I hope that someday soon we can revisit the hubris in my statement of a headline and all share a laugh together at how silly and overdramatic I was less than 24 hours after a devastating last minute loss by the Winnipeg Jets at the hands of the New York Islanders, but I fear that my hitting of a proverbial panic button is not only justified, but maybe a bit overdue.
For the last 15 hours or so I’ve tried to take various thoughts that I had about Thursday night’s contest – both good and bad – and put them into words, but I keep going back to the same thought I have about this team…
This isn’t a hockey team that will have a deep run into the playoffs. It probably won’t get past the first round at all. At the rate this team is going, our dreams of lifting a banner – even just a “Central Division Champs” banner – is looking grim.
And again, I really hope I’m wrong about this. Maybe the Jets team we saw against the Nashville Predators less than a week ago will turn up again for round one / game one, and then all bets will be off, but I’m not taking about THOSE Jets, I am talking about THESE Jets.
THESE Jets? The team we’ve seen this past week? The Jets that looked lifeless and uninspired against a Dallas Stars team who should have at least posed a little bit of a threat being a potential first round opponent? The team that – as head coach Paul Maurice stated – “encouraged the Islanders to stick around” repeatedly until the very last minutes when the Islanders said ‘hey, thanks for the two points, we’ll be leaving now’?
Yeah, that Jets team isn’t doing anything in these playoffs and you may as well adjust your expectations accordingly now.
Winnipeg was already having issues with not just shot suppression, but with where those shots were coming from. At least last season when the Jets were giving up a bunch of shots, they seemed to be from distance and Maurice would come out and basically say “are we giving up a lot more shots? Of course we are, we mean to do that! We just want them to be from distance.” The rest of us just stood in disbelief for a moment and once we got past the whole “we’re totally cool with giving up shots” part of the statement, we could at least see that the “from distance” part seemed to be working out ok.
Look at the heat map from last night’s game.
See all that dark blue around the Jets goal? That’s prime scoring area kids and the Jets last night let the Islanders tee off from there repeatedly.
And it’s not like this week has been a one off or just a bad pair of games. These types of games have been more or less the norm all season in Winnipeg, which is why it’s hard to feel extra encouraged that a return of Dustin Byfuglien and Josh Morrissey will be the cure-all the team needs.
This club was already struggling with allowing too many chances in the slot area in front of the Jets goal, struggling with zone exits, and committing bad turnovers when 33 and 44 were in the lineup. Part of that is on the defense, part of that is on the unwillingness of forwards to come back and hang around long enough to support the defense and cut down passing lanes and in turn prevent opposing players from stepping in front of telegraphed passes. This then means part of the problem is also coaching.
I can hear some of you now. “Oh great, here we go again about coaching…”
Look, I like Paul Maurice. Out of the 31 current coaches in the NHL, I’d have him in the upper half tier. He has his blind spots though and I seriously question if he knows what to do with a team as talented as the one he has in front of him. I’d argue that he’s never had a team this deep that can roll four lines, or this skilled with as good a goaltending as it has, and it kind of shows in how he coaches these Jets.
He’s willingly inserted Matt Hendricks into the lineup each of the last three games and no one seems to know why other than Maurice has stated it’s a match-up thing. With all due respect to Mr. Hendricks, at no time in his career should anyone have ever looked at an opposing team’s lineup and thought “You know who we could play to counter all this? Matt Hendricks!”
Tyler Myers directly causes two penalties within a 30 second span in the second period, the Jets give up a goal on the ensuing 3 v 5 penalty kill, and Myers is still on the ice in the final minutes of play when the team needs to lock down a lead and then try to grasp on to a tie.
Sami Niku commits a single giveaway in one of the 13 shifts he gets in the game and his ass is stapled to the bench in the final ten minutes of play.
We need to look into surgery for Mark Scheifele and Blake Wheeler this summer because at some point last season they were literally fused together and haven’t been separated since. That has to be the only logical explanation as to why Maurice hasn’t ever put them on two different lines.
Even the Colorado Avalanche midway through this season took their amazing line of Landeskog, Rantanen, and MacKinnon and put them all on different lines just to see if the world would burn.
There is a scene in the masterpiece film “The Matrix” where the character Neo (played by John Wick) visits The Oracle (played by the late, great Gloria Foster) to see if he indeed is “the one” that will save humanity from the misunderstood machines (they aren’t evil, they just didn’t see a need for humans any more and really who could blame them?) and after the Oracle gives him a quick pep talk and a once over, she looks at Neo and basically tells him that while it looks like he has all that is needed to be “the one,” he’s not the one at all and that he may be “waiting for something.” When pressed about this by Neo, she is at a loss to explain it, “I don’t know, your next life maybe” she says with slight exacerbation.
Right now I like to think the Jets are Neo. They have the tools needed to be one of the NHL’s elite teams and their record would suggest they’re good, but they just can’t seem to put it all together. How else do you explain multiple losses in regulation when the team is leading or tied within the final ten minutes of play – which is what has happened to the Jets this season more times than which my brain would like to remember which I estimate is five.
Maybe this team needs another year under it – it is after all still one of the youngest in the league. Maybe it needs new coaching or a different mindset from current coaches at least.
Or maybe they figure it out at almost the last minute possible and put together an epic run and prove that they are the chosen ones.
I’m just saying based out of what we saw last night, what we’ve been seeing the last couple of weeks and really this entire season, we shouldn’t really have overly high expectations.