Mark Scheifele will, for the first time in his career, hit the 100-point plateau. I know it’s a bold statement, maybe even borderline ridiculous, so please feel free to agree or disagree. I do enjoy the feedback or, in this case, mockery. Barring injury, COVID-19 or suspension, all factors that reduced his games played played last season, Scheifele will hit the century mark this season.
He’s never had more than 84 points in any season, so if you’re skeptical, I understand. I have thought about this and there’s some speculative evidence to consider. Let’s revisit this hypothesis in December, evaluate where he is in terms of points at that time, and I’ll write an article based on, “See? I told you so” or perhaps eating crow and being forced to reassess. It could be fun.
Let’s also make something clear, I’m not a card-carrying member of Jets Nation. Not that I don’t like who they are and how they play, it’s just that someone else owns my heart. The Jets didn’t exist when I was growing up in rural Manitoba, so my heart was promised to someone else long ago. This is not a piece written by a super fan trying to promote the Jets. The team I actually cheer for has a boat load of problems compared to the Jets right now, so I guarantee you this is purely from an objective standpoint.
Scheifele Will Benefit from Bowness
Scheifele is drinking the Kool-Aid new head coach Rick Bowness is pouring. Bowness has already had a profound effect on him in two ways. He has him re-energized and excited to play hockey; he also has him committed to the new systems emphasizing defense first. Scheifele has bought into everything his new coach has laid out. He has called him a great communicator, has repeatedly mentioned how much he wants to learn from him and how eager is to work in the new aggressive schemes. He has done a complete 180-degree turn in terms of attitude and dedication to the team. He has used the term “we” in media availabilities, as opposed to the hurt and frustrated player who used “I” throughout his exit interview last spring.
“The smile Scheifele wears now is in complete contradiction to the frown he wore just a few months ago as his frustrations in life and with his lot in it came to a head in a very public way. Bowness said earlier in camp that he never heard, “I want out,” in Scheifele’s exit interview. If anything, Bowness saw it as a cry for help from a guy who was passionate about winning and cared about bringing success to Winnipeg.”– Scott Billeck (from ‘I WANT US TO WIN’: Jets’ Scheifele has renewed sense of purpose,’ Winnipeg Sun, 13/10/2022)
Bowness’ stance on working hard, holding every player accountable and defense first will benefit Scheifele’s offensive numbers. Using Johnny Gaudreau as an example, last season as a member of the Calgary Flames, he had a rebound season with career-high numbers on offense. After a disappointing 2020-21, the Flames brought in a no-nonsense and defensive-minded coach in Darryl Sutter, and Gaudreau thrived, putting up 115 points. Ninety of those 115 points came at even strength, a stat he led the NHL in with second place nowhere close. Connor McDavid was next in line with 78 points when both teams were at full strength, a distant 12 points behind Gaudreau.
Scheifele, should be able to emulate his success. Last year Flames fans were very aware of Gaudreau’s transformation. “It’s not been uncommon to see No. 13 making a defensive play on the backcheck this season and the attention to detail on the defensive side of the puck is no doubt helping his offensive numbers.”
Related: Jets’ Scheifele Can Thrive Under Rick Bowness
Scheifele is going to thrive in the Jets’ new system and find that solid defense will lead directly to offensive opportunities. He is going to find himself with more scoring chances off the rush based on better team defense.
Josh Morrissey jumps up into the rush, and Mark Scheifele drops back to play some defence. Rick Bowness is being heard. #NHLJets— Scott Billeck (@ScottBilleck) October 8, 2022
He and his linemates are going to get some serious looks at the net with their speed and ability to move the puck quickly. Combine that with the more aggressive nature Bowness wants his team to play, and everything is lined up for him to have a career year offensively.
Scheifele’s Linemates Will Get Him Points
Scheifele is centering the Jets’ top line with Kyle Connor and Nikolaj Ehlers on each wing. That is literally one of the fastest combinations in the NHL. All three players have the ability to score 40 goals. Connor scored 46 last season and Ehlers is one of the more creative players in the league. They also man the first power-play unit and will be earning in the range of 20 minutes of ice time per game.
“When you look at how dynamic those three are… those three players if they are able to take care of the defensive end of thing and score at the rate we expect them to, based on A) what they can do off the rush B) what they can do on the cycle and C) what they will do on special teams… you literally have three guys that could be between 80 and 100 point players.”– Sportsnets’ Ken Wiebe, on the Illegal Curve Hockey Show, 08/10/2022
In the Jets’ home opener against the Rangers, this line combined for 14 shots on goal and five points. Scheifele’s first goal was a direct result of speed and aggressive forechecking while the second was a power-play marker. This line could be looking at big numbers every night.
Scheifele is Playing for a Contract
Scheifele is under contract for the next two seasons and is going to be an unrestricted free agent (UFA) in the summer of 2024. No question about it, he would be a free-agent headliner. However, I think he and the Jets will get something done before then.
He likes it in Winnipeg, he is undeniably the top dog on the team, his mentor Dale Hawerchuk was an icon in the city and I believe he wants to stay. Keeping with the Gaudreau comparison who signed with the Columbus Blue Jackets for $9.75 million per season, Scheifele could be looking in the $10 million or more range. If he puts up big numbers he will earn himself a significant raise. In a year where Connor Hellebuyck, Blake Wheeler and Pierre-Luc Dubois are also UFA’s, re-signing Scheifele and Hellebuyck will be key for Winnipeg’s future success. How much they get paid will be directly linked to the numbers they put up, and I think they’re both going to have big seasons.
Scheifele is going to have a very good offensive year; he always does. However, I think the pieces are now in place for him to have a career defining season. We know he has the ability, now he has more external support to reach the 100-point mark. Revisiting this in December should give us a better idea of how close he is or how badly I missed the mark.