Photo Credit: © Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports

The Jets Day After: Talking Our Way Through This

Once again I turned to you – the JetsNation – on our Twitter feed and asked for your thoughts after last night’s 5-2 Jets loss to the Winnipeg Jets and unlike our hockey club, you guys didn’t disappoint.

I feel like this is good therapy for all of us. We all know what the issues are – more or less – and now all we can do right now is vent about them.

So here are your thoughts and my thoughts regarding your thoughts…

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Yup. I agree.

I actually didn’t mind Kulikov out with Morrissey last night. It wasn’t pretty, but they were matched up against the Hawks top line of Toews, Kubalik and Caggiula and manged to do pretty well against them. They did have their gaffes out there, but at this point they are the default top pairing which is a scary thought because Kulikov shouldn’t even be in the top four and Morrissey has had his struggles as the team’s number one defenseman, but for this game in particular, I thought (and the numbers kind of back me up on this) they did ok.

(My biggest gripes are with Anthony Bitetto and Sami Niku who I thought were both just awful – but I’ll get more into that in a moment)

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The last two games are examples of what this team truly looks like when Connor Hellebuyck can’t stop everything – and again looking at the goals against I find it hard to blame him for most of the four scored on him. A couple of “a save would be nice there” moments but asking Hellebuyck to stop all but one shot every night feels unreasonable, especially behind this defense.

Agreed about the bottom six forwards but losing Adam Lowry to injury is a huge blow. I am really struggling to see where Gabriel Bourque is a better option than Jansen Harkins.

I disagree with where you put the emphasis on that last line. To me, it would be “Paul Maurice is not THE problem” but he certainly is not helping his cause when what he’s trying to get the Jets to do on a nightly basis.

Maybe in the end it’s better to say that I don’t think Paul Maurice has THE solution.

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One thing that keeps sticking out in my mind is that at this time last year…

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Luca Sbisa had played just nine games with the New York Islanders and was regulated to press boxy duty for most of the 2018-19 season. In those nine games he averaged 15:28 ice time.

Anthony Bittetto had played in just 18 of 50 games for the Nashville Predators before he was traded to Minnesota where he averages a little under 12 minutes of ice time per game.

This season, both of them have played in 35 and 38 games for the Jets respectively. They are averaging around 18 (Sbisa) and 15 (Bitteto) minutes of ice per game.

So yes, I would fully agree that neither of these guys should be on the Jets, let alone getting the kind of ice time they are getting, but at the same time it *is* what Paul Maurice has had to work with – so the question as you kind of ask here is, would someone else be able to do better with these two as part of a Jets defense?

Maybe? Possibly? Doubtful?

This is why I hedge my bet with thinking Paul Maurice will be fired. Like it or not, there is some validity to the idea that Paul Maurice is working with a motley crew (not the metal band) of NHL defensemen and he’s done as well as anyone could hope under the circumstances.

I’ve been hot and cold with Sbisa to be honest. He makes mistakes and doesn’t produce any offense but generally it’s kind of a net zero thing for him. I don’t dislike him on the Jets as much as I thought I would, but in an ideal world he’s a bottom pairing d-man.

Bitetto though is just not good, and worse yet he drags Sami Niku down with him. The Blackhawks third goal is a perfect example of this. Bitetto does an awful job of boxing out David Kamph and poor Sami looks like he’s given up on the play when in reality I don’t know what he’s supposed to do there. Maybe he comes back a little harder on the play but Appleton had his guy and while Dach got a shot off, Appleton had directed away from any rebound. Bittetto just got outworked on that play.

(By the way, that was one of those goals I wish Hellebuyck would have played a bit better, but the rebound did get a bit away from him)

So to your point… The Jets defense is a mess, everyone is playing a role higher than they should be in an ideal world, and we all miss Dustin Byfuglien even though he was as big an adventure on defense as anyone else on this team.

To this point, one thing that stood out to me very early on in this game was the Jets almost “hesitating” in some ways to get out of their own zone. At times, teams will slow down a play, maybe deliberately look for and then make a pass after a second or two of looking over all options, but this Jets team seems to do it all the time and it feels like they are going well out of their way to not make a mistake instead of letting natural hockey instincts take over.

In other words, I feel like they are overthinking things far too much on the ice. Blake Wheeler passing back to Luca Sbisa at the blueline when he has a 2 on 1 chance down low early in the first is a great example of that as well (and it’s not the first time he’s done that). Just too much over-complication of the game and that is at least one thing that seems to be hindering them right now.

At any rate, you’re correct. It’s slow, clunky hockey that hasn’t been any fun to watch. Watching your team lose is hardly fun ever, but at least if the Jets were using their speed and skill and still losing, we could just tip our hat that Chicago was the better team. I don’t know if that was the case last night.

Chicago was the better team of course, but Winnipeg didn’t challenge them much.

Ah, but conversely the Jets are also three points out of a playoff spot and six points out of second place in the Central division.

The Jets are in a free fall right now, but if they figure things out and put together three or four wins in a row – especially in a season like this where every team in the Western conference outside of maybe the Blues have had stretches of bad play – they are right back in the middle of a top three division battle.

That’s why it feels like the Jets need to do something now to right the ship, while there is still a chance. (Long story short, sorry I’m not on Team Tank. Not yet anyway..)

Wait, football was on this weekend? I thought they canceled the season last weekend.

I think you’re making stuff up right now. Marshawn Lynch wished us all well, gave us solid advice for taking care of chickens and then the NFL closed up shop rather abruptly and decided that no champion would be crowned.

That is how I – a dedicated Seattle Seahawks fan – remember it happening anyway.

I just don’t see the Jets firing Paul Maurice at any point this season. I feel like it’s his team for the year for better or worse and only then will Chipman and Cheveldayoff decide where to go from there.

That said.. If (and may I state again that I feel it’s a *huge* if) the Jets do fire Paul Maurice at any time this season, my money is on Pascal Vincent being the man who steps in on an interim basis for various reasons.

I think that opinion is more popular than you give credit for.

This feels like a critical time for the Jets. Tomorrow against Carolina and then the next night against a suddenly hot Columbus squad could make for a very interesting week in Jets-land. I don’t see anything happening right this moment, but three losses or even going 1-2-0 this week may in fact spur.. something. I just don’t know what yet.