The challenge for fans this season will be managing all five stages of the grief process. Some remain in denial, including looking at a ‘healthy’ depth chart as though that team was great, or prattling on about ‘consistency.’ For others, that ended after the Florida game, or perhaps after seeing Thorburn against Western conference teams. There was some yelling, about Kane, about Thorburn, about the coach and Mark Stuart and Pavelec, but always against the futility of being a fan of a team that makes irrational and indefensible choices.
Elliot Friedman’s recent focus on the Jets perhaps marks the end to the ‘Anger’ stage of dealing with the grief of this season. His take that the Jets simply weren’t ready for the West is more depression inducing than excuse-making. Really? They didn’t know they’d have to play structured hockey in the West? Why weren’t they playing structured hockey in the East?
The Jets woke up this morning with another win in the bag, but I, for one, am done believing they can make anything out of this season, and similarly done being mad at Noel and Cheveldayoff for the mess. For me, the period between the Florida game and last night was the Depression phase, and I considered never watching a Jets game again.
I’m on to ‘Bargaining,’ and I know that because I would give just about anything to see a Jets game where they weren’t out-coached. ‘Maybe Peter Laviolette could be the Febreeze air freshener in this parked car full of garbage of a team,’ I tell myself.
Something tells me this Buffalo game will tell us a lot about where people are at in their grief phase.
- Ladd – Little – Wheeler
- O’Dell – Jokinen – Setoguchi
- Kane – Scheifele – Frolik
- Wright – Albert – Thorburn
Eric O’Dell finally got the call up he (and the rest of Jets Nation) has been waiting for. He leads the IceCaps team in scoring per game for a second year, and had a reasonable training camp this year. He has great puck skills, and fine speed, but his edge work is poor and he can’t transition or change direction at NHL speed. It was a problem at times in training camp, and especially affects his neutral zone play. If the coach gave him a chance, he might be a good powerplay specialist for the club.
It hasn’t been confirmed (that I can find) that he’s in the lineup, so you can consider these lines a sensible grouping based on some realistic expectations for this coach. But it’s possible Thorburn stays on the second line. ("Come on, Claude, I’ll give you $20!")
Evander Kane changes this lineup. That was obvious in Columbus. It was also obvious that he’s not the problem.
- Enstrom – Trouba
- Clitsome – Byfuglien
- Stuart – Pardy
I’m not really sure what happened in Columbus. These were the defence pairings on paper and by shared minutes. And yet, Enstrom, Byfuglien, and Pardy were 52% or higher in corsi share, while Stuart, Trouba, and Clitsome were all sub-43% (and Clitsome was 31%). So…?
But those findings fit with what we know about this club. Enstrom and Buf are split up because the team has 2.5 (the half being Trouba, half the time) defenders of any quality. They miss Bogosian, even if they’re still bad with him.
Pavelec is facing an historically bad offence in Buffalo. Confidence builder, I think it’s called.
- Moulson – Hodgson – Girgensons
- Leino – Ennis – D’Agostini
- Ott – Foligno – Stafford
- Flynn – Porter – Ellis
And this, folks, is the group on pace to score 137 goals, the fewest of any team since 1953 (when the season was only 70 games). Analytics people were eager to tell us that Matt Moulson was the same player as Thomas Vanek when the trade happened, but the scouting community won that one. That Vanek was creating his own scoring on this roster is now beyond obvious, and that Matt Moulson requires help to create offence is equally clear.
Moulson has 12 points in 20 games, his lowest point pace since his rookie season.
Meanwhile, 19 year old Zemgus Girgensons has a quiet 5 points in his last 7 games since his move to the top line, and Hodgson leads the team in goals (8) and points (18). Yikes. That would put him 7th on the Jets.
So hey, things could we worse, Jets fans.
Ted Nolan has made a meaningful impact, though. The team had a 39% corsi rating before him, and a 45% rating since in even strength, close situations (within a goal). That’s huge improvement. Most players who post a season under 40% in that rating don’t come back to the NHL. The Sabres were looking at ending a lot of careers.
One thing to watch for is who you might like to add to your fantasy Jets roster. Almost anyone is available, so who might help this team? Ott? Stafford? How does Kevin Porter live up to your memories of Jim Slater? Maybe you want the scoring tough of Tyler Ennis – he of a second best 13 points. (Oh man, it’s bad…)
- Tallinder – Myers
- Ehrhoff – McBain
- Sulzer – Weber
The Sabres also don’t have great defence, ranked 23rd with 2.91 goals against per game (compared to the Jets at 20th with 2.8). Miller is not the problem, as his .921 save percentage has him in the USA Olympic conversation despite a miserable season for his team. He’s a UFA and no doubt will be looking for big dollars and a chance outside of the NHL’s version of Azkaban. Winnipeg would be a long shot in the extreme, but some times I like to pretend.
Tyler Myers is a problem, though mostly it’s a problem of being overpaid at this point. With a fairly tough zone start and medium competition, Myers is near even in relative corsi (ie. compared to the rest of the team, he’s not bad). He’s giving up goals (he’s -14), so it’s worth a look to see if we can figure out why.
Christian Ehrhoff is still the team’s best defender, and with so much of his salary already paid is probably on the To Get list for many teams. A few advanced analytics people claim he had a Norris calibre season last year if you control for team effects. Sadly, he can’t control for team effects in real time, so his relative corsi of +9 comes from being a true corsi of -11 per 60 minutes. In other words, this team is really, really awful and by being one of the brightest lights on it, he’s have a Keaton Ellerby level season. Ouch.
Mike Weber has the team’s worst +/- at -16 (Ott is -15, by the way…) but still he plays. They have very few options.
This is most winnable game since the team left the state of Florida, and it’s a must win for various reasons, from point accumulation to pride to jobs. Still Buffalo is slightly better than pathetic and the Jets’ pride is fragile at times. It’s all about that first goal on the road and against a team that needs a 0-0 shootout game to have a chance.