It seemed like even before the Winnipeg Jets 2016-17 season ended in early April without a playoff run to be seen, fans and media alike were trying to pinpoint where exactly everything went wrong for the club and a lot of the blame fell directly onto the shoulders of the Jets goaltending situation.
At the start of the season, the club made the decision to go with their two young goalies in Connor Hellebuyck and Michael Hutchinson, while sending eight year veteran Ondrej Pavelec down to the minors. It was a eye-opening roster move and one that signaled to the rest of the hockey world that the Jets were ready to move on from their high-priced, yet often under-performing incumbent starter and go with two younger, less-experienced goalies.
The experiment didn’t exactly work out as all hoped it would. Hellebuck went 26-19-4 with a .907 save percentage. Hutchinson fared fared worse going 9-12-3 with a .903 save percentage. Instead of being an upgrade over Ondrej Pavelec’s past performances, it was more of a sideways step with numbers and inconsistent play very similar to what Pavs had put up in the past.
Hutchinson struggled in the same back-up role he has done very well in the previous two seasons. Hellebuyck who was known for his “big and boring” style of goaltending in 2015-16 was suddenly much more erratic and not playing his position as calmly and efficiently as he had the year before. Questions also started to be asked on how they were being managed by the coaching staff. Was Paul Maurice to blame? What about Jets goaltending coach Wade Flaherty?
Perhaps the issues were caused by the defense playing in front of the two young goalies and more to the point, maybe it was the Jets poor special teams play that did in the goalie duo. In 4 on 5 shorthanded situations, Hutchinson’s save percentage was .863 while Hellebuyck’s was at an even worse .858 mark. When you look at their numbers in 5 on 5 situations, both had more respectable numbers with Hellebuyck post a .918 save percentage and Hutchinson with a .915 save percentage.
Which brings up to this summer. We’ve already seen teams start to figure out their goaltending situations for next season. The Carolina Hurricanes traded for and locked up former Chicago Blackhawks backup Scott Darling while the Dallas Stars did the same for former Tampa Bay all-star Ben Bishop. The Jets haven’t made a move and likely will not until the season officially ends and the expansion draft takes place, but this hasn’t eased the minds of some Jets fans who are seeing once viable options the Jets have to ‘fix things’ disappear while the team stays quiet.
It’s obvious the Jets are parting way with now free agent Ondrej Pavelec, but what of Hutch and Helle?
Is there a chance Hutch is claimed by Vegas in the expansion draft?
If that doesn’t happen, do the Jets look to trade Hutchinson? If they go that route, do they trade him in hopes of bringing in a veteran free agent goalie to pair with Hellebuyck, or do the Jets send Hutch away in a package deal in order to get a goalie that might be available on the trade market?
Would the Jets dare to again try the duo of Hutch and Helle for the 2017-18 season? If they can improve their play on special teams, would the results possibly better?
Give us your opinions, what should happen with the Jets goalie situation? Heck even make a prediction on what you think might happen.