Winnipeg Jets – Final week in review

Winnipeg Jets Week in Review for April 7 – 13 — 

The season is over and the Winnipeg Jets finished pretty much where most expert prognosticators predicted before the season started ~ last place in the Central Division and out of the playoffs.  Although their strong finish to the season (3-1 in final four games, 4-2-1 in final seven) cost them three positions in the 2014 NHL draft (dropping from a potential sixth pick, to ninth), it leaves some air of optimism amongst fans and the team itself for what the next season might hold.But, so many questions!  Will Paul Maurice return?  Has Ondrej Pavelec played his last game for the Winnipeg Jets?  If not, is he even the starter next season?  While Devin Setoguchi is as good as gone, will Olli Jokinen, Adam Pardy or Al Montoya be re-signed ?  Will the new faces come from the free agent market, the farm or by Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff pulling off a big off-season deal?

Game 80 – vs.  Minnesota Wild

Final score:  Min – 1 Wpg – 0

Game 81 – vs.  Boston Bruins

Final score:  Wpg – 2 Bos – 1 (SO)

Game 82 – at Calgary Flames

Final score: Wpg – 5  Wpg – 3

 3 Stars of the Week:

1. Michael Hutchinson –  The rookie goalie who almost literally came out of nowhere this season got his first chance to show his stuff in the big leagues and boy did he take advantage of his opportunity.  He was 2-1 but was absolutely stingy and just missed a 3-0 week while posting a goals against average of 1.64 and a save percentage of .943.  Needless to say, if the Jets had the goaltending all season that Hutchinson gave them in the final week the team would very likely be making playoff preparations right now.


WHT 1st Star of the week Michael Hutchinson        photo by Shawn Coates

2. Evander Kane – How about The Natural?  After being a much-talked about healthy scratch in Toronto last week, Kane responded the way a true professional does.  He came back with a vengeance and showed how important he can be to this team.  Scoring two goals, which had been few and far between this season and leading all forwards in ice time over the final three games.  His comments in regards to Paul Maurice over the weekend were quite positive as well.  A motivated Kane next season potentially playing on the team’s top line is a tantalizing prospect.


WHT 2nd Star of the week Evander Kane          photo by Shawn Coates

3. Bryan Little – While there is little doubt that Blake Wheeler was the Jets MVP this season, Bryan Little has been their most quietly consistent and dependable forward.  Little enjoyed a solid week scoring the only goal in the shootout versus Boston by adding a nifty assist on Kane’s goal in Calgary and finishing a plus two for the week.  Hopefully, this season ends the discussion about whether Bryan Little is a legitimate number one centre in the NHL.  He has proven that he is.

Forwards:  B  Although the Jets were shut out by Minnesota and only had 6 regulation time goals, the forward group were missing some huge key parts but played a responsible and effective game.  Good to see some key contributions from Carl Klingberg and Patrice Cormier in the final game in Calgary.

Defence:  A  Hutchinson was full marks for his results for the week but the defencemen in front of him played a quietly effective game for much of the week.  Some pretty iffy calls in Calgary lead to a couple of their goals against versus the Flames and a goal exactly as a power play expired against Minnesota so the team only gave up two regular strength goals in three full games.

Goaltending:  A+  Hutchinson was spectacular after climbing from the ECHLs Ontario Reign, to playing a key role in the St.  John’s Ice Caps run to the playoffs, to the final three games of the season in Winnipeg.  Hutchinson is expecting to come to training camp and challenge for a spot on the Jets roster and at this point the evidence is pointing to a lot of probability of that happening.

Special teams:  The Jets special teams were pretty ineffective to close the season with the final three games seeing a continuance of the penalty killing slide that has hurt this team down the stretch.

Powerplay:  D  The team only had seven power play chances for the week but four of those came against Minnesota and three of those were while the team was trailing 1-0.  The team was unable to capitalize on those opportunities to draw even with those chances.

Penalty kill  C  The official stats read 2 goals against for 12 chances but again Minnesota scored exactly as a power play expired so they really gave up three on 12 chances.  Calgary ruined the Jets season mark of putting up a goose egg when defending against 5-on-3s, scoring two PP goals in 24 seconds to climb back into the game.


Coach Maurice Part 2?   Jets head coach Paul Maurice is the biggest question mark as golf season arrives for the Jets.  While some critics note that Maurice has historically been a .500 coach, there is no denying the impact Maurice brought to the team.  Maurice seemed to bring more structure, higher expectations and more accountability to a team that appeared to have a bit of a country club atmosphere  under former coach Claude Noel.  His bag skate practice with only a week to go in the regular season was an eye-opener as was his scratching Evander Kane in Toronto.  He has made it clear if he is back next season that he is in charge and it appears the team is responding.  With just a bit more talent and a bit more goaltending, maybe 2014-15 is the year that fans are salivating for – that first playoff appearance.  Expect news of Maurice’s decision to come pretty quick.  He has said he wants to make the decision with his family, which is commendable, but if that answer is somehow no then both sides will want to be able to move on to other options earlier, rather than later.

The conditioning/injury question:  Not certain if there is a correlation but one of the factors that Maurice has identified as a big need for this group of players is to be in better shape.  One of the key reasons for the bag skate last week was to offer the players an indication of what a Paul Maurice training camp will be like and the kind of shape players will be expected to arrive in.  Is this lack of conditioning playing any role in Winnipeg’s injury struggles the last two seasons?  I think most observers would agree, the Jets are making some strides but are still lacking in depth so injuries will hit this team harder than a number of others.  Last season the Jets lost the fifth-most man games to injury in the NHL.  This season that number climbed to third-most.  If the Jets can find a way to avoid the injury bug next season, that could go a long way to helping push them into the postseason.

Ondrej Pavelec: His game regressed this season.  That fact just can’t be argued.  But, last season also saw it regress from the season before.  So, this isn’t just a blip.  The question is though, has it regressed enough that Cheveldayoff might consider the drastic measure of a compliance buyout for the much-maligned goaltender who Chevy invested heavily in?  There will be much moaning and wailing if he chooses not to.  But if he chooses not to and Pavelec doesn’t bounce back next season, what does that mean for the Jets’ future, and Cheveldayoff’s?

Penalty kill flatline: The Winnipeg Jets finished the season a respectable tenth place in the league on the penalty kill but that is a big drop from a few weeks earlier.  In early March, the Jets were the number one road penalty killing team in the league but by season’s end that mark dropped to eighth.  It’s not really a crisis as they don’t have to depend on it again until October.  It is a concern to see how much it faltered down the stretch as this team took more penalties than 24 other NHL teams.


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