It’s that time of year again when the Winnipeg Jets find themselves on the outside of the playoffs looking in. They sit ten points out of the last playoff spot in the West with only twelve games to go.
Some people thought they could compete for a spot a year after finishing 25th in the league last season, and they have looked at times as if they were a playoff team. This season, like many in the past, look as though the Jets will have another year without playoff hockey. There are a lot of factors that have led to the Jets being in their current situation.
Let’s start with the goaltending, something a lot of people have complained in the past about. The Winnipeg Jets are 29th in the league on goals against with 223 scored against them, only ahead of the Dallas Stars. There have been only three goalies that have played for the Jets this season, Connor Hellebuyck, Ondrej Pavelec, and Michael Hutchinson. The bulk of the games have been played by Hellebuyck, who has a .908 save percentage and a 2.88 goals again average over 50 games played. Now, if you compare Hellebuyck’s save percentage and goals against average with goalies around the league who have played 50 games or more, the stats are pretty telling. There are 16 goalies in the league who have played 50 games or more and within that group, Hellebuyck is sitting 15th in save percentage, just above Hurricanes goaltender Cam War. In that same group of goalies, Hellebuck is also dead last in goals against average.
The Jets two other goalies, Hutchinson and Pavelec, aren’t anywhere as good as Hellebuyck. In just eight games this year, Pavelec has a .888 save percentage and a 3.55 GAA. Hutchinson is no better, while playing 22 games he has a .893 save percentage and a 3.24 GAA. The stats just prove the Jets are having a rough time in net and that it is a problem area.
TOO MANY MISTAKES
Everyone makes mistakes, from the best team in the league, the Washington Capitals to the last place team, the Colorado Avalanche. The Winnipeg Jets seem to make mistakes at the worst points in the game, like turning pucks over which lead to last minute goals by the opposing team. How many times have we seen them trail in a game, only to coming back to tie it up and then moments later commit another bad turnover leading to a goal against and a lost game? Too many times have Jets fans been teased with a win before getting let down because of a bad play. It’s not even the rookies who are making all of the mistakes, veterans like Wheeler, Scheifele, and Byfuglien are just as much to blame. If the Jets limited their mistakes they would probably have won more games and might even be in a playoff spot. Making those mistakes puts the puck in the hands of the opposition, which leads to goals on the Jets troubled goaltending.
INJURIES AT THE WRONG TIME
It’s sad to say, but injuries are a part of the game. Nobody likes to see players get hurt, but it’s highly unlikely a team will go through a season without someone out with an injury. This season has been a trying year with injuries coming at the worst of times. The Jets lost Patrik Laine at a time it seemed the team was poised to heat up, and take back a playoff spot. They lost Bryan Little in just the first game of the season for a month and a half. Add in Mathieu Perreault, and half of the Jets top six have been out for countless games this season. The Jets are still without the services of defenceman Tyler Myers, who has been out since early November with a lower body injury. Losing big minute players who contribute like they do has hurt the Jets big time. Who knows, maybe with less games lost from those stars, the Jets could very well be in the playoffs.
POOR SPECIAL TEAMS
The Jets need to get their special teams going if they are to make the playoffs. They sit 22nd on the power play and 28th in penalty kill, and teams that are in the bottom ten on both the penalty kill and the power play usually don’t make the playoffs. The most important special teams has got to be the penalty kill, considering how tough it is to score in this league, the Jets need to focus on making it tougher for other teams power plays to score when they are down a man. A big part of improving the Jets PK could be just the development of Hellebuyck, but you do have to consider the Jets have been without Tyler Myers for most of the season. The Jets are the third most penalized team, so maybe cutting down on penalties would lessen the blow the team takes while on the penalty kill.
NOT GOOD ENOUGH AT HOME
The Jets have an ugly home record at 16-18-1, a bit of a surprise considering they supposedly play in the loudest building in the league. Looking at the last two seasons there is only one team to finish below the 500 mark and still make it, the 2015-16 San Jose Sharks, which we can all agree didn’t really work out for them in the end. The Jets should take advantage of playing in front of their fans and win more often, which will get the fans more rambunctious, which in turn could once again make the MTS Centre a scary place to play for opposing teams.
THE BOTTOM LINE
The Winnipeg Jets have some problems that need to be worked out before they can be a playoff team. Injuries are something that will always happen, but if they can make less mistakes like bad turn overs, then they won’t give the puck up often which would help the goaltending. The talent the Jets have will only help improve the power play and penalty kill over time. Cleaning up the mistakes and goaltending along with improved power play and penalty kill, will help with a better team which will lead to the fans having something to cheer about. Those are just the big problems the Jets need to iron out before they can call themselves a playoff team.