Behold, a new season is upon us!
The Jets take on the Maple Leafs tonight, but before the puck gets dropped the writers of JetsNation got together and answered six questions that the Jets face going into a season that feels very much like a “playoffs-or-bust” year.
Today we give you part one of our Q and A session and part two will follow tomorrow. Your JetsNation writers answering these critical questions are myself, Rob Mahon, Cassie Mosier, Kyle and Cody Buhler of the JetsNation Podcast, Tony D and Cam Farquharson.
1 – Patrik Laine had an incredible preseason with 5 goals and 3 assists. How do you guys think he does this season? Does he fall into a sophomore slump? Does he put up about the same numbers as last season? Could he get 40 goals?
Rob: I don’t see any reason to believe Patrik Laine suffers a sophomore slump. In fact, in my work with The Hockey Writers I’ve gone so far as to predict he could flirt with 50 goals this year. His shot is in no way diminished, and by all accounts he’s come to camp bigger and faster. The added muscle can only make him harder to play against, and his big weapon, his shot, isn’t going anywhere, as the preseason proved. I know it’s only exhibition games, but really, which of his goals were stoppable in the regular season? Those goals are goals, no matter the game.
Art: It sure feels like – to me at least – this preseason he’s A: not hesitating in shooting as much as he did last season and B: players are trying to feed him more. Maybe just a preseason thing, but I’d be happy if it continued. Will he slump? No. Could he get 40? Sure. I tend to think though we see more of the same. Maybe higher shot volume but lower shooting percentage?
Cassie: I think he’ll do just fine. He’s coming into the season with more strength and better conditioning. I don’t think we’ll see a sophomore slump come from him and I do feel he can take that next step forward and get 40 goals easily.
Tony: Laine will be just fine. His PP production will likely be better and any regression in his shooting percentage will be offset by a better shot rate. He’s good.
Kyle: I thought Laine looked more complete during the preseason, his skating seemed way better than last year. I think he will score similarly to last year, as his shooting percentage will drop but his shots will increase. I am not worried about a slump because he will be playing with some great linemates, no reason to worry, but temper expectations for a 19 year old kid.
Cody: I think health will be the biggest determining factor. If Laine stays healthy all year I see no reason why he doesn’t hit 40. He looks better than ever, and I think he will get even more looks on an improved power play this season.
Cam: Honestly, I potentially see the potential for some regression in the number of goals Laine scores. I do not trust Maurice’s systems and he did have a high shooting percentage. However, in terms of points, I could see Laine racking up more assists. He just seems to be developing into a more well rounded player.
2 – Steve Mason was solid in preseason play, but there were a couple of cringe worthy goals he let in as well. What’s your feeling over the Jets goaltending situation going into the season?
Rob: Better than last year at least, which is no ringing endorsement but it’s a step in the right direction. How many times has it been said that even average goaltending would get the Jets into the playoffs? I don’t expect much more than average goaltending to be honest, but the sad truth is average goaltending would be quite the step up. I think a year of development by Connor Hellebuyck and an experienced hand in Mason makes the Jets much better in goal than they’ve been for some time.
Art: It’s not so much the goaltending that worries me – as Rob said, it’s probably going to be average at best – but how Paul Maurice handles it is what worries me.
Cassie: I believe that this year will be better, but not world beating. If the team can get just league average goaltending, then it’s an improvement. I think that’s what we’re going to get. I’d say that most fans need to rethink how they’re going to view goaltending this season and not expect the world.
Kyle: The Jets need to fix their defensive zone issues before goaltending will really improve. Mason is a definite improvement but if the Jets keep on giving up quality chances at such a high rate, they will keep getting scored on no matter who is in net.
Tony: How bad was the ets goaltending last season? Well the numbers would suggest that the Jets were a slightly better than average defensive team, yet their Goals Against per 60 minutes of game played was 29th overall in the league. The goaltending was bad and Mason will provide the Jets with average NHL starter numbers. Let’s hope Maurice doesn’t over think things and make the jets play an even more conservative, collapsing to the net style.
Cody: Mason is a major upgrade on Hutch. Hellebuyck should be better than he was last year. I am not worried yet. Pavelec picked up a shutout last preseason and look how he ended up.
Cam: Mason is good, Hellebuyck is good. However, passive defence play will result in both goalies being strung out to dry and some cringe worthy goals to boot.
3 – Jets had a ton of power play goals, but very little success while playing even strength. Is this a big cause for concern or are we in a wait-and-see mode?
Rob: Preseason does have a few kinks to be ironed out but traditionally it’s the other way around: the power play suffers as teams haven’t had as much time to work on it, while five-on-five play is where the offensive work gets done. It’s such a bizarre trend that I don’t know that I would read much into it. I will say this though: even the games in which Laine didn’t play, the Jets still scored on the power play, which is encouraging. So is the fact that they’re drawing these penalties to begin with. That’s a trend I could live with carrying over.
Art: I’d be willing to give them a handful of games to see how this plays out, but I am still hopeful that their 5 v 5 scoring – which was pretty good last season – carries over to this season. The top two lines the Jets boast are as good as any other team’s.. The issue is the bottom six. We’ll have to see if they can chip in with some help 5v5.
Cassie: Wait-and-see. While the progress on the powerplay is encouraging, that’s one of those things that should be revisited and reevaluated in a month or two. If by then we’re still where we were during preseason, then it’s time to evaluate and look at what is wrong.
Kyle: Zero concern at all. Scoring goals is the least of the worries right now. The Jets were one of the highest scoring teams last year, and they brought back all of their top scorers. I have no concerns whatsoever that the Jets will not be able to score goals.
Tony: I’m very concerned and it’s all because of coaching and player usage. Maurice made a few switches last year to limit what they gave up defensively. The man to man dzone coverage, collapsing to the middle of the ice and trying to play a low event puck possession style of game. The Jets still gave up a pile of goals because of goaltending, to many penalties and a bad PK. If Maurice keeps pushing this low event style he will hurt the Jets offense plus that style of play doesn’t match the makeup of this team. Very square peg round hole.
Cody: I think a main reason for this was the increase in penalties. The Jets didn’t have much time at 5-5. Not worried.
Cam: Not sure, I think we need a larger sample size of the regular season lineup to be concerned. If the powerplay is better, that is amazing. But, we will see soon!