The struggling Winnipeg Jets have taken another huge hit as news came out Monday afternoon that centre Adam Lowry will be out a minimum of four weeks with an upper-body injury, which he suffered Sunday evening after taking a questionable blind-side hit from the Chicago Blackhawks’ Drake Caggiula.
The long-term loss is not one that’s easily mitigated; Lowry is a well-established, well-liked, and trusted soldier for head coach Paul Maurice and company. His absence will hurt the flat and frustrated Jets — just 3-5-1 so far in 2020 — in a myriad of ways.
Lowry One of the Jets’ Lone Heavy Hitters
Lowry, at 6-foot-5, 210 pounds, is built like a Mack truck. Gritty and truculent, the ferocious forward is one of few players remaining on the Jets — who lost Brandon Tanev and Brendan Lemieux in the offseason and are still sans Dustin Byfuglien — who plays a heavy game.
Lowry’s has 132 hits through 47 games this season — the most on the Jets — and is 46 ahead of the next-closest forward, Gabriel Bourque.
The importance of having a player who can deliver a crushing check and make other teams miserable cannot be understated. A pugnacious power forward such as the Lowry can make opposing players tentative and opt to make less offensively-productive plays to avoid a potential hit.
The Jets will sorely miss his hard-nosed play style. In general, they struggle against heavy teams and lack the tenacity required to go net-front and score the mucky, ugly goals players such as Lowry — or the departed Tanev, or Mathew Tkachuk, Nazem Kadri, and Tom Wilson, among others — do to complement their teams’ pure skill forwards. Losing Lowry makes the team even softer.
During Monday’s line-rushes in Raleigh, Jack Roslovic moved back up to the second line, where he’d struggled prior to a brief demotion. This time, he’ll have Mark Scheifele instead of Blake Wheeler as his centre.
It’ll be up to the versatile and intelligent Andrew Copp, a proven line-driver who will slide back to the third line from a stint on the second, to keep new linemates Mathieu Perreault and Mason Appleton engaged.
Lowry Irreplaceable on Penalty Kill, in the Dot
Over the past number of seasons, Lowry has been the Jets’ go-to guy to win face-offs and kill penalties.
This season’s been no exception. Lowry’s won 53.9 percent of his draws and has taken the second-most on the team behind Scheifele. He is frequently trusted with crucial D-zone draws and starts in the defensive zone 60.5 percent of the time.
The Jets’ penalty kill, while still near the bottom of the league at 74.8 percent, has improved lately; they’ve only given up three power-play goals in 2020 and none in their past four games.
Lowry’s a big part of what the Jets do down a man: while they aren’t a highly penalized team, he leads all forwards in shorthanded ice time with an average of 2:18 per game. Copp, Gabriel Bourque, and Nick Shore will have to pick up the slack in the meantime.
Losing Lowry May Be Jets’ Death Knell
The Jets are vulnerable and vexed right now and their confidence is obviously waning as they have fallen out of a wild-card spot. Their defensive game at five-on-five is a mess and Lowry is one of the Jets’ most consistent defensive forwards. Their inconsistency and slow starts are troubling.
Earlier in the season, the Jets cultivated an identity of being a hard-working team that takes nothing for granted and gives a full effort regardless of the score.
That led to much success in November and a number of spirited comebacks. The Jets have gotten away from that identity lately and haven’t won a game in which they’ve trailed since Nov. 27 against the San Jose Sharks.
After their 5-2 loss to the Blackhawks, they held a players-only meeting.
“Every team that goes on to make the playoffs or has successful runs in the playoffs goes through periods of adversity. For us it’s just trying to get out of that little mini-slump as fast as possible and being confident and believing that we’re a good hockey team and we can play with anyone,” alternate captain Josh Morrissey told reporters after that meeting (from ‘Jets hold players meeting in Chicago after suffering second straight loss,’ Winnipeg Sun, 01/19/2020).
The Jets certainly won’t be a team that will go on to make the playoffs at all — let alone have a successful run — if they don’t get their house in order in a hurry. It’ll be even more difficult to do so without Lowry; Manitoba Moose call ups can only go so far.
The only possible saving grace is that the Jets have just two more contests before the NHL All-Star weekend, which is followed by their league-mandated players’ break. If Lowry does come back in exactly a month, he will only miss a dozen games.