The Jets’ woes continue as we enter November of the 2019-20 season and a shakeup is needed. The team barely escaped their 3-2 win against the San Jose Sharks on Nov. 1 thanks to Connor Hellebuyck’s 51-save performance. You will not win a lot of games playing like that, so regardless of the outcome, we can chalk it up as another poor performance.
The Jets have averaged 32 shots on goal over their past eight games but have scored just 16 times – an average of just two goals per game. For a team that needs all the scoring it can get, that is simply not acceptable.
Secondary scoring has been an issue to start the season and now we are seeing season players like Blake Wheeler and Mark Scheifele start to sputter, as well. Wheeler has just two points in his last eight games and is a horrendous minus-11. Scheifele has produced a little more with five points over his last eight but is also an ugly minus-10 during that span.
The Jets’ primary bottom-six forward group of Jack Roslovic, Andrew Copp, Adam Lowry, Mathieu Perreault, Gabriel Bourque, and David Gustafsson have combined for a measly six goals on the season thus far – yikes.
A lot of people – myself included – are thinking it is time for Paul Maurice and the Jets to shake things up – here is what I think they should do. Keep in mind I am going to assume players like Patrik Laine, Nathan Beaulieu, and Sami Niku are healthy for these combos.
Line One – Ehlers, Scheifele, Roslovic
While I am not fully convinced moving Wheeler away from Scheifele will make things any better, I do think it is worth a try at this point in time. Roslovic and Nikolaj Ehlers had their moments together against the Sharks on Nov. 1 (including a beauty set up on the game-winning goal) and it is about time we see what Roslovic can do in the top six.
This line offers tremendous speed and skill, which is huge in today’s NHL and both Ehlers and Scheifele can shoot the puck well with Roslovic distributing it.
Line Two – Copp, Lowry, Wheeler
I think it is time to move Lowry to the second-line center spot and give him a shot with someone who has the scoring ability that Wheeler does. I have mentioned in a previous article, I feel Lowry can play a similar role to what Ryan Kesler did back in his prime as a second-line center, but he will need some more skill and scoring on his side to do that.
This line offers a lot of energy and hard work with added scoring potential having Wheeler on the right side. Copp and Lowry have always been very effective together during their time with the Jets but both have more to offer offensively – hopefully, this can give them all that spark.
Line Three – Connor, Gustafsson, Laine
I was impressed with Gustafsson throughout training camp and in his limited regular season action thus far and feel he deserves a shot with a little more responsibility. He has averaged roughly five minutes of ice time in his seven games with his main role being the fourth-line center.
Let’s give him a shot with two high-scoring wingers in Kyle Connor and Laine and see how he fairs – why not, right? Laine has made it clear he wants to play on the top line with the best players and it is probably not ideal to have nearly $14 million worth of wingers on the third line but something has to give.
Flipping this line with the second line is easily something that can be done, as well, but the point I am trying to make is to have three lines that can score and even out the playing minutes accordingly.
Line Four – Perreault, Little, Bourque
This is not a knock on Bryan Little – the guy has been dynamite since returning to the lineup on Oct. 20. Little and Perreault are guys who can contribute anywhere in the lineup and I feel a fourth-line role with penalty kill and second power play duties is a solid fit for them.
Once Mason Appleton is healthy again I would slot him into Bourque’s spot on right wing, but until then, Bourque is the best fit.
Defense Pairing One – Morrissey, Poolman
Josh Morrissey and Tucker Poolman have been a fairly decent pairing for the Jets in the recent games they have played together. The defense as a whole is still a mess, but I think these two can settle into a nice rhythm with more playing time together. At the same time, the recent poor play of the forward group has not done the Jets’ defense any favours.
Yes, the defense group needs more size and talent on it, but if you do not get support from your forwards, even the best of the best will look pretty original. I think that is the case with Morrissey, especially. His play has been – for the most part – solid this season but he currently sits at a minus-10 rating, which is odd for a guy who went plus-24 over the past two seasons. Add up all his different partners and poor defensive play by the forwards and that is the result.
Defense Pairing Two – Kulikov, Pionk
Dmitry Kulikov and Neal Pionk have been one of the most consistent defense pairings the Jets have had throughout the first 14 games of the season. While they have not been great and have had some bad breakdowns in the defensive zone, I think you have to keep these two together to form some kind of chemistry.
Here we are demanding changes to the forward group but asking for some continuity of the defense. However, that is the reality. We have seen more defense pairings this season than Connor Hellebuyck has seen shots. Okay, that may be an exaggeration, but it is about time the Jets form three defense pairings and stick with them.
Related: Pionk Exceeding Jets’ Expectations
Defense Pairing Three – Niku, Beaulieu
My third pairing has two guys who were expected to slot into the starting lineup prior to the start of the season. Niku and Beaulieu are both close to returns and should be added to the starting lineup when they do.
Beaulieu showed well on the right side last season when he stepped in for 18 games. Niku can also play the right side, so take your pick on who goes where. These two can both play anywhere up and down the defense group but, for now, starting them on the third pairing together would be the best fit for them and the Jets. Neither has played much nor at all this season so they will need to be eased in and could potentially form some nice chemistry together.
Not much needs to be said here. Hellebuyck has been solid this season and is the least of the Jets’ worries right now. Laurent Brossoit has three starts under his belt this season (1-2 record) and has looked a little more human after his stellar numbers last year.
Expect a heavy workload for Hellebuyck if he keeps up his stellar play. His career high for starts in a season is 64 back in his Vezina Trophy runner-up 2017-18 campaign.
Let us know in the comment section below what you think about the Jets’ current line combos and what you feel they should be.
Ryan is very passionate about the game of hockey and loves being at the rink. He is a current regional scout in his home province of Manitoba and a graduate of SMWW. He has played the game since the age of five at many different levels and is always looking to find new ways to stay involved. In his free time when he isn’t busy at the rinks or writing articles/reports, Ryan enjoys spending quality time with his wife and daughter. Follow him on Twitter @Goet91.