Winnipeg Jets Mid-Term Report Cards: Forwards

Winnipeg Jets grades for the forwards – 

The first half of the regular season sees the Winnipeg Jets sitting in second place in the Central Division, one point behind (with two games in hand) the St. Louis Blues.  The Jets have a record of 23-11-7 and are playing a pretty consistent, entertaining brand of hockey.  They have finally made Bell MTS Place a tough building for visiting teams to play in and so far they are dominating on home ice with a record of 14-3-1.  I’m pretty sure that most Winnipeg Jets fans think that it is about time!

As a group, the forwards would probably rate a grade of between “B+” and an “A-” overall.  It would have been higher if not for the slow start from the third and fourth lines.

Adam Lowry’s line with Andrew Copp and Brandon Tanev (now Joel Armia) have been excellent in a shut-down role and they actually have the best possession numbers of the Winnipeg Jets four lines.  They haven’t scored a lot but they have chipped in a little bit offensively.  What they have done effectively is spend a lot of time hemming their opposition in their defensive zone.  When Mathieu Perreault returned from the IR, he was placed on the fourth line and with Matt Hendricks and Joel Armia and formed a very solid fourth line that started contributing on the scoreboard.  There is this magical notion that Matt Hendricks is the reason but I’m not buying it.  I will say that Hendricks has provided some sort of intangible quality that winning hockey teams seem to have.  It’s not measurable but it’s there.  When the Jets are healthy, they have four lines contributing.  This is something we haven’t seen much of in Winnipeg’s previous seasons and a welcome sight.

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Mark Scheifele and Blake Wheeler had Kyle Connor join them on the top line a couple of weeks into the season and they have been very good for the most part.  At times their defensive work and compete level on the road has been a little lax but overall they have carried this team.  Blake Wheeler is a man on a mission and he is leading by example.  He is playing the best hockey of his career.  Before his injury, Mark Scheifele was thriving as the Jets top center.  He is improving every season and is now one of the NHL’s top centers. 

The second line is a little puzzling at times.  They are led by the dynamic Nikolaj “don’t call me Nik” Ehlers along with sniper Patrick Laine and the ever-reliable Bryan Little.  Ehlers is electric and he is one of the best players in the league at offensive zone entries whether at even strength or on the powerplay.  Laine is a pure sniper and I don’t think we’re even close to seeing his top end yet.  Little is having another good year in the face-off circle but his scoring is not where it should be in my opinion.  I think that trying to be the defensive conscience on that line is hindering his offensive production.  His wingers need him to create and play better offensively.  Sometimes the best defence is playing in the offensive end and this line has the tools to be one of the best second lines in the NHL.  I expect more from Bryan Little because I think he is that good.  I think most Jets fans would agree with me.

My criteria:

    • The position and role in the line-up for each game … example: top 6 forward, PP.
    • The amount of ice time and hard minutes … example: playing against top lines, PK.
    • Expectations from coaches, media, and fans.
    • Salary and return on investment (ROI)

Grading:

      • The Final grade is just based on play.
      • The ROI grade is the return on investment or bang for your buck.

With all this being said I believe the following grades are pretty fair with maybe a plus or minus difference here or there. 

I didn’t grade players if they played less than half of the games.  Shawn Matthias caught a break there.  In my opinion, Marko Dano shouldn’t have been in the “popcorn brigade” for thirty-three games and should have been dressed for a helluva lot more games than he was.       

As of Jan. 2, 2018

 

Please feel free to add your grades or opinions on any player/players you feel I have over-rated or short-changed.  

Defencemen, goaltenders, and special team grades to follow.

Comments

  1. I like Little but, not sure the logic on how a 5m player goes up from a C+ Final grade to a B ROI, I would think they may be reversed.

    • Mitch Kasprick says

      ya … I see what you’re saying … I gave him the benefit of the doubt because even at 5 mil he is still not overpaid … his faceoffs and defensive play weighed in a little more for me than it probably should have.

  2. Brady Strachan says

    Well thought out assessment, Mitch. I’d rate Armia higher personally. He’s putting up solid points on the 4th line and some pp time. I’d still like to see more consistency, but he’s turning into a player. Laine I’d give a lower rank. Love the guy and his shot and his dishing the puck. But gives the puck away too much and hasn’t clicked with his line mates 5 on 5. Amazing future but he’s a B or B+ to me. Hendricks and Tanev get a bit higher from me. They play their roles well. Hard PK mins, hard checking and add offence. Thanks for the article Mitch! Glad you’re back on the podcast!

    • Mitch Kasprick says

      Hey Brady … thanks for reading and listening! … the podcasts are fun.
      I don’t disagree with your assessments ….. I graded most of the 3rd and 4th guys a little lower because I thought they all struggled early on.
      Your probably right about Laine as well but I look at his age and what he brings to the Jets PP and I can’t help but think he is a major part of their success. He commands attention from the other team’s PK which frees up Scheif, Wheels, etc … it is an intangible that can’t be measured LOL … your right about his 5 on 5 play … it needs work .

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