This week in Air Mail, we ponder if the Winnipeg Jets can keep up their current level of success and if Connor Hellebuyck can keep the goaltending at the high level it’s been. We also ponder the idea of calling up Jack Roslovic, dive into the idea of Kevin Cheveldayoff getting credit for his off-season work, and finally settle the age old question: Pancakes or waffles.
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Art: Is it sustainable? It’s not impossible, but as of publishing time Hellebuyck’s .931 save percentage would have led the league last season and he still has four other goalies ahead of him right now. I suspect that number might dip a slight bit to around the .925 level, but that’s still pretty good and that kind of goaltending is still going to win the Jets some games that a .907 goalie would have lost.
Cassie: I don’t know if it’s sustainable, but racking up points right now is good for a rough patch. I’ve also seen goalies drag teams places they don’t belong and Hellebuyck is doing that right now. It’s possible that he starts to struggle some, but not enough to tank the team.
WPGChief: We can keep saying “next week will tell us more for sure” week after week; hockey is such a fluctuating sport in terms of injuries and trends (i.e. getting hot or not). Maybe the Jets keep playing the same way in front of Hellebuyck and he regresses; maybe Hellebuyck continues to be a brick wall but the team cannot score goals; maybe our entire defensive pairings goes down to injuries. The fact of the matter is, while the team is racking up the points in the standings, the Jets still have very easy identifiable problems: the penalty unit is still hot garbage, opponents are still freely passing over the blue line without much resistance, and ignoring Perreault’s return to the 4th line (or “bottom six”), there are still scoring issues without the lines of Scheifele and Little on the ice. If you want the Jets success to be sustainable, their game must evolve and address these issues.
Kyle: I think anything can be sustainable for a season. 82 games really isn’t that many to sustain high numbers. That being said, I am sure there will be periods of time where all of those numbers drop, and other times when they are even higher than they are now. To be honest, I could care less if it’s sustainable or not, as long as we are playing well and still winning.
Cammers: No, but lets ride this while we can and when things start to regress PoMo and coaching staff can make the appropriate changes.
Art: Not sure where you were over the summer, but I think everyone universally praised Chevy for bringing in Steve Mason. I know the Kulikov and Hendricks deals (especially the Hendricks deal) was met with a lot more criticism, but I think where the issue was for the Kulikov deal was how much term he was given as three years seemed about a year too long. The truth is Kulikov had a bad year in Buffalo last season but there was hope – mostly because he was in fact stuck in Buffalo – that he would bounce back. As for Hendricks, Chevy has gotten a bit fortunate it has turned out as well as it has so far and I still think we should pump the breaks on signing the GM’s praises this early, but so far so good.
And Maurice has never been a terrible coach. He has simply made very questionable decisions regarding player useage.
Cassie: This is a lot to unpack. Most of the fanbase was up in arms with the Hendricks signing and still isn’t a fan of it. I don’t think we’ll see people like it unless they’re the “grit is best” type of fan. Mason was, at the time, a good signing in theory. Did we expect Hellebuyck to start the season looking like one of the top goalies in the league? Not really. Mason has faltered and his contract is easy enough to put up with. It’s still a good signing, just right now he’s not the best option. As for Kulikov, I am one of the people that doesn’t like the signing for a multitude of reasons. I’m also a Buffalo fan and watched him play like hot garbage last year. I also know he had a back injury that plagued him all last season and it concerns me. So far, he’s been good, but that injury could still be a problem in the future. I still think the signings deserve fair criticisms, given that we’re early into the season.
As for coaching, I agree with Art. Player usage has been a big problem. If that could get fixed, there’d be better days.
WPGChief: I, for one, supported the signings over the summer by Kevin Cheveldayoff. While we still haven’t seen much of Steve Mason, it seems he has bounced back to the level for which the Jets signed him at for two years, and not the awful showings in the first couple of games he had. Kulikov was brought in to shore up the defence and has always shown strong defensive numbers (according to DTMAboutHeart’s WAR), and clearly was not as awful as the numbers and video shows during his time in Buffalo, though comes at a considerably expensive contract in comparison to defenders of his nature. Hendricks is still a questionable signing when it comes to putting forward a talented lineup day-in day-out, and apart from his recent success with Perreault on his wing, has shown mediocre numbers on 5v5 and penalty kill (though most Jets have been struggling to put up good numbers in both areas this season too), but I assume everyone is happy with him on the ice so long as the team continues to bring in the wins – we will see if this flips should the Jets start doing the opposite of winning.
Maurice is… well, he’s who we’ve expected him to be from what we have seen in the past seasons here and over his entire career. If you haven’t seen it yet, take a look at this link and tell me this wasn’t eerily reflecting opinions of the Jets after their early losses. My father has always told me (and he probably got this from Don Cherry), “show me a good coach, and I’ll show you a good goaltender.” Right now, Hellebuyck is making Maurice look like a terrific coach, and he also has everyone believing the shots are coming from the outside (spoilers: they’ve cleaned up rebounds, but not so much shots from the slot). But, the penalty kill still looks weak, outside of Hellebuyck. Systems seem to be struggling in the neutral zone. There is a refusal to “change things up” so long as the Jets keep winning. The problem is, how long is this kind of winning going to last? More spoilers: history has shown not very long.
Kyle: I am starting to come around on Maurice. He is an extremely intelligent man, and understands how hockey works. He might over value/ under value certain skills or people, but for the most part he understands what needs to get done and how to get better. Last year he said they weren’t trying to win, they were trying to develop. This year Maurice is coaching to win and we are actually winning. The penalty kill is still not the greatest, but the powerplay has been not too bad. They key is that the Jets seem to be taking less penalties, and are finally healthy again.
Cammers: I’m a fan of analytics, but I’m not a fan of these signings because of their contracts. I actually like Kulikov and Mason and the roles they are paying. However, their contracts could really hamstring the Jets. They take up 8.433 million dollars in cap space and that space could come in handy when the Jets have to re-sign Trouba, Morrissey, Hellebuyck and more.
As for Maurice, WPGChief hit the nail on the head. The other issue is player usage. Swap Tanev and Dano, then we may see a more potent bottom six.
Art: I think the Jets have or at least had every intention of keeping him down in the AHL, but at this point with as well as he is doing, he has to be called up at the first sign of a big injury right? As far as right now though, the Jets are doing just fine without him in the lineup, so why rush him in for the sake of rushing him in? All he would play bottom six minutes if we’re being completely honest even if he is brought in to replace a skilled forward… Let him dominate in the AHL for a year and then expect him to make the big club next season.
Cassie: Nothing bad has happened from a player developing a bit longer. If the team feels he needs to stay in the AHL for a bit, that’s fine. I’d rather he get top minutes with the Moose than minimal minutes with the Jets. He’s an injury call up for sure, but give it time.
WPGChief: With Little seemingly struggling on the offensive side of the ice, there have been a few that would like to see Roslovic centre the second line on the Jets to help provide an offensive boost to our “top six”, but also help divvy up the talent even further on the Jets to cause matchup issues. The Jets, however, are extremely unlikely to do this. With both the Moose and the Jets seeing success in their respective leagues, the opinion of many will be “why fix what isn’t broken?”, and surely that will also be the opinion of management. Roslovic has certainly risen up to expectations, however – it has been fun seeing him develop and become a stronger player each and every game in the AHL.
Kyle: Next year Roslovic will make a strong case to make the team, but nothing is guaranteed. With Scheifele and Little as the top two centres, and Lowry seemingly locked into that third line role, there really isn’t much space for Roslovic. Is it worth it to have him as the fourth line centre next season? I am not so sure. There will have to be some moves in the organization or Maurice will have to shake things up to make some room for Roslovic even next year.
Cammers: Next year Roslovic will be with the team full-time. He may get a taste this season, but let him keep playing big minutes with the Moose. If the Jets are on the ball, they will look at moving Little while he has high value and slot Roslovic in the 2nd line centre spot.
Art: I would go off the board and say French Toast with some icing sugar on top. You can actually buy frozen French Toast from the store and while it’s not as good as the homemade kind it’s still a pretty good substitute and easier to make. If I had to pick between the two options presented, then obviously it’s pancakes. The only redeeming quality to waffles is that it holds syrup better and that’s it.
Cassie: If I could eat them, I’d say pancakes all day every day. Gluten free pancakes are also the better option generally speaking. Plus, you can put chocolate chips in pancakes and it doesn’t turn into a hot mess like waffles would.
WPGChief: As Cassie has mentioned, since pancakes can more adequately hold chocolate chips when being made, pancakes is the correct answer here.
Kyle: Waffles, I really do not enjoy either of them, but waffles are slightly better.
Cammers: Waffles hands down. With pancakes you are limited to sweet toppings. However, waffles you can have savoury toppings like avocado, chicken, pesto, tomato, arugula…