What Will the Jets Do When Healthy Bodies Return?

The Winnipeg Jets were bitten by the injury bug, and it spread throughout the locker room, leaving seven names on the injury list. For the first time in the short history of Jets 2.0, however, it hasn’t resulted in a complete implosion. Call-ups from the farm have held the fort and the coaching staff will soon be faced with some more decisions as sick bay begins to empty out and the injured veterans begin to return to game shape. 

We won’t be seeing Bryan Little or Shawn Matthias for some time yet, as they are on injured reserve until at least the end of November. Likewise, Joel Armia is out long term (reports say 6-8 weeks with an MCL injury), but veteran forwards Drew Stafford and, more pressingly, Mathieu Perreault are getting ready to return shortly, as is defenceman Mark Stuart, who skated with the team on Thursday. Also skating on Thursday was newly re-signed Jacob Trouba, who may get to see his first action of the season tonight against Colorado. 

In recent memory, a return of veteran talent would be welcomed enthusiastically by the Jets’ faithful but in this new era of forward depth, decisions are going to have to be made about who gets to play, who has to watch from the press box, and who gets sent down to the AHL to play with the Moose.

Read on as we dive in to the options in front of Paul Maurice and my thoughts on what he might (or should) do.

Last night in Phoenix the Jets iced the following forward lines against the Coyotes:

Ehlers-Scheifele-Laine
Connor-Petan-Wheeler
Copp-Lowry-Tanev
Dano-Burmistrov-Thorburn

Three of those players (Nic Petan, Andrew Copp, and Marko Dano) were injury call-ups. Each of those guys has made a strong argument to stay with the big club. Copp was named first star against the ‘Yotes, scoring the opening goal and being hard on the puck all night. That gives him 4 points, with goals in back-to-back games after registering a short-handed goal against the Stars in Tuesday’s 8-2 win. Nic Petan has also looked stellar, leading the team in CF% after four games. He has three assists in those four games including a beauty to Blake Wheeler as the power-play was expiring last night. Not to be outdone, Marko Dano has an assist and two goals (one of which was the tying goal to finish the comeback against the Capitals on November 3rd).

With Perreault and Stafford set to return in the next week or so, can the Jets justify sending any of these guys back down to the Moose? This team has appeared to gain some steam over the last three or four games and rocking the boat may not be the best move. This isn’t terribly surprising, though, as Stoller predicted here that we’d see good things out of Copp during this call-up. If I’m being fully honest and forthcoming, I’d like to see Drew Stafford, a pending UFA, dealt away for some defensive depth, but, realistically speaking, I don’t see management doing that at this time.

Gary Lawless reported a week ago today that the Jets were shopping Alexander Burmistrov and rightfully so. In 14 games played this season, Burmistrov has yet to score and has added only 2 assists. If the kids are playing this well, there probably is no room for Burmi, who started the season as a healthy scratch before the injuries set in.

The other guy who started the season watching from the pressbox who should be returned there is Chris Thorburn. After another one of those curiously timed, poorly executed staged fights, that accomplishes absolutely nothing. In 10 games this year, Thorburn had gotten on the scoresheet a grand total of zero times. His only tangible contributions have been the ‘fight’ below with Luke Schenn and another staged debacle with Chris Stewart of the Minnesota Wild back on October 15. Neither fight has been credited as a win by Thorburn by hockeyfights.com.

 It seems fairly apparent, at least to me, that there is no room for Burmistrov and Thorburn when Perreault and Stafford are healthy. Things will get further muddied when Bryan Little and Shawn Matthias are ready to go. I made the argument here a couple weeks ago that Kyle Connor could use some seasoning with the Moose, and I stand by that assessment. The flashes of brilliance are there, but he’s not quick enough to the puck. His situation looks a lot like Nic Petan’s from the start of last season (though he’s got much higher-quality linemates than Petan did). There is no doubt that Connor is skilled but things may be moving a bit fast for him currently. He should still get some time to adjust, though, as there are still a few weeks before the Jets should need to cross that bridge.

In the meantime, let’s hope these kids get to stay up and show what they’ve got as the Jets celebrate a depth unlike anything we’ve seen in the last five years.

  • FishWhiskey

    Quote from Dustin Mymko “In the meantime, let’s hope these kids get to stay up and show what they’ve got as the Jets celebrate a depth unlike anything we’ve seen in the last five years.”

    I am in %100 percent agreement with you sir. Now if the Jets coaching and management can just take advantage of this then good things like the “playoffs” are within the realm of the very possible. I mean, what was the point of drafting and developing these quality young players if we don’t use them?

    The depth is so good right now that a very reasonable argument could be made that even with the present injuries, replacing Burmistrov and Thorburn with Roslovic and De Leo would make this an even better team yet.

    Postma has proven he is a better D man than Stu yet Postma may get pushed out when old “grit for brains” returns.

    Pavelec has finally been shuffled off to the Moose but we still have Stu, Burmi and Thorbs hanging around like farts in a blanket and robbing demonstrably better players of ice time. Why not just rip the band-aid off quickly and rid the team of the old dead wood once and for all? Eh?

    • Dr. Rocktopus

      I kind of suspect it’s going to happen now. The call-ups are out-producing the vets in a big way. The inadequacy of Thorburn and Burmistrov has never been more evident, and the quality of replacements has never been this high. Just like Pavelec, they’re gone. Their primary function this season was to be press box fodder, and injuries have kept them in for far too long.

      Connor is an interesting case, though. He hasn’t been getting on the score sheet that much, so might well be time to send him down for seasoning. At the same time (eye test alert), he is really starting to look like he belongs out there. He is getting good at controlling play, he’s winning puck battles. I’m not 100% sure I’m ready to see him go down to the A just yet – I kind of want to see where this goes.

      • FishWhiskey

        I so hope you are right Doc. It’s just that with their tendency to hold on to players too long I figure we best keep up the racket until they actually do something lest they think that “fan silence” signifies some sort of tacit approval of keeping Stu, Burmi and Thorbs on board.

        Between the Jets publicist and a few hockey people in the Jets org. who occasionally follow these sites the team has a pretty good idea about what the fans are saying. Our collective voice helps shape journalistic coverage as well so I say keep up the din until those three are gone.

        I share your exact feelings on Kyle Connor. He is going to be a stud when he finds his swagger. A little Moose time did the trick for Petan but then again, Laine managed to find his groove playing on the big team so fingers crossed Connor can too cuz with all the injuries I don’t see him going anywhere for a while.

        • jetsfanmike

          Regarding Connor, I’m looking forward to seeing him play with Little and Wheeler.

          IMO, Connor has been too tentative on the ice and he looks like he’s intentionally losing races to the puck that might be close to avoid contact.

          I’m hoping that with Wheeler and Little driving possession and having the skill to set Connor up for more scoring chances that he’ll pot a few more goals at that point and then, with improved confidence, he will (hopefully) start playing a more assertive game.

          If that doesn’t happen though, I’m all for sending him down to the Moose and having him develop chemistry with Roslovic.

          • FishWhiskey

            Those are great points Mike. If he does have to go to the Moose he and Roslovic could be hell on wheels. Just hope Vincent doesn’t hang Peluso around his neck as some sort of sadistic character building exercise. Yikes