The 2018-19 season was not a great one for the Winnipeg Jets. Sure, they finished second in the Central Division with 99 points, but after what they accomplished in 2017-18, something just did not seem right this time around. In this series, we will take a look at some key Jets’ players who may or may not have been part of the problem in their up and down 2018-19 campaign.
Mark Scheifele has grown into a star player, that few fans would have ever predicted. The 2018-19 season was the 26-year-old’s sixth full-time season with the Jets. He has cemented himself atop the Jets’ depth chart, locking down the first-line center spot, and is highly regarded as the Jets’ next captain once Blake Wheeler’s time is up.
Setting Career Highs
Last season, Scheifele set career highs in goals (38), points (84), shots (199), and average time on ice (21:52). He also set a career-high for power-play goals with 12; his presence in the slot during the man advantage has become something teams are starting to be wary of. His one-timer is quick and lethal, and as teams have started to shadow Patrik Laine’s one-timer over the past few seasons, things have opened up for Scheifele in the middle.
Scheifele’s 38 goals beat out his previous best of 32 in the 2016-17 season. I think we can expect to see another increase from Scheifele in 2019-20. Many fans are predicting he hits the illustrious 50-goal mark before Laine does; anything is possible, especially when you have Wheeler on your right wing.
Setting records for average time on ice is not always a good thing. We saw Paul Maurice lean heavily on the Jets’ first line last season – Wheeler and fellow left-winger Kyle Connor also set career highs for average time on ice. Most fans would agree with me when I say this needs to change for 2019-20. The sweet spot for a first-line is right around the 19-20 minute mark per game, anything beyond 20-21 is going to wear the players out. I think we saw evidence of that when the Jets started to falter down the stretch and into the 2019 playoffs.
Consistency Is Key
When you talk about the best of the best in the NHL, one thing is usually quite common among those players – consistency. Scheifele has been a model of that for the Jets over the last few seasons and, in particular, last season. He had only one bad stretch in February where he was held without a point in five consecutive games and a minus-10 rating. Scheifele will rarely breakout with four-five point games, nor will he go on long stretches without any points at all. You get a lot of one-two point nights out of him and that is exactly what you want out of a team leader.
Another big factor for judging the consistency of a player is their playoff performance. I think it is safe to say Scheifele answers the call in this category as well. Through 27 career playoff games, he has racked up 26 points (16 of which are goals). In the Jets six games against the St. Louis Blues in the 2019 playoffs, he put up five points, good for second on the team behind Dustin Byfuglien.
The Jets’ top center has arguably the best work ethic on the team and brings all he’s got every single game. He constantly finds ways to get better and just straight-up loves playing the game of hockey. Those are all recipes for success and Jets fans are witnessing that with Scheifele.
The former first-round draft pick had a solid season with the Jets in 2018-19, arguably his best since joining the organization in 2011. As mentioned, he set career highs in many different categories and kept his game consistent even when the Jets sputtered towards the end of the regular season and into the playoffs.
The Jets got a massive bargain for a point-per-game player making just $6.1 million per season for another five years. Can you imagine if Scheifele does continue to score even more goals? Rack up even more points? Develop into a consistent Selke Trophy candidate? It really is crazy to think.
Scheifele and Wheeler were the engines that made this team run in 2018-19 and will most certainly be leaned on heavily again next season. I really liked Scheiele’s game last season and it will be intriguing to see where he goes from here.