Obviously, this post is almost a full day late. I watched the game in real time, and I opened the blog, and I wrote a few words. But to be honest, it can be extremely difficult to write about this team after games like this one. The outcome is known before puck drop. It’s the duty of the fan to hope against reason, while the (well) paid professionals that assembled and coach the team seem obstinate in the face of overwhelming common sense.
All fans are really asking for is a management group that will meet them half way. You don’t have to win the cup this year, but show progress – prove that you’re aware of what’s happening and that we’re all watching the same game.
Intead, the Jets third miserable afternoon performance of the season revealed all of the worst parts of this club.
The first two goals are being widely blamed on line changes, but it wasn’t just a lack of focus by the players on the ice. No one was ready to come on in their place. Claude Noel called it ‘playing without a lot of intelligence,’ but the broad disorganization of a hockey club – from poor line changes to poor puck support – falls with the coach.
Even more to the coaching, the group lost the special teams battle, showed stubbornnes in the lines and matchups, and continue to show a lack of a clear plan when they have the puck.
That’s not to say the players were simply victims of their coach’s whims.
Anthony Peluso showed us the impact an enforcer can have on a game by throwing a dirty, late, unnecessary hit that landed him in the penalty box for 5 minutes and two Stars goals. He was also on for zero Jets shots and three against.
Mark Stuart took the air out of Trouba’s balloon without all the hilarious fart noises. Trouba went from a shockingly effective player with the team’s top corsi numbers one game to sharing honours for the team’s worst corsi numbers with his inept partner.
Ondrej Pavelec was beat by a 60 ft wrister with no traffic and two horizontal passes on the powerplay with shots from distance. All told, he managed 19 saves on 24 shots. His season number is now a meager .909. But hey, it’s still better than Tim Thomas.
Olli Jokinen and Chris Thorburn managed to work together to create Jamie Benn’s first goal. The Stars had been in defensive mode for most of the second before Wheeler scored to tie the game. And to be charitable, perhaps, the second line gave the Stars an extended offensive shift that culminated in Jokinen making a lazy breakout flip-pass out of the corner (where he shouldn’t have been anyway) to Thorburn, who couldn’t manage the puck out. Shot in, rebound, goal. But yeah, that line is just fine.
James Wright was ineffective at even strength, but had a rush and a near goal while short handed. Of course, that near goal came when he flubbed a pass attempt and then ended up in a scramble. With the puck on his stick a few feet from Lehtonen’s out-stretched pad, and 3 feet of exposed net above it, Wright couldn’t lift the puck. Not ‘he couldn’t lift it enough.’ No, he did not lift it at all. His 11 points in 121 NHL games is outrageous, and worse than Eric ‘Can’t Score’ Tangradi’s 12 in 106.
As I said at the top – this game exposed all the worst parts of this club.
The Blake Wheeler post game comments are getting a lot of attention. He called out the whole organization in saying that everyone who had stood in front of a microphone in the last three years had blown the same smoke all that time. He actually had similar comments, though in less descriptive language, after the Colorado game as well.
I suspect people are happy to see some unfiltered frustration from the team. But there is a larger thing happening. At least, I think so. And I hope so.
It seems to me that the team is finally starting to turn on the coach. Captain Andrew Ladd responded to a question about making drastic changes that ‘something has to change.’ And Wheeler’s frustration is clearly not with the lies told to media, but with the lack of direction and progress on this club.
It seems to me that it’s time for Cheveldayoff to employ his fall guy and turf Noel.
In the long history coaching changes, this one would rank somewhere around ‘Pat Quinn with the Oilers.’ It never should have happened in the first place, and to call it a ‘failed experiment’ would be to suggest that management had a hypothesis and was using the scientific method. Clearly, this group is pre-enlightenment, so let’s call it ‘poor instinct.’
And though Blake Wheeler has been with the team those three years, I strongly suspect he wasn’t referring to the play of the team’s top unit in his remarks about blowing smoke. Those three have over-performed expectations and are the primary reason the team gets dragged out of the cellar every year.
The team canceled practice and media availability today. We know the frustration is as high in the room as it is in Jets Nation. I’ve been saying for some time that this coach doesn’t have the answers for the problems the team faces, and it becomes more obvious by the game as he continues to try the same stale, failed solutions with wonderment at their ineffectiveness.
There isn’t a Jets fan alive that doesn’t know the very first change that this team needs to make. Our opinions are varied on which players are useful and who should be traded for what, but even the harshest critics of the roster are aware that Claude Noel is not the best coach for the job.