When Mark Schefiele went down with an injury back on December 27 against the Edmonton Oilers, you could forgive Winnipeg Jets fans for their collective groans and eye rolls as they felt an impending sense of doom. An NHL team losing it’s number one center would be devastating in most situations, and for a player the caliber of the Scheifele it seemed especially so.
The Jets however have kept flying and with the recent play of Nik Ehlers and the naming of Blake Wheeler and Connor Hellebuyck to the NHL All-Star game, it’s proof that this is more than a one-player team.
Since the middle of the 2016-17 season, Scheifele’s play had seemingly gone to the next level as he started to establish his place in the league as one of it’s best centers. In fact from January 1, 2017 until his injury in December there was only one other center in the league who had more points than 55…
When it was announced that the Jets would be without their star center for the next four to six weeks, media and fans alike expected a bit of a drop off in play, but the opposite has happened and it has been quite remarkable.
— StatsCentre (@StatsCentre) January 11, 2018
The player receiving maybe the most credit for the Jets continued strong player is Blake Wheeler and for very good reason as you see in the tweet/graphic above, but the captain has been just one part of the story.
Patrik Laine was bumped up to that top line in Scheifele’s absence and has points in five of the last six games with a goal and six assists which is a testament to his underrated passing ability.
Kyle Connor’s three point night in Buffalo – which included a goal of the year candidate when he took the puck into the Sabres zone by himself, dangled one Buffalo defender and then drove to the net and went top shelf – was an example of Connor becoming more of a play driver for the team as opposed to the start of the season and his first few weeks spent on the top line were he was more of a good complementary player alongside Wheeler and Scheifele.
Mathieu Perreault also received a bump up the lineup and in ice time and has proven that he can pretty much play with anyone and make them successful. He has picked up points in four of his last five games.
And those are just the very recent examples from this latest stretch of games from the Jets.
Connor Hellebuyck’s play has been fantastic all season, to the point where it’s not unreasonable to consider him for post-season awards.
Adam Lowry has eight goals so far this season and could easily be set for another 15 goal campaign, but what Jets fans and fans from around the league are starting to notice is that he has become a strong defensive forward and by all rights should be in the talk of possible Selke Trophy award winners for top defensive forward. (It won’t happen for a number of reasons, but as they say “numbers don’t lie”)
Tobias Enstrom and Dustin Byfuglien have arguably been the Jets two best defensemen over the last four seasons, but this year when both were lost to injury, the Jets continued to play well thanks to a new top pairing of Jacob Trouba and Josh Morrissey while Tyler Myers and Dmitry Kulikov continue to provide steady play.
Walking out of Rogers Place on January 31 after a 5-0 pasting of the Edmonton Oilers, more than a few Oiler fans exclaimed in wonderment that the Jets put on such a performance against their team “without their two best players (Scheifele & Byfuglien) in the lineup” and maybe a year or two ago this would have been a valid point to make, but it isn’t now.
As we’ve seen proven this season and especially in the past two weeks, the Jets are well removed from the days of being a club that relied on one or two players. That should have Jets fans excited about the possibilities this team will have in the second half of the season and into a possible playoff run.