1Winnipeg Jets
Photo Credit: Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports

Jets Line Dancing: Separating Scheifele and Wheeler

We are now over halfway through our line dancing series where we take a look at 20 potential lineup combinations in 20 days. Each post has a separate theme, with this one including three options if the Jets want to split up Scheifele and Wheeler.

It’s been a common complaint in Winnipeg over the past 12 months. Scheifele and Wheeler have almost exclusively played with each other and many people think that splitting them up would be a smart way to spread the scoring across multiple lines. It’s the age old question, do you load up one line with the best players, or do you spread them out so they can help out multiple lines? Last year the Jets exclusively loaded up the top line despite some mediocre results. This year, the Jets have a blank slate to try something new.

Here’s three options that Winnipeg should consider.

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SCENARIO 10: Big Boy Line

Left Wing Center Right Wing
Patrik Laine Adam Lowry Blake Wheeler
Nik Ehlers Mark Scheifele Jack Roslovic
Kyle Connor Bryan Little Mathieu Perreault
Gabriel Bourque Andrew Copp Mason Appleton

Likelihood: 4/10
Fun factor: 10/10

While the current trend in the NHL is towards smaller, speedier players, there is still an advantage that size brings. The top line in this case would be physically dominant against all competition. In addition to their massive size, they would be dominant in nearly every phase of the ice.

Defensively, Lowry and Wheeler are good enough to carry the line. Offensively, both Lowry and Wheeler can drive possession and forecheck aggressively. Laine would provide the skill and finishing talent to really bring out the best among all three players.

This top line would be a nightmare to play against as they could beat you with speed, skill, possession, or by sheer size. If Maurice would be willing, it would be a really fun line to watch.

The fun doesn’t stop there as the second line includes Scheifele between two speedy wingers. This would help Scheifele get the puck up the ice quicker as he wouldn’t have to carry it himself. He could see the play from behind and help it develop rather than needing to lead the rush.

The third line would provide some depth scoring as Connor would fit in nicely beside the two veterans, Little and Perreault. Overall, this is a really interesting combination that could be really effective against all competition.

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SCENARIO 11: Wheeler For Tanev

Left Wing Center Right Wing
Kyle Connor Mark Scheifele Patrik Laine
Andrew Copp Adam Lowry Blake Wheeler
Nik Ehlers Bryan Little Jack Roslovic
Garbriel Bourque Mark Letestu Mathieu Perreault

Likelihood: 7/10
Fun factor: 6/10

While WLC doesn’t have quite the ring compared to TLC, on the ice Wheeler could easily fill Tanev’s previous role. If the Jets want Copp and Lowry to take a step forward offensively, including Wheeler on the line would be the perfect compliment. He can play fast and aggressive while still being defensively sound. Think of Brandon Tanev with more size and skill. If the line was so effective with Tanev on the wing, imagine how much better it could be with Wheeler instead.

The top line in this case includes the two RFA holdouts with Scheifele in between. There was a few glimpses of Connor and Laine playing together last year but that was with Little in the middle. The line struggled mightily as they finished with an xGF% of only 39.89%. While that’s not a good number, things would likely be different with Scheifele as the centreman.

The third line would also include some strong depth scoring with Little playing with Ehlers and Roslovic. While they wouldn’t excel in anything particular, maybe Roslovic can find better chemistry than Laine did with the same duo.

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SCENARIO 12: Reuniting Wheeler and Little

Left Wing Center Right Wing
Nik Ehlers Mark Scheifele Patrik Laine
Kyle Connor Bryan Little Blake Wheeler
Mathieu Perreault Adam Lowry Jack Roslovic
Gabriel Bourque Andrew Copp Mason Appleton

Likelihood: 4/10
Fun factor: 5/10

This scenario features a throwback to the early Jets 2.0 days with Little and Wheeler uniting. They have shown plenty of chemistry in the past and Connor would be a nice compliment to their game.

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In reality, this scenario just keeps the top four wingers intact and switches Little with Scheifele. That means Scheifele gets to play with Ehlers and Laine instead of Little.

Switching Little and Scheifele really balances out the top six and allows both lines to get a slightly different look while keeping the same players in the mix. This would be a good way to mix things up without changing too much at once.

So far, this set of combinations give me the most confidence heading into the new season. It’s been talked about in the past, but I think now is the best time to finally split up Scheifele and Wheeler. Having them on separate lines completely changes the look of the roster and instantly creates more matchup problems for the opposition.

Maurice, if you’re listening, let’s make a change this season and try something new.

Check out the rest of the series

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3