The Winnipeg Jets are going to be without Mark Scheifele for the next six to eight weeks as he recovers from an “upper body injury.”
(As a quick aside: It’s a shoulder injury you guys, maybe it’s a collarbone injury, but either way we all know it’s in that area… Stop with this “upper body” garbage.)
Paul Maurice in his press briefing to the media on Thursday afternoon mentioned that the Jets for now had no plans to call up anyone from the Manitoba Moose and instead be prepared to be to slide Matthieu Perreault up to the top line in Scheifele’s spot, and then have Marko Dano and/or Shawn Matthias come in from the press box and play on the Jets fourth line.
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News of the Jets intentions moving forward without 55 in the lineup caused fans and media to scratch their head, especially when you have a wunderkid like Jack Rosolvic tearing up things in the AHL and seemingly ready for an NHL jump, but once you take a step back and look at the big picture of what is going on with not only this situation, but with the Jets this season as well as the Moose and the development of players like Nic Petan and Roslovic, the lack of a call up or trade actually makes sense.
The Roslovic Factor
Jack Roslovic has 15 goals and 20 assists in 31 games played with the Moose so far this season. Last season he had 13 goals and 35 assists in 65 games played. The 20 year old has been an offensive dynamo over the last season and a half and is seemingly ready for NHL time at any moment’s notice. It almost seems like an injury to a top six forward such as Scheifele would be the perfect chance for a player like Jack to get called up, get some of those top six minutes and produce.
It’s worked for Kyle Connor after all, right?
Well, kinda… Kyle Connor since his recall early in the season after the Perreault injury has done well for himself, but it’s easy to argue his modest success has been thanks mostly to playing beside two players like Blake Wheeler and Scheifele. That’s not to say that Connor has been completely dependent on his line mates, but would Connor have had the same success playing on a line with say Adam Lowry and Joel Armia? Not likely.
Now you’d want to put Roslovic on a line with Connor and Wheeler? It could work, but it’s a bit of a gamble to hope a couple of 20 year olds can consistently produce top line numbers over the next two months – not to mention a lot to ask of and more than enough pressure on two young players – and if it doesn’t work then who knows what kind of hindrance that does to the development of both Connor and Roslovic?
Maybe it doesn’t harm them at all, but why take that risk, especially if there are other options?
Roslovic is doing just fine in the AHL playing on a first place club and getting top line minutes there. The Moose are rolling with him leading the way. NHL success is far more important than AHL success, but disturbing your AHL team’s potential success for the sake of a two month issue that may not fully benefit the player you’re calling up seems shortsighted.
The Perreault Problem
Matthieu Perreault is not a fourth line player. We all know this.
He’s done great in that role with some power play and penalty kill time thrown in, but his ice time compared to the numbers he is putting up suggests he is still being under-utilized. Mark Scheifele now out for the next six to eight weeks means his minutes will have to go to someone else and there is no player on this Jets roster that needs the boost to his average ice time more than Perreault does.
Perreault is making 4.5 million this season. He’s signed through the 2020/21 season in a deal that was made last summer which means the 29 year old forward is seen as a core piece of the Jets roster for (four?) years to come. Paul Maurice may have been fine with Perreault playing fourth line minutes, but if you’re a general manager like Kevin Cheveldayoff who is trying to balance team needs against a salary cap, seeing 4.5 million dollars worth of contract not used to it’s full (or proper) potential might be a bit concerning.
The Jets have a top six forward in Matthieu. It’s very possible that it’s been suggested by the GM to the coach that while Scheifele is “irreplaceable”, Perreault filling in for him will be a fine stop gap measure, rather than call up any player from the AHL or spend team assets to make a trade with another club.
The Press Box Pair
If you call up a Roslovic or a Petan now with the idea that either one of them plays top six minutes or is put into Perreault’s fourth line spot, what exactly are you saying about Marko Dano and Shawn Matthias? Why do you even have them on the roster if you don’t feel you can trust them to get into the lineup and at least fill a bottom six role on the club?
The Jets essentially gave up draft positioning this past summer with the Vegas Golden Knights in order to keep not only players like Perreault around, but also not to lose a player like 23 year old Marko Dano. They signed a forward like Shawn Matthias last summer in case of injury such as the one the Jets are dealing with now.
If the coach and/or GM has an issue putting either player in the lineup at all, then that is simply bad player management. I don’t think that is the case here though which is why the Jets are fine going with who they have available to them right now.
Six To Eight Isn’t Panic Button Worthy
Mark Scheifele is easily one of the best centers in the league, but he remains just one player on a roster full of very capable and talented players. The Jets aren’t a one man team now. Wheeler, Laine, Ehlers and Perreault can all provide offense on most nights. Bryan Little and Adam Lowry are fine secondary scoring options.
Six to eight weeks is a mid to late February return. If there happens to be a setback in recovery, then Scheifele may be back mid-March. The Jets are good enough to be able to withstand the loss of one player – even a really good one like Mark. If this is the only major injury the Jets have to deal with, then you can think of Scheifele as a trade-deadline acquisition that didn’t cost your team anything.
If they Jets do get handed another injury or two to deal with, then there is always the option of going to a Roslovic if needed.
If this was a card game, then think of a call up or a trade for depth as the ace up Kevin Cheveldayoff’s sleeve. The Jets still have a good hand that they are working with and there is no need to get desperate.
The Jets have gotten this far by staying the course over the last few seasons and not making panic-fueled moves. They aren’t about to start making them now.