something there with him. When you have better prospects in the system or even just better defenseman, for a team that’s looking to transition into something different, why not put the guys in there that can actually do the job better.”

– Scott BIlleck, on the Kenny and Renny Podcast, following the Jets’ loss to the Stars, 17/10/2022

Stanely wasn’t the reason for the loss, but he did have a negative impact on the game. Dallas played at a pace the Jets are aiming for and it was evident that Stanley couldn’t handle it. Samberg is a better defenseman, makes smarter decisions with the puck at even strength and can manage the speed Bowness is looking for. Last season, the pairing of Samberg and Neal Pionk was very effective, and the two fed off each other well. It may be time to go back to that combination.

The Dubois, Wheeler, Perfetti Line Needs Work

Upfront, the Jets are a top-six-heavy team with little offensive depth beyond their first two lines. Bowness has decided to load up the top line with his three best forwards. The Scheifele, Kyle Connor and Nikolaj Ehlers combination is firing on all cylinders. They’re fast, moving the puck well, finding each other in open space and getting their chances to score.

Blake Wheeler Winnipeg Jets
Blake Wheeler, Winnipeg Jets (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

The same cannot be said of the second line of Pierre-Luc Dubois, Blake Wheeler and Cole Perfetti. This trio looked out of sync and disjointed. That’s not to say they won’t develop into a cohesive unit, but they’re not there yet. Perfetti didn’t seem to have his legs; he looked slow and small on the ice, and those who thought he might reach the 50-point range this season may have overestimated him. Remember that Scheifele only had 34 points in his first full NHL season.

Dubois and Wheeler are rugged players who use physicality and strength to create space, and they simply haven’t looked comfortable with the smaller Perfetti, who plays more of a finesse game. Their line had four shots on goal and was basically invisible, unable to sustain any pressure or generate scoring chances.

The big question moving forward will be whether they can blend their different styles into a cohesive unit. The Jets may have to look at changing their combinations to find chemistry. Don’t forget that Dubois and Connor fed off each other last season and had excellent offensive results. It’s only two games into the season, but that line has yet to score and hasn’t created enough pressure for us to assume they will.

Doesn’t Get Easier for the Jets

The Jets are a team in transition, and the loss to Dallas vividly demonstrated they have work to do. Bowness said it’s going to take time, and they are going to make mistakes. This game was proof of that. The team will need to make some modifications, and fans will have to be patient. Things don’t get any easier for them, either, as they fly into Denver to take on the Avalanche on Oct. 19, then head to Sin City to play the Vegas Golden Knights the following night. That’s a real test for a team suffering from some growing pains.

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