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Photo Credit: © James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

The Jets Day After: Paul Maurice’s Last Stand?

When it was suggested that his team had yet another slow start to a game, falling behind 0-2 less than six minutes into the first period, head coach Paul Maurice seemed almost defiant. It was maybe the strongest defensive stance anyone with the Winnipeg Jets took the entire night.

Really Paul? Down 0-2 before the Jets even got their first shot on goal (which thankfully was a goal) is somehow not a slow start?

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And some people wonder if there is a disconnect between the head coach and the players. They can’t even seem to agree if there was a slow start and if they were any good from period to period.

Here’s the thing, if you were to do a “good, bad, awful” ranking of those three periods with most Jets fans I think the result would be the same almost every time.

First period: Bad.

Bad start. Got back into a little bit thanks to a Patrik Laine snipe, Kept shots fairly even, but Carolina did have the better scoring chances – 5v5 high danger chances were listed at 5-3 in favor of the Canes – and 3-1 after 20 would suggest that one team was better than the other.

Second period: Good.

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Good here is a bit of a relative term of course. The Jets did manage to out-shoot the Canes in the second period 7-5, but as has been the story for most of the season, the Jets were not getting to the net nearly enough for Petr Mrazek to be properly tested. They didn’t get scored upon, but they didn’t score anything themselves.

The best way to sum up the second period came in this tweet:

Third period: Awful.

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Down two goals, really needing a win, one would have thought that the Jets would unleash hell or at the very least cause a minor ruckus in an effort to get back into the game. At least score effects would help a little bit, right?

Instead we got the worst period possible. Out-shot 16-3 for the period (at one point with about five minutes left in the game the shots in the period were 15-1) and near the end, shortly after Justin Williams scored his second of the night, the Jets just seemed to check out both mentally and physically. How else do you explain this sequence right after that fourth goal?

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Scheifele takes a crazy swing at a puck well above him, then he barely does anything on the back-check before just spinning off his man and going for a lap around the net. Kyle Conner eventually gets back and then just sits and watches two Canes taking swipes at the puck. Josh Morrissey also just kind of stands there until he figures he should awkwardly dive forward. Sami Niku was also in some sort of no-man’s land and again just like against Chicago, was trailing behind two Jet forwards who back-checked quicker than he did.

This is what happens when Hellebuyck is just “good”

Connor Hellebuyck wasn’t outstanding in this game by any stretch. Could he have done better on a couple of the goals that got past him tonight? Absolutely, and I don’t think he’d deny that. At the same time though I am having a very hard time tagging losses on him when the Jets give up so many offensive rushes against on a nightly basis. Three of the four Canes goals came off a direct rush across the Jets blueline where in each case players in front of Hellebuyck had the reaction times of sloths and cement in their skates to match.

What is Dmitry Kulikov doing there? Where is Luca Sbisa going?

Sbisa and Neal Pionk both decide to lean towards the Canes puck carrier and forget that Kyle Connor is absolutely awful at defending anything in his own end.

It’s honestly insane how often multiple opposing players will get behind the Jets defense and have the puck on their stick. Let’s check in on the penalty kill effort shall we?

At least they took the shot from the blueline away? I mean you’d hate to let a team shoot from 65 feet away from the net. Netter take that shot option away from Carolina and just let them take a shot from about 10 feet away with two Hurricanes players standing in front of the net.

So yeah, I can’t blame Hellebuyck for any of this even though he could have stopped a couple of these chances. He’s done more than enough to keep this Jets team afloat all season because these issues in the above GIFs have been issues that have plagued this team all season.

At this rate, he’ll probably get more defensive help in St. Louis this weekend than he has seen all season.

Is This It For Paul Maurice?

I don’t blame Paul for being as frustrated as he seemed to be after the game, but at the same time I don’t feel he has helped his cause at all.

The Winnipeg Jets are more focused on being defensively responsible, but they don’t have the skill to do so and the system Maurice has the guys playing – if there is a system that is, it’s been pretty hard to figure it out lately – isn’t working. It’s the same thing that Mike Babcock tried to get the Toronto Maple Leafs to do at the start of this season and was dismissed when the results weren’t there.

The difference between those Babcock Leafs and the Jets has been goaltending. Toronto didn’t get it, Winnipeg up until recently has. Now the goaltending isn’t quite as stellar as it was back in November and even through parts of December and all those underlying advanced stats – your expected goals, the Corsi for and against, the high danger scoring chances given up that are far higher than the ones earned – everything that suggested that the Jets were getting unusually good results in contrast to numbers that suggested they should be struggling badly are now starting to reveal themselves.

I haven’t believed (or maybe it’s that I refused to believe) the Jets would pull the trigger on firing Paul Maurice mid-season. I was certain for a few different reasons that at the very least they’d ride out the final year of his contract and let how they did in the playoffs decide his fate.

Now, going into the all-star break the Jets (even with one game left to play tonight) will not be in a playoff spot with 32 games left in the season and everything right now feeling very much like it did back in 2014 when the Jets were performing well below expectations under then coach Claude Noel.

So much of it feels identical. The strong November, the poor December, the even worse January. The Jets had lost five in a row when Noel was finally fired, while these Jets have currently lost five of their last six. Questions remain if talent is the issue and if anyone else could possibly do better, but no one seems to fully understand what it is the Jets are trying to do now on a game by game basis.

Paul Maurice won’t be fired today, he’ll coach for sure tonight in Columbus. If the Jets don’t win tonight though, with an extended all-star game then players break coming up, for the first time this season I wonder if he’ll be back after that.

The Jets clearly have to do something at this point.