The Winnipeg Jets are in the middle of their best season since returning to the NHL in 2011. And with that success comes questions about those involved in the franchise’s turn around, namely the head coach and what general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff can do to get the team even more prepared for the postseason.
Thanks to the great community over at Reddit, it’s time for the first edition of the weekly Jets mailbag. Each week, I’ll take a handful over user-submitted questions about the team, and give my thoughts on the matter. So, without further adieu, let’s get started.
Q: If the Jets do in fact make the playoffs, what do you think Paul Maurice’s chance of taking home the Jack Adams are? — madzerglin
A: What Maurice has done with the Jets has been nothing short of amazing. This was a team that, entering the season, many believed would be right in the thick of the race for the top pick in the 2015 NHL Draft. Instead, Maurice has steered the Jets in the direction of being a playoff team. He’s dealt with the Evander Kane issues as well as one could’ve hoped, and really has the team believing in themselves.
That being said, I don’t think he even winds up a finalist for the award. He’s definitely done a great job, but coaches like Peter Laviolette in Nashville, Jack Capuano in New York and Bob Hartley will likely get more consideration for the award. In fact, if the season ended today, those would be my top three. However, if the Jets can somehow go on a tear, make the playoffs and wind up finishing near the top of the division, it would be hard pressed to find a coach more deserving. I just don’t see it happening right now.
Q: The Jets are rumoured to be looking for a top 9 forward before the trade deadline. What type of player are they looking for and who are they willing to give up? — redrocket0033
A: With the recent news and rumors regarding Evander Kane, the Jets may be looking harder at that top nine forward. Now, I’m not going to pretend I know exactly what Cheveldayoff is thinking or planning, I will offer my insight as to what I feel they are looking to do.
As I’ve stated in a previous post, Cheveldayoff won’t mortgage the future of the team just to make a playoff run this year. If Kane is a player that’s dealt, that could give the GM a bit more working room due to the pieces he’d likely get back in return for the under-performing forward. That being said, players like Antoine Vermette and Jaromir Jagr could be had for relatively cheap price points, and would really help this team up front. If Cheveldayoff ultimately decides to try and unload a top defenseman, then that could open the door for a true top six forward to come back to Winnipeg. When it’s all said and done, I see the Jets bringing in a rental player on the cheap just the try and get some boost heading into the stretch run of the season.
Q: Do you think penalty trouble will come back to bite the Jets down the stretch? — randylaheyjr
A: This is a tough one simply because, at times, the Jets like to take some pretty lazy penalties. Winnipeg sits at 14th in the NHL in penalty kill percentage at 81.7% which, though not bad, isn’t to the point where a team should feel overly comfortable when they go a man down, especially when the team is last in the NHL in penalty minutes per game. Still, the players on this team are smart enough, as well as the coach, to understand that taking lazy penalties and being shorthanded for over 14-minutes per game, on average, isn’t going to lead to success.
Q: What has contributed most to their successes this season? The players’ heightened conditioning, another year of chemistry and experience from the core, the improvement in goal tending, the new systems implemented by Coach Maurice, or another factor not mentioned? What is holding them back from further success? — Hero_of_Brandon
A: I really think everything you mentioned has contributed the how well the team has done this season. Maurice has instilled a mentality within the organization that they can compete with the best the league has to offer. Sure, they are in the midst of a five-game losing streak, but it’s a roadblock that Maurice will have his team ready to get around before it really hurts their playoff chances.
As far as what’s holding them back, I really think it comes down to two factors. The first is the aforementioned lack of discipline. There is just no way you can be last in the league in penalty minutes and expect high levels of success. These players are smart enough to know that, now they just have to stop being lazy. The other reason, to me, is the lack of a true threat in the top six. Sure, the Jets have been able to spread the wealth around when it comes to scoring, but there isn’t that one player up front that makes everyone believe that he can score at any moment. Kane was expected to be that guy, but we already know how that experiment is going.
Do you have a question you want answered? Either leave it in the comment section below, or ask me on Twitter @TheMikeStraw. I will answer a handful each and every week, so hit me with your best shot!