Death, Taxes, Blake Wheeler and Mark Scheifele on the same line.
Last season there were only two constants when it came to the Winnipeg Jets, their lack of consistency, and the fact that Blake Wheeler and Mark Scheifele would play on the same line if both in the lineup.
As I pointed out months ago when the St. Louis Blues were making their run to a Stanley Cup victory, there were a few things the Jets could learn from them and one of them was to no be afraid to mix lines up and how Paul Maurice made absolutely sure that never happened in Winnipeg.
82 games (for Mark Scheifele) with Blake Wheeler by his side. A credit to the ability of both players to stay healthy, but also a sure fire way to make your team very predictable for opposing teams to coach against and a sure fire way to allow complacency in your own players. Keep in mind this chart is just five on five minutes, they also spent pretty much every waking moment together on the power play.
There is something to be said for keeping players together to give them time to mesh and develop chemistry, but Wheeler and Scheifele already had that and for the first half of the season were damn near unstoppable. At some point midway through the season though teams started figuring out how to stop them both with the man advantage and at even strength and Paul Maurice for reasons only known to him and maybe Blake and Mark as well refused to deviate from the plan.
Scheif and Wheels are peanut butter and jelly. They go great together, but they are also pretty darn good on their own as well or as a complement with something else. Given how the Jets struggled at times to get production from their second and third lines, not to mention how teams towards the end of the season were able to start clamping down on the top line with 55 & 26, it still months later baffles many fans how a switch – not even for even one single game late in the season just for funsies – wasn’t done.
So today, let’s say you are named the head coach of the Winnipeg Jets (sorry Paul) and one of the first things that your new boss Kevin gets tells you to do is get Wheeler and Scheifele on separate lines. He doesn’t care how, he doesn’t care who you put them with. He just wants you to mix things up.
Using Sean Tierney’s fun WAR lineup creator (which you can check out and play around with here) I did some tinkering with the Jets forward lines as a whole, with the emphasis on making sure Blake and Mark were on separate lines and did so by bumping Wheeler down a line while keeping Scheifele and Connor on the first unit and putting Patrik Laine with them…
Not bad. You’ll notice I also switched up Andrew Copp and Bryan Little because honestly I’d love for Copp to get a shot at more minutes and a bigger role with the team. (That’s another post for another day)
I also cut down the minutes I’d play the top line and gave that ice time to mostly the second line, but also bumped up my fourth line’s ice a little more, which means this isn’t too bad, but I could balance things out just a bit more I bet…
I probably could have bumped up Little and put Copp down a line, or moved Little to the wing to play with Lowry… But again, these are all ideas that we can talk about on another day.
Today, we just want to focus on the top two lines and specifically getting Scheifele and Wheeler separated. (Don’t worry boys, we’ll keep you on the same power play unit) Let us know your thoughts and what lines you’d run – again, keeping 55 and 26 on separate lines – below in the comments section or on either our Twitter feed or Facebook page!