Jets Send Down 5, Continue to Waste Pre-season

The Jets have sent down another handful to St John’s for the opening of Training Camp for the IceCaps. Though none of the players on the list are likely NHL quality or necessarily should have lasted longer, the Jets are starting to raise questions about whether they are even using pre-season or training camp to evaluate talent. The list and some comments to follow.

The List

  • Ben Chiarot
  • Michael Hutchinson
  • Carl Klingberg
  • Julian Melchiori
  • Jerome Samson

The Story

We talked after the last cuts about how strange it was that the team opted for another weekend of Ben Chiarot over Ian White or a lesser known asset like Brenden Kichton. The Jets followed the expected pattern for their camp by putting Chiarot down today. His case suggests the Jets have a roster in mind, and are making cuts based more on who won’t be harmed by being late to camp in St John’s  rather than who the best players in Jets’ camp are. 

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Melchiori is the other defencemen sent down, leaving 5 pairs among the Jets remaining 32 players. He showed well in limited pre-season action, and raised his stock in my eyes as a multi-tool defender. Showed calm feet when moved onto a pairing with Trouba after the Trouba/Chiarot pair had imploded before 20 minutes had expired against the Capitals. Whether the organization thinks more highly of him is uncertain, but the people ahead of him on left-defence aren’t exactly an All-Star squad. His chance in the organization is the 2014 training camp, with Stuart’s and Pardy’s contracts expiring, and Josh Morrissey not yet a lock for the big club. We could see a cup of coffee for the 21 year old former 3rd rounder this year.

Hutchinson was an obvious AHL hire, but was arguably battling Pasquale more than Montoya to be noticed. Pasquale goes again tonight against the Oilers, while Hutchinson heads down to battle Olkinuora to play AHL games. The Jets are accumulating a lot of AHL capable, or NHL bubble goal tenders (including Pavelec – rim shot!), and it’s hard to know if any will emerge with a career in the franchise. What we do know is that someone is going to play ECHL games this season. Hutchinson spent two years splitting time between the ECHL and AHL before playing as the back-up in Providence last year. My best bet is that Olkinuora is given a similar path by the team – not because of talent, but based solely on dues-paying, which seems to be a box on the player evaluation forms used by this management group. The wildcard is Montoya going through waivers a week from now.

The forwards sent down never saw time on the line they were ostensibly trying out to play on. Klingberg had a solid pre-season, looking often like an NHL bubble player. His speed is very good, he has size, he’s physical, and he even scored a goal in under 21 minutes of game action through two games played. His offence has been shy of NHL relevant while playing for the IceCaps, but it’s hard to believe a team with a ‘build from within’ mantra is giving such paltry minutes to a prospect with Klingberg’s attributes and pedigree, especially since the door is closing fast on Klingberg to make an impression. With 5 games played by the team, Klingberg got into two of them but only played with O’Dell as his centre, and played 4th line minutes. It seems the team has made their mind up on the 22 year old Swede.

Jerome Samson is another AHL hire, but was considered an NHL prospect just a couple seasons ago in Carolina after scoring a point-per-game two seasons straight for the Checkers. On a team with the worst powerplay in the league last year, who already employ three specialists – Slater for faceoffs and penalty kill, Thorburn for fighting, and Peluso for fighting – the fact that they let a possible powerplay specialist go to St John’s with 21 seconds of powerplay time and just 20 minutes of total ice time through 2 games in pre-season is absolutely laughable. 

None of these players deserve a shot on the NHL club over another player. Instead, my point is that all of them were given an impossibly small opportunity to impress the coaching staff in-game, and the opportunity did not match what they could provide to an NHL club. Practices are hockey when the coaches have made your decisions for you, and scrimmages are hockey played without emotion or full-contact. They tell a coach a partial picture of a player, but pre-season games exist for a reason. Klingberg and Samson were given 20 minutes on the ice to convince the team they had what it takes, and they were given bubble linemates on top of it.

Chiarot remained in camp longer than players who are better than him by eye and math. Tonight, Andrew Gordon is to play between Cormier and Thorburn, likely for 8-10 minutes, and Al Montoya sits while Pasquale dresses for his 4th contest, and for his second start of the pre-season. 

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It seems the team isn’t using this opportunity for evaluation seriously, giving minutes to their intended starters and simply using training camp attendees to spell the real Jets. We can’t know if Carl Klingberg or Jerome Samson would do better than Wright, or Thorburn, or Tangradi, or even than Telegin or Halischuk or Gordon. In an evidence-based environment, those questions would matter. It seems the Jets are slanting the ice to prove their roster on paper is the best roster they could possibly dress. It’s a waste of pre-season.