JGD 25: The Day Before Vacation

Kevin McCartney
November 23 2013 05:02AM

 

The Jets face the rival Wild for the second time this week, third time in the regular season, and fourth time since training camp. We know the script by now. A pair of 2-1 losses has sunk the team's all-time record against the Wild a game below .500, coincidentally where the team sits in the standings of the 2013/14 season. 

It's good news, bad news with these Jets. Up and down, one step forward and two back. Whatever you want to call it, even Claude Noel ruminated in front of the press yesterday that it has been like this for 2-1/2 years. It seems unlikely to reverse course against the stifling Wild. 

Played on a Saturday afternoon, this game has that last day before holidays feel. Next week the team goes on the road to New Jersey, Long Island, and Philadelphia. December includes games against Edmonton, Florida, and Buffalo (twice!). One more boring, frustrating, futile contest and the Jets are free of perhaps the toughest 3 weeks in their season schedule. 

I might sound a bit bleak today. It could be the prospect of watching the Minnesota Wild play whatever they call hockey. But it could be that the Jets have won as many games in the shootout as they have in regulation or overtime.

The Jets have played in more shootouts than any team in the league, and while ranking 20th in total points, rank 27th in regular and overtime wins. That's right, the team is ahead of just Buffalo, Florida, and the Islanders for winning games during the hockey portion of the contest. Edmonton and Calgary both rank ahead of the Jets. 

Seasons go up and down, and by January, five weeks removed from this schedule gauntlet, things may look different. For now, the Jets are in serious trouble in the standings and thanks to injury on the backend, ineffectiveness among the forwards, and lack of preparedness in the coaching staff, there isn't much reason to think this game is winnable.

So I recommend beer for this game. I'm partial to a Creemore Springs in the afternoon - something with some sweetness and body but low acidity and hops. If you're stuck for choices, hit me up in the comments. We're all in this together.

Lines

Jets Forwards

  • Ladd - Little - Wheeler
  • Kane - Jokinen - Setoguchi
  • Frolik - Scheifele - Halischuk
  • Tangradi - Wright - Thorburn

One of the most confusing parts of the Jets season to date has been listening to the comments made by the Jets players between periods. Shoulder pads off, standing on the bench with Sara Orlesky, they will all say the same thing - Minnesota, the Central Division, the Western Conference plays with a lot of structure. Claude Noel said yesterday that the Wild force you to play the right way. It's confusing, though, because the Jets tend to respond with rigid and formulaic hockey, not structure. 

The Jets' top line is playing as well as they ever have. Little is leading the team in points with 23 and he and Ladd are the best forwards in all three disciplines. But once again, the team is struggling beyond that group, and Claude Noel is making odd lineup choices again.

Devin Setoguchi has been a dynamic and dangerous player since his healthy scratch October 18th against St Louis. He has 8 points in 16 games since then, and that's being held back by low percentages and bad luck. When he's on the ice, things have been going the right way. We know he's a streaky player, and we might expect the coach to ride him when he's hot. Instead, he was benched against Chicago last game. His linemates went on to poor games as a combined -6, while he watched them fall apart in the third period. 

Evander Kane hasn't had a goal since October 26th, and has just 4 assists in the ten games in between. He's already at 93 shots for the season, but I think everyone including him was expecting more than 6 goals by the time he reached 100. 

Mark Scheifele recorded fewer that 12 minutes two games in a row, and seems in need of a change. Eric O'Dell's name is swirling, but as the team has poor depth players as it is, his demotion might be less productive than a move to the wing. 

That would be because Matt Halischuk is what we thought he was - a player who has lived on percentages and counter-attack scoring to off-set very poor two-way play and non-existent defensive work. He's a cast-off from a club one slot above the bottom of the Central Division. 

The Jets current fourth line of Tangradi/Wright/Thorburn has a combined three points. Another way to say that would be, Eric Tangradi got three points while on another line, and teams don't typically score from their own end. 

Jets Defence

  • Clitsome - Byfuglien
  • Enstrom - Ellerby
  • Pardy - Stuart
  • Pavelec
  • Montoya

Mark Stuart draws back in and Zach Redmond was went away after a poor game against Chicago. Stuart's hip is healed and ready to go, but the team is icing five left handed defencemen, and the fewest puck-movers in recent memory. This is going to be wonky.

Jacob Trouba is nearing his return, which should give some better balance to the top-6. 

Have I mentioned I think Clitsome and Byfuglien together is too high event? How about that Enstrom and Byfuglien looked great together last game? If the Jets can keep repeating their mistakes, I can keep repeating my solutions.

Ondrej Pavelec is back down to a .911 save percentage. 9-1-1 could be his nickname, if it wasn't for the fact that his career number is well below that mark.

Wild Forwards

  • Parise - Koivu - Coyle
  • Zucker - Granlund - Pominville
  • Niederreiter - Brodziak - Cooke
  • Heatley - Konopka - Fontaine

A very similar group to the one the Jets faced a week ago. Zucker has forced his way up the lineup, and the team continues to have a very odd choice for fourth line centre. But in general, this team has an excellent forward group with an impressive mixture of youth, talent, experience, and tactical discipline. 

The top line can and is used as a power-vs-power line, taking on other team's top groups. And yet Parise and Koivu lead the team with 20 points each. The scoring starts to dry up quickly after Pominville's 17, but as the Wild have shown the Jets (too well and too often - like an annoying movie Sensei who won't get off the protagonist's back until he realizes that he, too, can learn), they don't mind winning 1 goal games. Slap the water. Wax on. Et cetera.

Wild Defence

  • Suter - Brodin
  • Spurgeon - Scandella
  • Stoner - Dumba
  • Harding
  • Kuemper

At least we'll always have the moral high ground, right Clayton Stoner

There's not much anyone can say about this group. Ryan Suter was second in Norris voting last year and leads the league in minutes (Byfuglien is third). Jonas Brodin is going through whatever the sophomore slump is, and his cursed season includes a painful broken facial bone. 

The group relies on Scandella to do a lot of the heavy lifting and eat up the defensive zone starts. Still, they miss the injured Keith Ballard and rookie Matthew Dumba is a work in progress.

Harding is behind only Tuuka Rask in save percentage leaders, and sports a .939.

... I'm definitely going to need that beer.

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Kevin is the Managing Editor of Jets Nation. His work has been featured on Bleacher Report, The Sporting News, and around the Nations Network. An enthusiastic over-analyst, his background and interests are diverse, but you might notice he's obsessed with hockey. Track him down on twitter @kevinmccart or @nhljetsnation
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#1 Robert Cleave
November 23 2013, 09:21AM
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What follows is a verbatim transcript of a conversation I had with a co-worker yesterday:

Me: I have tomorrow off. (We work rotating shifts, so Saturdays off are rare)

Co-worker: That's good.

Me: My folks are coming to town.

Co-worker: Oh.

Me: We're going to the Jets game.

Co-worker: That's good.

Me: They're playing the Wild.

Co-worker: Oh.

It's going to be a long day.

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#2 seve927
November 23 2013, 09:37AM
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Kevin you're going to make me a Jets fan yet. I come over regularly to read your posts. Sure would be nice to see some action generated on this site. Excellent hockey analysis, excellent writing skills. Keep it up.

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#3 onevoline
November 23 2013, 10:18AM
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It seems this is the week where the mainstream media begin the campaign to give Suter the Norris. I have not watched him a ton - is he really the best defenceman in the league? or jjust the hardest working?

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#4 ScottOCanada
November 23 2013, 11:16AM
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Once again, great article. Not much to disagree with here, save for your selection of beer. Guiness Black Label goes well with breakfast, lunch and supper.

This team must rely on mistake free hockey for them to enjoy any measured amount of success. They have talent, but find themselves in the conference of the Haves and the Have Lots. And playing mistake free hockey exists only in theory. Mistake free living is impossible. (Except for me. I've only made one. I thought I was wrong once, but I must have been mistaken). Actually, I'm guaranteed one mistake a day - getting out of bed.

Unfortunately, there is a paradox that this organization must overcome that will be difficult to achieve. In sport, when in a position of mediocrity, it becomes very difficult to move up the ladder. You're not bad enough to get a sniff of the next first overall future superstar and are stuck in the mire of potentiality. There are no "can't miss" players in the mid-first round selections. Sometimes, you have to be really bad to get really good. As a small sample size, look at the Chicago Blackhawks, who not so long ago were playing in front of a half empty arena on most nights. Or the Pittsburgh Penguins, whom at one point were teetering on the verge of insolvency because nobody was buying what they were selling. Of couse, there will always be exceptions to the rule (see Edmonton Oilers), but by in large being really bad is a recipe for future successes.

In the near future, there will be no Connor McDavid's on this team, nor will there be any Stanley Cup parades down Portage Avenue. The climb, if this is to be any, will have to be slow and steady. The best we can hope for right now is entertaining, competetive hockey. Which, for the most part, the Winnipeg jets have offered. And when they're not, at least it affords us the opportunity to have something to gripe about.

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