Unless the Winnipeg Jets can make an improbable comeback, Cheveldayoff should blow up the defensive group

Photo credit:© James Carey Lauder-USA TODAY Sports
By Goose
1 month ago
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For the second straight year, it looks like the Winnipeg Jets’ season will be over in just five playoff games. It’s hard to see everyone down in the dumps about the Jets considering how the regular season went. Cheveldayoff gave Jets fans a reason to be optimistic Thanksgiving weekend, extending both Connor Hellebuyck and Mark Scheifele for the next eight years. Even though Cheveldayoff went out and made some trades to make the forward group that much deeper, he didn’t do anything significant to make the defense better.
I will have a few articles coming out on who should be replaced because this team needs to be retooled to help this team win the cup.
The defensive group has been more or less the same eight players over the last three years: Josh Morrissey, Dylan DeMelo, Neal Pionk, Brenden Dillon, Nate Schmidt, Logan Stanley, Dylan Samberg, and a sprinkle of a few other characters to fill in some gaps.
Three years with the same D-core and all you get is 10 postseason games. In the series against the Vegas Golden Knights, the Jets gave up 19 goals. Now you can put the blame on Connor Hellebuyck for having an .889 save percentage in that series, but he’s the last line of defense. Hellebuyck makes big saves when needed, but when he’s left to hang out and dry due to defensive mistakes and having to be the man to step up and be a great penalty killer isn’t fair to Hellebuyck.
Changes should have been made last offseason to the D-core. There’s a long line of guys waiting to play for the Jets, yet Rick Bowness chose to go with the experienced players. Normally, your experienced players should be out there more often than not. I think we can all agree on that. It has felt like there has been a lot of inconsistent play from some of the veterans. Still, they would play more often than not, even when playing less than great. Once veterans feel that entitlement that they can play poorly and still get ice time, it’s time to move on from them.
Pionk, who is a right-shot defenseman, is just an agent of chaos who hasn’t lived up to his $5.8 million dollar contract that he signed in 2021. He had 39 assists and was only looking to get better. He also shut down Connor McDavid and the Edmonton Oilers during the first round of the 2021 playoffs. He was hot going into his contract year and got paid for it.
His contract only lasts one more year and has a six-team no-trade list, but with the defensive mistakes and the lack of offense from the second-pair defender, maybe Cheveldayoff needs to make a good hockey trade to a team that needs a right-shot D-man and get them to overpay to play someone in the top six next year.
Pionk had a 49.33 Corsi for %, the second-lowest Corsi percentage in his Jets career. Four goals and 16 assists, only four of which were primary assists – what is the point of having a guy worth nearly six million dollars? For the most part, Neal Pionk is a star killer; he can shut down the best skaters in the NHL. A team like the LA Kings or Vancouver Canucks could use Pionk for their playoff runs to shut down Connor McDavid in pursuit of the cup.
Unfortunately, Pionk’s game is less than savory, as he has a Fenwick for percent of 49.54. Connor Hellebuyck is seeing more rubber than his opponent across the ice when Pionk is out there.
The other big bonus to trading for Pionk is getting a decent penalty killer in the lineup. He was on the ice for 21 goals against during the penalty kill and played 132:24 in penalty kill minutes.
Right-shot defensemen are rare in the NHL, so Kevin Cheveldayoff could swindle a team to get Pionk off the books.
I can assume Brenden Dillon goes to sign elsewhere in the NHL as an unrestricted free agent. Dylan DeMelo should re-sign in Winnipeg. It would make sense to sign DeMelo until 2028; that’s the same contract length as Josh Morrissey.
Morrissey thrives with DeMelo. The Jets’ top defender has a Corsi for percentage of 57.65 with DeMelo and a Corsi for Percentage of 49.65 without. Give a one million dollar pay bump for the next four years, a simple four-year, four-million-dollar contract. Heck, give him five years for the extra year of contract security.
DeMelo isn’t going to put up big sexy numbers, but he is a great leader in the locker room and makes your best defender that much better.
I’m a big fan of the captain of smiles, Nate Schmidt. The mentorship he provides to the younger defensemen is amazing, but as Samberg blooms into his own player, is there going to be room on this team for a defender who plays on his wrong side?
The offensive game isn’t there from Schmidt. He’s only scored seven regular-season goals as a Jet; he sat 19 games and is making 5.9 million for another season.
Schmidt is less than perfect when it comes to his game, had 23 giveaways compared to his 15 takeaways this year, which is an improvement of 20 takeaways and 40 giveaways last season. If you can look past that, he actually has some decent numbers when it comes to deep analytics.
Schmidt had a Corsi for percentage of 52.63 and a Fenwick for percentage of 53.58. These aren’t perfect numbers by any means, but he is playing Rick Bowness’ style of hockey the right way most of the time.
He just simply needs to stop the little mistakes and not let those mistakes cost the Jets goals.
His contract will only pay him 4.8 million dollars next year but will still be an AAV of 5.9 million if that number comes down to three million I could see a team who needs mentor support could use him. He does have a ten-team no-trade list but maybe he wants to play his heart out somewhere that is struggling.
The only reason to keep Schmidt around next season is to potentially pair him with Jets prospect Elias Salomonsson.
Finally, it comes down to Logan Stanley. I think he will one day be a second-pairing defenseman in the NHL just not here in Winnipeg. He’s a big, tall, kind of mean defenseman. He has lots of flaws in his game, but if a team is able to play him consistently and get him up to the 300-game mark, he could be a main part of a winning group.
He played a little under a minute a game on the penalty kill and only had two goals scored during the PK. He blocked 34 shots in 25 games this season and wasn’t afraid to shoot the puck.
In four seasons, he still hasn’t taken that next step forward we wanted to see. His Corsi For % is at 47.63 % and his Fenwick For % is at 49.89 percent.
Stanley can improve and be reliable, but with the talent behind him here in Winnipeg, he is probably better off going somewhere else. He is a restricted free agent again this summer. The Jet might need to
lose that trade to get him out of here, but it would be best for all parties involved.
Ultimately, I would have the Jets move more than half of their defensemen and only keep Morrissey, DeMelo, and Samberg. Get Ville Heinola and Salomonsson going on their NHL journeys and go trade for a different right-shot defenseman. Who knows, maybe Collin Miller will earn a contract extension tonight against the Colorado Avalanche.


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