I really, really want this dude. On my fantasy hockey team. (Photo by jakarachuonyo)
This weekly column looks to discuss a certain number of relevant Jets topics on a certain day of the week. That certain number? Five. That day of the week? Friday. Also, hole. This is the Friday Five-Hole.
THE LAST FOUR
After coming oh-so close to a .500 record, the Jets watched their 4-game winning streak die and be reborn as an ongoing 3-game losing streak this past week. The Jets won their third straight shootout last Friday against the Flyers, but dropped their next three to Calgary and division rivals Minnesota and Chicago.
Despite good efforts against the Wild and the Flames, the Jets continue to look frustrated and lost as they have most of the year. At the beginning of the season, high hopes were placed on youngsters Trouba and (especially) Scheifele to contribute in a big way. Early successes from Trouba were neutralized by his injury, and Scheifele has failed to do much in the face of countless opportunities up and down the line-up. Consequently, players who GM Kevin Cheveldayoff most likely intended to play depth-type roles are now being forced into positions that don’t match their resumes (examples include Olli Jokinen as a second line centre and Grant Clitsome as a top-4 defenseman).
The Jets are in a bleak position right now. It’s unlikely they’ll make the playoffs, but not impossible, and since Cheveldayoff is still towing the ‘slowly but surely’ company line, we probably won’t see any roster moves until the deadline. Though the Jets possess enough scoring talent in their core players to take over games, without the supporting cast to enable them, the star players cannot consistently do this. Many Jets fans are left frustrated, not understanding how their team can win 5-0 one night and lose badly the next.
Winnipeg plays four games from now until next Friday and three of them are against below .500 teams. The Jets need to start winning those games to differentiate themselves from the dregs of the league – lest they be categorized as such.
AN ACQUIRED TASTE
Like the growling of an empty stomach, Dustin Byfuglien hungrily sprang awake and went on an All-You-Can-Eat-like tear this past week, scoring a ridiculous 5 goals (and 7 points) in 4 games. As we often see with him, Byfuglien was very involved all over the
menuscoresheet. The big D-Man was on the ice for 17 of the 24 goals scored by the Jets and their opponents last week (finishing at a -1 differential), as well as registering 18 shots and 8 PIMs. Plus, he rag-dolled two Flames at once.
Byfuglien has been an acquired taste for Jets(/Thrashers) fans and media alike since the trade that brought him over from Chicago. The former Blackhawk takes a lot of beef from his critics for appearing slow, out of shape, and apathetic, though those same voices tend to cool off like a pie on a window sill when he’s scoring. When he’s isn’t, Byfuglien is labelled inconsistent.
Byfuglien’s player type shouldn’t be viewed as erratic, but rather high-risk/high-reward. No. 33 sees far more icetime than any other Jet (without a DUI), averaging a
Whopper whopping 26 minutes per game, consistently facing the toughest competition, and logging big minutes on both special teams. When you consider that Byfuglien has also clearly been given the green light by the coaching staff to take some offensive risks, goals are bound to go both ways. Ultimately, Big Buff is a highly-skilled player with a massive frame he knows how to use on both sides of the puck – his 7 points last week showed that.
It also really screwed up my plans to trade for him on the cheap from our own Ross Smith in fantasy hockey. Dammit.
Jets Brass said No Way to a "Helmet Pardy" when the Chicago Blackhawks rolled into town Thursday night. Referencing the now well known helmet-stealing incident from the last time the two teams met, local Winnipeg radio jockey Dave Wheeler encouraged Jets fans to show up to the MTS Centre wearing hockey helmets, but Jets chairman Mark Chipman was basically like, "no".
The helmet-less hometown Winnipeg crowd watched in awe as the Stanley Cup champs destroyed their Jets for the third time in as many tries, outscoring Winnipeg 15-5 over that stretch. The loss spelled the Jets’ third straight, plummeting them to the bottom of the Central division, where they have games in hand on every other team.
But the real tragedy in all of this is this Dave Wheeler guy acting like he came up with Helmet Pardy, when I think we all know who really did…
The New Jersey Devils are the only team in the NHL worse at faceoffs than the Winnipeg Jets. Tied for second to last with the lowly Flames, the Jets average a team-wide 45% success(?) rate. Jokinen sports the best(?) percentage out of the regular centres at 48.1%, with Little and Scheifele falling well below the team average.
This is yet another coaching blunder by Claude Noel. A quick visit to the faceoff stats page on NHL.com shows that both Eric Tangradi and Chris Thorburn sport perfect faceoff averages, with Michael Frolik not too far behind at 81.8%. With those kind of results, it’s hard to understand why Noel hasn’t moved those three wingers to centre permanently. In today’s NHL, puck possession usually determines who will walk away with two points, and faceoffs are an important aspect of possession. It’s downright unacceptable when not only are all the regular centres below a 50% conversion rate, but every single defenseman is at 0%.
Wake up, Noel.
FIVE HOLE OF THE WEEK
For all my fanboy praising of Byfuglien, here’s a pass from Stempniak through Big Buff’s legs to a wide open Cammalleri for the easy goal. Montoya looks like he stops trying as soon as the pass connects.