Believe it or not we are already 10 games deep into the Jets 2013-14 season. So if you’ve been hiding from the cold under a rock, we provide you with five major storylines already emerging from the Jets season.
1) The Early Rise and Rapid Fall of Ondrej Pavelec
Likely among the most polarizing players on the Jets, Ondrej Pavelec started this season with a bang. In his first four games Ondrej was the big man on campus, posting a .914 save percentage, making countless big saves, and quite honestly holding the Jets in games they had no business being in. Like he has been over a few very short stints in his career, Ondrej Pavelec played like a star.
Then reality (or should I say natural regression) struck. After another solid performance (although he let in at least one questionable goal), against the Minnesota Wild that resulted in a pitiful loss, Coach Noel curiously thought it would be a good idea to once again start Pav on back-to-back nights. Things haven’t been the same since. Starting with the game that storied night against the Dallas Stars, Ondrej has consistently allowed questionable shots to get by him, struggled with positioning, and has posted a save percentage of .891.
Currently sitting with a .901 percentage, Pav sits 34th among the league’s netminders and only five points behind his career average. So while things may improve slightly for the Jets number one, his big start was likely just a hot streak.
2) Evander Kane is a Stud
You really don’t need stats to know this. Kane has far and away been the Jets best forward, and arguably their best player to start the year. Claude Noel has been double shifting him on a regular basis and uses him in every situation imaginable. He has been a leader for this team on the ice, constantly driving play into the opponent’s zone and creating shots. He has seen his efforts rewarded with the most ice time among the forwards by a wide margin. He leads the team in goals, points, is second in assists, 4th in the league with shots, and is among the highest Jets in relative Corsi. In my opinion, Evander has greatly increased the size of his blip on Team Canada’s Olympic radar. If there is anything to be concerned about, it would be his penalty minutes (he leads the team with 19) but Evander has been a diamond among what has been a very rough start for many Jets forwards.
3) The Jets Could Use Kyle Wellwood and Alex Burmistrov
Say what? Could the Jets actually use some depth at center? Now there’s a shocker. As a whole, in close games the Jets have been getting absolutely destroyed puck-possession wise. In fact, in close game situations, the Jets have a Corsi-For Percentage of 46.0% (25th in the league), a Fenwick-For Percentage of 45.3% (24th), a goal-for percentage of 36.0% (27th), and in all situations only had five players in the positive for scoring chances for & against (admittedly that was at the eight game mark). It’s pretty easy to say that the Jets are really feeling the loss of two of their best possession forwards from last season, when the Jets finished among the middle of the pack in every category listed above, except GF%, where they actually finished 6th.
That really makes the fact that Kyle Wellwood was forced into retirement due to a lack of work harder to swallow.
4) Claude Noel is on the Hot Seat
The Jets have been back for over two years now, and one thing has been painfully clear. They are consistently inconsistent. This has been extremely evident this season though, as from one game to the next you can see a fantastic team that could compete for a playoff spot, or an absolute basement dwelling dud. A lot of factors have come into question due to this. The systems, team leadership, player motivation, player talent, practice efforts and most noticeably, the coach.
In my opinion, a lot of these factors are things that can be changed, or at least adjusted/manipulated by a change of guard at the head coaching position. He’s the one who decides who gets ice time. He has final say on the fore-check and special teams. He sets the tone at practice. He’s the one who is held responsible.
In reality, he’s also the only option the Jets really have if they want to implement change. After an off-season that saw Chevy lock up this team’s core with a multitude of big-dollar, long-term contracts laden with no-trade clauses, TNSE handed him a vote of confidence via a contract extension. Pretty much the only individual without his future locked down with this team is Claude Noel. It’ll be his head if things aren’t straightened out in the near future.
5) Toby Enstrom and Dustin Byfuglien are Elite Defenseman
For whatever reason, I have seemed to notice a fair amount of hate sent towards Enstrom lately. I’ve heard people hating on his long stick, his so-called ‘lack’ of scoring and its link to the Jets’ recent power play woes, and his seemingly passive decision making.
And of course, no one can forget Lawless’ article from last season titled, "Enough of Buff: Get Rid of Him." I’m sure Gary would tell us things have changed this year due to his fitness levels. But with some many injuries on the blueline last year, it’s hard to know why he was only the Jets best defenceman last year and not a superstar.
What we can say is that this duo is outstanding, and are a legitimate NHL top pairing any way you slice it.
Both defenders are tied for second on the team for scoring with 7 points, good for 6th in the NHL for scoring by a defenceman. If you’re a fancy stats person, you will be heartened to know that they are the only Jets defenders with a corsi % over 50 when the score is close. Meanwhile, they play the toughest competition.
This up-hill battle is particularly true for Enstrom, after Byfuglien has started being used to help Clitsome find his game with easier assignments.
Toby is a smart, methodical, thinking defenseman. His positioning is outstanding, and his passing efficient. Noel has Enstrom playing against the Jets toughest competition on a regular basis and gives him the fewest offensive zone starts as well. In close game situations, he starts in the offensive zone a team low 20.9% of the time (almost 4% lower than the next defenseman), yet is both generating shot attempts and allowing fewer shot attempts against per minute than any defender except Postma (who has the easiest assignment).
Despite being used as big minute, tough-assignment defenders, Enstrom and Byfuglien lead the Jets "D" in every category that matters.
Through these ten games, we’ve been given ample evidence that these two are gifts from the Hockey Gods.
So there you have it. Ten games into the year the Jets are sitting at 4-5-1, 6th in the Division and out of a playoff spot. It sure feels like the honeymoon is fading into the mist after these ten games, and the pressure for a playoff appearance may spell major changes in the near future.