The Jets are on a fun run right now; the top six is humming along and carrying the team to the end of the season. Laine is currently two goals behind Crosby for the NHL goal scoring lead. Connor Hellebuck is finally looking like he is getting on a roll. However, the stark reality is the Jets are going to miss the playoffs because there are too few games left for the team to gain ground on the rest of the West.
Yet, management has ignored this fact as the team heads towards game 82 and it is becoming an issue. The trade deadline was the most recent symptom of this issue: That they feel the team that has not been good enough all season to contend for playoffs is now good enough. Only moving Drew Stafford points to this.
The story starts in the summer of 2016 when instead of pursuing quality defensive depth; the Jets decide to sign Brian Strait. This is not fine, because Strait is struggling in the AHL and has been unable to provide the defensive depth the Jets require. Warning bells of issues with player evaluation should have started going off.
Jump forward to the season where the Jets have been decimated by defensive injuries and poor play. Players like Mark Barberio, Andrei Marchenko and Klas Dahlbeck all saw time on waivers and all were better depth options than Ben Chiarot and Mark Stuart, yet the Jets opted to pass on them.
Why? No one can say for sure, but signs still point to the Jets’ management believing that Chiarot and Stuart are good players to have for defensive depth, on a team fighting for playoffs. Despite preparing the team for a much improved 2017-18 season, this was Cheveldayoff’s line after the deadline passed:
“Make the playoffs,” Cheveldayoff said when asked about his expectations. “We’re still going to try and continue to push.”
Players like Shawn Matthias and Mathieu Perreault could have been traded for assets to be used in the future and the Jets would not have seen a huge drop in play next season. The assets could have been used to acquire another defenseman capable of providing actual depth to the top four.
As we all know, this did not happen.
Instead, the Jets are moving forward with relatively the same group, though with Connor Hellebuyck officially as the number one goalie. The goal is playoffs or bust. This is fine, but highly improbable to happen.
So now management openly allows Nic Petan to sit in place of Chris Thorburn, providing the Jets less scoring depth, which the Jets need if they want any chance for the playoffs.
What Is The Issue, Then?
There are two main issues and they are related and the first has been mentioned multiple times.
The first is player evaluation. The defenseman that passed through waivers are better than anything that has been on the bottom pairing for the Jets. Better players have been sitting in the press box more often than not. Player deployment has not been optimal. This has been an aspect that the Jets have failed miserably in: Being able to evaluate and use what the team has properly and when to pick up players to fix deficiencies.
There is also the issue of the Jets only making the playoffs once since their relocation from Atlanta. The personnel decisions made by management are pointing to the fact that Cheveldayoff and team are unable to properly construct a roster that can not only make the playoffs, but compete for the Stanley Cup.
The Jets have had a decent draft record, but it is hard to mess up the 2nd overall pick when Patrik Laine is available.
But, the honeymoon period for the relocation is over for the Jets and fans desire playoffs, as they should. The core of the team has a good mixture of young and old elite players, but those older players are heading to the wrong side of their peak and will not be able to carry the team as much.
Fans should not have confidence in Kevin Cheveldayoff’s ability to properly construct a Stanley Cup contending team and should not expect the Jets to actually compete until Cheveldayoff is replaced by a new general manager. It is not fair for management to expect fans to continue to be patient and satisfied with how the team is being constructed and the lineup that is being iced.
For the young players being brought into the Jets organization, they cannot feel completely confident that the team will have a proper supporting cast to push the team into the playoffs.
If the current philosophy of management is that everything is fine, then this is a problem because status quo is not good enough for this roster or fair to fans. If management views the team as “good enough,” then it is time for a change.