JGD 14: Mound City

Brian Elliot’s Halloween Costume. They beat us at everything!


The Blues have played just 9 games this season, and despite 4 games in hand, are ahead of the Jets in the standings. But the Jets have already beaten the Blues once this year, and if I know anything about science, it’s that fighter jets demolish musical genres cleverly represented as a homonymous colour. It’s on.

I mean, really, if Nashville was called "Nashville Country" and wore maps as jerseys, we’d all roll our eyes. But being the Blues in the colour blue is fine? Why aren’t they dark grey with worrisome stains, like the carpet in so many blues clubs? Maybe they should be dressed in the colour ‘brass.’

I’ll let it go, but only because of that magical 1995/95 All-Star team edition. 46 different players played for them that year, including Gretzky, Hawerchuk, Hull, MacInnis, Pronger, Glenn Anderson, Craig MacTavish AND Dallas Eakins, Charlie Huddy, and of course, who could forget Grant Fuhr. They even had Roger Neilson on the bench as an Associate Coach (to Head Coach and General Manager Mike Keenan, hilariously).

And then they put this on:



Jets Forwards

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

Looks a little weird, doesn’t it? These are the most common line groupings from Sunday’s game against the Avalanche. Whatever Noel had on paper, this is what he put on the ice.

If we look back at the scoring chances and zone entries (Saturday, Sunday), both Scheifele and Frolik improved from Saturday (old lines) to Sunday (these lines). Meanwhile, Jokinen went from "not good" to "face-palm" (We only use technical terms on this site).

Kane’s illness is obviously part of that, as he wasn’t himself on the weekend and gave up a lot against. Really, a whole lot.

Little and Ladd continue to carry the team, and Setoguchi looks more comfortable with them than he has anywhere else in the lineup. I think we have a new top line. We just need 3 more players for the next two lines and we’re set! 

Frolik has been such a strange player this year for the Jets. Moved to both wings, given different linemates. One game he’s getting 15 minutes plus penalty kill time, the next he plays 10, including power play minutes. I understand a coach wanting to see what he has, but Frolik has not had the impact we all hoped and expected, and it might be due to this constantly changing role.

Speaking of disappointing, mainstream media are wondering if Scheifele should be in the AHL. It’s crossed all of our minds, and many of us have spoken about it on twitter. Still, his season is not a train wreck. The scoring has dried up and he looks lost too often. He keeps falling to the point of making #ScheifeleDown equally depressing and over-used. But in close situations (the score within 1), his shot attempt differential is 9th on the team, with both Frolik and Jokinen behind him. In all 5 on 5 play, he’s down at 47%, fourth worst but still ahead of Peluso, Stuart, and Trouba.

The truth is, he’s young and he’s on a bad team. Kane doesn’t play well with others, and they don’t have another option for him. He had a good game with Wheeler and Kane once, followed by a bad one, a benching, and a line change. The team needs a chance to gain some chemistry before we can say the young man isn’t up to the task.

Noel needs wins to save his job, Cheveldayoff needs success for his rookies to show hope. There’s a disconnect on this team somewhere, either between management and the coach, or the coach and the team, or arguably both.

Jets Defense

  • Enstrom – Bogosian
  • Clitsome – Byfuglien
  • Stuart – Pardy
  • Pavelec
  • Montoya

Montoya put in a great effort Sunday and kept his team in a game they seemed to want to tie. But now he’s back to journaling.

In aggregate, Mark Stuart is the team’s worst defenceman by any possession or scoring metric we can find. He’s worse on the PK than his peers, too. But he had his best weekend of hockey all year. Maybe in a long time, actually. He and Pardy entered the zone well on Sunday, and moved the puck in the right direction – out of their end. That’s pretty much all you can ask of your 3rd pair.

Meanwhile, Enstrom and Bogosian had a meltdown against the Avalanche. And Clitsome-Byfuglien is always a meltdown, but sometimes the fallout spreads to the other end of the ice as well.

They could really use some help in the form of, say, Henrik Tallinder?

With Postma out long term, and Zach Redmond still injured, the Jets have called up this season’s best defender on the IceCaps, Ben Chiarot. You didn’t read that wrong.

Chiarot is also a team leading +6 through 9 games. He looked like chaos on skates during pre-season to me, but apparently he’s found the range at the AHL level.

Blues Forwards

  • Steen – Backes – Oshie
  • Sobotka – Roy – C. Stewart
  • Schwartz – Berglund – Tarasenko
  • Morrow – Cracknell – Reaves

Always lots of talk about Winnipeg’s own Alex Steen. He’s currently tied for league lead in goals with 10. But let’s remember he’s done it in three fewer games than Ovie. And yes, he’s scoring more than a goal per game right now. The Jets contributed to that when Trouba gave the puck up and then stood still so Steen could disguise his fake and beat Pavelec clean. Winnipeg takes care of its own.

With Paajarvi injured in a hit from behind in their last game, the lines are a little different than when the teams last met. The Young Scorers line of Schwartz/Berglund/Tarasenko is now clearly the soft minutes line, and we can expect Hitchcock to get them out against Stuart and Pardy often.

News media tell us that Chris Stewart has settling on ‘down year’ this time around, but is actually third on the team in RelCorsi at +10. Roy and Sobotka both had points in the Blues’ last game (a 6-1 drubbing of Nashville… on the second night of a back-to-back). It might be a jump start to offence for them. I suspect Sobotka and Oshie take turns in the assignment against Kane. If he’s still ailing, it could be a shooting gallery against that second line (again).

The Blues’ fourth line is not quite as strong as it was on paper to start the year. Morrow has started the journeyman part of his career as he has clearly lost a step. Reaves and Cracknell are better skating versions of Peluso.

Blues Defense

  • Bouwmeester – Pietrangelo
  • Jackman – Shattenkirk
  • Leopold – Polak
  • Halak
  • Elliot

It’s like the 1904 Louisiana Purchase Expo all over again on this back end.

When we last met the Blues, Jackman was struggling very badly with a 37% corsi rate and having gone -3 in the team’s previous two games. He took umbridge to my claim he might be entering the part of his career where he says "I’m too old for dis $%#&" like 12 times a game. He’s now at a 51% corsi rate. Jackman’s minutes are still down from last year, but it seems for now that Roman Polak is the goat. His numbers are still terrible.

Elliot got the assignment against the Jets on October 18th. But a shootout loss might as well be a family murder to Ken Hitchcock, so Halak gets the start tonight.

Worth Reading Today

  • Kevin McCartney

    The Leafs with Steen last year win the Cup if Reimer healthy. Halak for Eller might’ve taken away a Blues Cup last yr; had 3 parity goalies. The KHL has the shootout right; 3 pt wins. Soccer should either give non PS goal scoring team a larger offensive field (offensive throw ins from the edge of the box?) or an arc above the bar to make the goal net bigger. Hockey should only give a consolation pt if you get two regulation non-PP/EN goals. Both MLB and Soccer can’t keep up with 20th centure video technology. CFL/NFL/NHL way ahead.
    Funny to hear the Sermon-like SportsNet rebuke of Kypreos claiming Phaneuf is #10 D in league. Strange no Oilers or Flames freebie games this yr.
    I look at the stats and I’m not sure if Phaneuf was ever the best D on the team. Strange to hear one of the say they got Phaneuf for nothing; it was a small blockbuster; Stajan and White were 2nd liners. Franson has had the best stats recently; maybe Giordano in Cgy. Phaneuf dishes those Buff hard pass turnovers. Should’ve made 2005 and 2006 squad; couldn’t keep the offensive pressure on Vokoun with guys like Phillips on the team.
    I figure Phaneuf is worth $7M if you can trade him in a rebuilding year. If NTC, only 6. Great mobility suggests could have Niedermayer longevity.
    Fuhr sucked in 1996.

  • Kevin McCartney

    …Don’t think Col is a playoff team; is why the last loss stung. Maybe Goligoski is avaiable for Edm, but again with perhaps the worse goaltending in the NHL. Where Buf really scored is Moulson gives them an asset nearly as good as Vanek in the cap era. If they get something good for a goalie or two, they’ll be as exciting to watch one day as they were when their deadline stacked team got Lemieuxed in 2001. Lemieux beaten by nine strong Devil defencemen in the final four. I’ll admit I like bad home teams when I’m in town.
    The Arch was designed by a googie Finn architect. He did on arena in Finland with ugly colours. The architecture was about the speed of the space era and optimism of a tech future. Hockey isn’t curved, but it is fast. I recommend the Jetsons style for future arenas.

  • Kevin McCartney

    I really hope all arenas are done to look like Jetsons buildings, with those Saturn rings and mid-century triangular prism legs. That would be amazing.

    I think the Phaneuf trade was another example of Calgary getting the wrong guys. It wasn’t trading him away that sunk the team, just that they took on a lot of second-level players.

    The deal was for Stajan, White, Niklas Hagman, and Jamal Mayers for Phaneuf, Sjostrom, and Keith Aulie.

    I’m not saying they were made available, but that TO team also had Grabovski and Kulemin playing at similar levels to Stajan (who scored a lot for Toronto) and Hagman. If they swapped even one of those pairs (Grabo for Stajan or Kulemin for Hagman), Calgary would be in a better place right now.

    Again, maybe Toronto knew what they had and neither were available. But Calgary still agreed to a trade in which they gave up the best player and got less than they expected back.

    Anyway, the Jets are playing! haha

    Your idea about needing 2 regulation goals to get a consolation point is neat, Keystone. I’ve never thought of that.

  • Kevin McCartney

    I guess it is about purists vs using new video technologies. A shootout and even 4 man OT ruins historic stats. The Leafs finally got a 100 pt season but not really. At the same time, there are alot of ads that take back what you get with better TVs. I really think you’ve got to go for an exciting product. MLB is the only major four league that doesn’t make the end of their regular season games, crappy. But when you watch one player hit .750 while the team goes .150 or whatever, and win the world series, it is flawed in that it isn’t a team sport on offense. Hockey is in trouble of being a goalie endeavour when goals per game get below 5.
    Hockey is generally Northern progressive countries that look to the future with redistributive gvmts; the googie architecture works. The Jets almost went with a fibre optics arena design.
    Cgy has made decent trades and UFA signings. They typically had brutal backups to Kiprusoff; blowing entire seasons by not bringing in a backup. Their drafting between 1986 and 2009 is probably the worst in the league: http://www.hockeydb.com/ihdb/draft/teams/dr00005090.html
    I knew Colorado wasn’t a playoff team. I didn’t warn her for fear of wrecking the international hockey continuum.
    IDK why the Jets are bragging about buying overpaid UFA years of their big 3 signings. I guess if they can monetize database assets by selling to Chinese universities and hospitals and buyout the last years, it is good to sign 34 yr old Wheeler and Little for 11 million. Won’t be able to resign Ladd and Buff and there was no point getting Buff if you aren’t going for the playoffs. The Slater signing looks stupid too unless you are going for the playoffs; could’ve kept Burmistrov who is leading his team in points and +/-.

  • Kevin McCartney

    ..at the time, Cgy had high salaries and Phaneuf wanted a large long-term contract. They should’ve got draft picks and new scouts. Their main problem is their population is educated by the mainstream media that AGW isn’t important, so non of their politicians or rich people will study how to build and fund a floodway. Their arena will repeatedly flood until it is a health hazard like the mouldy gym was in old Bomber Stadium.