SWOTing the Jets Offense: The Kids are Alright



The regular season looms so here begins Part 2 of my SWOT analysis of the Jets players coming into 2011-12, with the focus on the forwards this time. Hopefully my analysis is not overly self-contradictory but there is a fine balance to be observed in dealing with the uncertainties of the mena and events that transpire in professional sports.


1. Trending Up:

In looking at four top forwards, we can see that all are on the upswing or rebound in their careers in terms of point totals as they have gained more ice time over the past 3 years. This bodes well for an increased scoring capability for this season, as does their below-average team shooting percentage of only 8.4% in 2010-11 which is unlikely to stay so low given historical trends. For these top scorers, consider the following upswinging Point totals with Games Played and average Time On Ice (in minutes) over the last 3 years showing (oldest year first):
a. Andrew Ladd – 49 Pts in 82 GP (with Chicago) with TOI of 12.88 mins, 38 in 82 with 12.80 TOI (with less ice-time on Stanley Cup winning Hawks), 59 in 81 with 14.40 TOI (Atlanta)

b. Bryan Little – 51 in 79 with 12.18 TOI, 24 in 79 with 12.38 TOI, and 48 in 76 with 13.56 TOI

c. Blake Wheeler – 45 in 81 with 11.26 TOI (Boston), 38 in 82 with 12.05 TOI (Boston), and 44 in 81 with 13.14 TOI – but last season included a very strong 17 points in 23 games with Atlanta after trade from Boston
d. Evander Kane (only 2 years data) – 26 in 66 with 12.27 TOI, 43 in 73 with 14.07 TOI
2. Age and Size (is this a recording?): 
These factors apply to the Jets forwards as they did for the defense, perhaps moreso. Again using the Winnipeg Jets own website and viewing depth chart and roster, the average age of their top 9 forwards is a VERY youthful 24.89 (defense was 28.2) while the size is again good with average height just over 6 foot 2 (74.33 inches) and 204 lbs in weight (defense averaged same height and 8 lbs heavier).  
With such a young roster including 3 very young studs with at least 1 year experience – namely Burmistrov at 19 going into sophomore year, Kane with 2 years in the league at 20, and Little with 3.5 years in at 23 – the Jets have a solid present and future with which to build as they have wisely brought young players onto the major league squad during their recent past. Again, young legs may mean outskating other team’s players to the loose pucks and having better stamina for the long season. Moreover their good size mixed with solid skill means this team can be strong on the puck and tough in the corners and on the forecheck which are all good factors to have success!


1. Experience & Resiliency Unproven:
The youth of this team, particularly up front, means there is less life and playing experience to lean on should the Jets get into a tailspin and lose a number of games consecutively or are affected by an off-ice or on-ice problematic incident. Given the Dustin Byfuglien legal situation and the mental issues that can affect certain players (as they have experienced off-season with the untimely passing of Mr. Rypien), one can hope older players like Antroprov, Slater and Wellwood can take their young compadres by the hand and lead them past what unpleasantness or even nastiness may be looming for them during the season.
2. No Top-End Superstar:
While the laudable Mr. Ladd is out to continue to prove his leadership and on-ice capabilities, we cannot yet say that he has the Johnathan Toews, Zdeno Chara, or Sidney Crosby-esque talent, character, and top-flight ability at this point. Other potential leaders like Dustin Byfuglien and Blake Wheeler must continue to build their skill sets to become the types of guys that win Stanley Cups by making the old adage true in that "they make everyone around them play better".


1. Getting to Know You:

With all the time to be spent travelling as the Jets play divisional away games in the Southeast division this season, it will not hurt team chemistry to have time to get to know your teammates and thereby understand what motivates them. For forward lines who need to learn the patterns of their linemates, off-ice time allows them to discuss what they like to do in certain situations, chat about tendencies of players on opposing teams they are about to play, and just learn how the guys beside them like to operate on the ice. While it is impossible to measure these kinds of factors, we see that teams with time off will often have team get-togethers outside their home cities to foster just this type of team-building spirit, so some validity must be there we assume (or at least the team psychologist says so!)

2. Building for The Future:

This franchise is about as loved as one can get right now as long-suffering Jets fans compare themselves to wrongly-imprisoned men who spent too long in captivity unjustly. Apparently their popularity is nearly approaching Edmonton-Oilers-Winning-All-thpse-Cups-back-in-the-1980s status according to some of my oh so reliable and realistic Winnipegger buddies. So that means the pressure to win the Cup this season doesn’t exist, allowing the young forward group to develop their all-around skill sets, get chances to play in all situations as coaches allow, and know they have a solid core to build into a potential Cup challenger in years to come. And they have all that without the worry that other teams have with mantras like the common Flames-fan saying "Iginla only has 1 or 2 good years left in him" so we must win now!


1. Fatigue Factor:

As discussed above, while having a young team, the well-travelled Jets may need to rotate in forward numbers 13 and 14 just to keep the team from falling asleep at the bench. Fatigue can lead to more injury-prone players so the Jets medical leader may need to do hire a bigger staff than they had in Atlanta to combat the soreness and low energy the players may get. Players missing games due to injury means lost momentum and chemistry with teammates and probably a few less goals.

2. Party Factor:

Given defenseman Byfuglien’s antics in the Minnesota waters, perhaps the youthful enthusiam to hit the night clubs after the games will be too tempting for some of the young forwards, especially if a bad influense is in effect. And hey, I have partied in Florida, it’s truly awesome what you can see and do as outlined by the beloved Will Smith in his 1998 single "Miami" – his #1 single of all time. So perhaps the players will want to be like the Fresh Prince and flash their "Big Willie Style" which may be followed the next evening by a little less focus on the puck and too much on the hangover and gloating over other types of "scoring".