The Winnipeg Jets have played exactly 41 games this season so right now is a perfect time to hand out some report cards and grade the Jets through the first half of the season. Today we’ll look over the defense and goaltenders, tomorrow we’ll cover the forwards.
Just a couple of notes about the grades, these are completely subjective and not based on any complicated formulas or stats (although stats and metrics are considered a bit of course) Also to qualify for grading, a player needs to have played 15 or more games so Cameron Schilling with his four games and Sami Niku with his five games played unfortunately do not qualify.
As for the grades, an “A” is exceptional. “B” counts as very good. “C” is considered average. “D” could easily stand for disappointing and performing below expectations and an “F” in any grade system is flat out failure.
Are these grades accurate? Agree with most, but disagree with some? Have your own grades you want to hand out? Let us know in the comments below!
Connor Hellebuyck: C+
A year ago if Connor had a season like he’s had so far this season he might have warranted a slightly higher grade, but as it is one 44 season win and Vezina Trophy nomination later, a 18-12-1 record with a .908 save percentage seems very pedestrian if not a slight bit disappointing. We’ll refrain from giving him that bad a grade because as of late he’s had more good nights in goal than bad ones. He seemed to struggle early, perhaps with smaller equipment as his positioning looked off at times. Perhaps he struggled as the Jets as a team struggled with defensive coverage. The Jets will need a better and more consistent effort from him in the second half of the season.
Laurent Brossoit: B+
When the Jets signed him this past summer, there were a lot of questions on just what kind of value the Jets saw in him and if he was maybe just a stop-gap insurance policy with the Jets possibly needing to look at a waiver wire pick up at the start of the season. Brossoit has since silenced any critics of the deal posting an 8-1-1 record with his lone loss coming in a relief appearance against the Flames on November 21. His .939 save percentage has inspired calls from fans for Paul Maurice to play him more which he may do as the season grinds on.
Dustin Byfuglien: A
Last season Big Buff’s play regressed a little bit as both Morrissey and Trouba emerged as the Jets top pairing which impacted also Byfuglien’s ice time as he didn’t even have a goal in the first half of last season. Fast forward a year and Byfuglien has re-established himself as the Jets most important defenseman leading all d-men in points as well as leading or being tied for goals by Jets defensemen up until Sunday night when Morrissey scored his fifth against Dallas. He did that while already having missed a handful of games due to a concussion and playing mostly paired up with Joe Morrow. Buff was averaging 24:30 ice time before suffering a lower body injury just before the new year.
Josh Morrissey: A
When I watch Josh Morrissey play, I have to remind myself at times that he is only 23 years old and is only in his third full NHL season. He plays with the savvy of a nine year vet in his early 30’s and when you combine that with his speed and his developing offensive skill, it’s hard not to get excited about just how good he could be in two or three more seasons. For now though he might just be the Jets best overall defenseman. He doesn’t have the size or strength of a Byfuglien, but as a complete package Morrissey is easily the best of the Jets defensemen.
Jacob Trouba: B
Jacob Trouba continues to be maybe the most interesting story for the Jets and will be going forward to this summer when he yet again will be a restricted free agent. He remains one of the Jets best on the blueline and he’s on pace to set a career high in points and for the most part is a very reliable defender – when not getting caught on a band pinch or making a bad read in attacking plays through the neutral zone. It just feels like there should be another level to Trouba’s game, one that would warrant a demand for an eight million a year deal he was rumored to be asking for.
Tyler Myers: C+
The first half of the season has been a tale of two halves for Myers. The first part of the season he was arguably the Jets most disappointing defenseman with multiple turnovers per game and seemingly struggling with properly reading plays and reacting to them. Since about late-November / early-December though his play has improved – maybe not so coincidentally around the same time he was paired back up with Kulikov who came back from injury. Myers even had a stretch of games where he had a point in three straight and four in five played.
Ben Chiarot: C
Ben Chiarot is not a bad defenseman by any stretch, although he won’t help out much offensively. He’s been a decent enough partner to Dustin Byfuglien for most of the first half of the season, he leads Jets defensemen in hits and is among the defensive leaders in blocked shots. He does struggle with reading and reacting on the ice which is why it’s optimal to have a veteran partner such as a Byfuglien or Kulikov.
Dmitry Kulikov: C
When he is healthy, Kulikov is a nice, steady presence on the blue line. He isn’t flashy, he will not be racking up points for the Jets, but he is reliable in winning puck battles in the corners and is typically pretty good in making passes out of the defensive zone. The key though is his health. The Jets need him to stay on the ice and be a reliable defensive partner for Myers (or lately Morrow) A tiny little bit more offensive production wouldn’t hurt either.
Joe Morrow: C-
The best one can really say about Joe Morrow is that he’s just there. The only reason he doesn’t get a D grade is because we really can’t expect much from a player who should only see press box time as the Jets seventh defenseman. He may be a tiny bit more reliable defending than say a Sami Niku, but the edge Niku has on him in offensive ability as well as overall speed makes some of us wonder how Morrow in the first choice to be made when there is an injury replacement. When there is talk about the Jets needing to trade for more defensive depth, it’s a player like Morrow that would likely be the one talked about in terms of replacing.