So close, yet so so far away. Finishing with a record of 24-21-3, the 2013 Winnipeg Jets ended the season with 51 points – a mere four short of the New York Islanders and that highly coveted playoff spot. Unfortunately those four points have changed the tone of Jets fans everywhere from glee and hope to reflection and questioning, and thus here I am writing a review on the season rather than a preview of the newly-branded Winnipeg Jets first playoff matchup.
So buckle up folks. Throughout this week I’m going to work my way through the forwards, defensemen, goalies, and finish with a summary and my opinions on this season. Today, I go over the Winnipeg Jets goaltending.
(Big thanks to behindthenet, nhl.com, stats.hockeyanalysis.com, capgeek, and leftwinglock.com for all the upcoming numbers)
Goaltending may have been one of the overall most disappointing positions for the Jets this season. Fair warning to all of you who love and adore Ondrej Pavelec, this may not be pretty. To all of you who love Al Montoya… how does it feel to fall in love at first sight?
Backup? What Backup?
After Chris Mason chose to sign with the Nashville Predators last offseason (I still don’t understand why he would get custom made Jets pads before shipping himself out), the Winnipeg Jets were forced to go out and find a backup goaltender. Thus, came Al Montoya. Other than that, there really isn’t much to say about the guy.
Montoya started a mere 5 games this season posting a 3-1-0 record, a GAA of 2.91 and a Sv% of .899 with a single shut out. With such a small sample size it is almost impossible to give a fair evaluation, so he truly remains a big question mark. He is an unrestricted free agent going into this offseason and if the Jets can sign him to a similar $601,000 contract, I would be more than alright with seeing him come back. The only fear I can see Chevy having involve any lingering injury problems from this year. Assuming he can fully recover over the summer (if he hasn’t already) I wouldn’t be surprised to see him again.
I will admit I know little about Eddie Pasquale down with the Ice Caps, but his numbers are nothing impressive enough to warrant a backup NHL roll.
Starting Goaltender? What Starting Goaltender?
After another sub-par season between the pipes last year, Ondrej Pavelec signed a 5-year $19.5 million contract extension with the Winnipeg Jets – a contract comparable to Stanley Cup winning Antti Niemi, Canuck star Cory Schneider and Boston starter Tukka Rask.
A little head-scratching was warranted at the time if you ask me.
It didn’t get more understable. News broke shortly after that the Ondrej had been arrested following a DUI back home. Pav decided to keep that news to himself until after he singed his new contract.
Someone please raise the red flags.
On came the the lockout, and off went Ondrej to play for the Liberec White Tigers in the Czech League back home, where he posted a 4-10 record, with an absolutely horrific 3.50 GAA and an even worse .896 Sv%.
Anyone else hear those warning sirens blaring?
Regardless, following the lockout Ondrej was the clear number one for the Jets and fans seem(ed) willing to constantly forgive and forget. Maybe his season this year will be that final push over the patience edge.
This season Pavelec was again the workhorse, and surprise, surprise the Jets missed the playoffs. He was tied for the league lead in starts with 43, and appearances with 44, but that is where the league leading stats come to an abrupt end. He finished the year 10th in goalie wins with a 21-20-3 record, 34th among eligible goaltenders in save percentage at .905, and 37th (keep in mind there are only 30 teams in the league) among eligible goaltenders in GAA at 2.80. Granted, the Jets are far from the best defensive team in the league, but they did finish among the middle of the pack in shots against per game (18th with 29.7) and Pavelec gives up more than his fair share of soft goals by eye. It would be one thing if this was rare occurrence for Pav, but the truth is these types of performances are as good as he gets. He has a career GAA of 2.95 (meaning he was actually BETTER than average this year), and a career Sv% of .907.
Yes, the guy makes big saves. Yes, at times he has the ability to provide a spark to the Jets. Sadly though, those exact saves are due to him being out of position, over-committing, and on some occasions simply guessing as to where the puck is going to be.
I wrote a piece earlier this season during which Pavelec had started playing more like a goalie that gets paid what he does. Within it, I stated, “if the Jets want to make any sort of run for, or deep into the playoffs, they need a goaltender playing at the level Pavelec (currently) is.” The fact of the matter is that he could not maintain it, and thus the Jets did not make the playoffs.
It is becoming more and more evident to me, and hopefully to the Jets management that the 25th overall ranking of 144 goals against this season will not improve with Pavelec in net. The 24th ranked PK cannot and will not improve without better goaltending either. It doesn’t matter how much better the defensive group gets if your goalie cannot stop a puck. Especially a puck from behind the goal line in the biggest game of the season.
If only there were take-backs on contracts.
Oh wait. This year there are. This offseason every team in the NHL has been given the power of two amnesty buy-outs in order to completely get out of contracts. Yes, they are meant to free up cap space for teams that will be over the dropping salary cap, but it may be wise for the Jets to use it to free themselves of Ondrej Pavelec. It’s pretty well known that there will be a few goalies available this offseason. No, not Roberto Luongo. Get that out of your head now. The guy is never going to want to come to Winnipeg, and the Jets are not going to give up whatever Mike Gillis is asking for him. I’m talking about Jonathan Bernier, Ryan Miller, and maybe even Ben Scrivens.
Jonathan Bernier is a restricted free agent this offseason and will certainly want to get out of his perpetual backup position in LA. I can see the Kings being interested in Dustin Byfuglien should the Jets be considering moving him (not my first choice, but a possibility), and Chevy does have an extra second round pick if they are hesitant to give the big guy up. A deal for Bernier would almost certainly require a guarantee that he will sign long-term or a potential sign-and-trade, but I would be more than willing to give up money and assets for a guy who went 9-3-1 with a 1.88 GAA and a .922 Sv% this past season.
Ryan Miller may be a long shot. He has one more year left on a $6.25 million contract, of which has a modified no-trade clause. That clause allows him to submit a list of 8 teams that he will not accept a trade to, and the reality of it is that Winnipeg could very likely be on that list. Nonetheless, it is common knowledge that he is likely finished in Buffalo, and movement is imminent.
Ben Scrivens is a bit more of a risk. For some strange reason the Leafs still feel like they need a veteran goaltender, meaning that Scrivens will likely be available. He went 7-9-2 in the NHL this past season while posting a 2.69 GAA and a Sv% of .915. In the AHL though, Scrivens was dynamite, going 22-15-1, with a 2.04 GAA and a .926 Sv%. There is room for some improvement but he is only 26 years old with plenty of time to grow and flourish. Ben has one year left on his current contract at $612,500, so the possibility is also there that the Jets can acquire him from the Leafs for cheap and use him as a backup, providing direct competition to Pavelec. Should/when he outperform(s) and steal(s) Pav’s job, so be it. The only real problem would then be Ondrej’s contract left on the books.
Overall, it’s very clear to me and many others in the blogging community that changes need to be made, and one can only hope that they are made fast.