Winnipeg Jets Flying Steady

The Winnipeg Jets are “Flying Steady” but have room to “Climb Higher” –

The Winnipeg Jets have kept themselves in the playoff race despite many writing off their chances prior to the season.  I will give my two cents on the teams strengths and opportunities at the quarter mark of the season.  Flying Steady is what they have done well.  Climbing Higher and what needs to be done moving forward.

At the quarter mark of the season, fans have seen an interesting transition from the Winnipeg Jets.  After starting the season a shaky 1-4-0, they managed to work out some defensive woes.  They now sit 10-8-3 and 4th in the Central Division, 8th in the west and in the running for the wildcard birth to the post season.  The Winnipeg Jets have been just okay at home at 4-4-1 and a little better on the road 6-4-2.  The Winnipeg Jets have exceeded my expectations but that doesn’t mean there isn’t work to be done.

Flying steady

Penalty killing

At 86.1%, the PK has been excellent.  Just given the Winnipeg Jets style of pay, they are likely to take a few extra penalties here and there.  Paul Maurice can live with a few hard work penalties I’m sure.  It’s the soft out of position penalties that we want to see minimized.  We have some excellent penalty killers with the likes of Michael Frolik, Bryan Little and Blake Wheeler and solid goaltending and the system is working well.

Goaltending/Defense

Good goaltending and solid team defense have allowed the Winnipeg Jets to remain competitive with other teams.  Is goaltending making the defense look good?  Or, is the defense making the goaltending look good?  Good question!  As long as they both continue to be better, the Winnipeg Jets will be better for it.

Confidence/Identity

Because of this improved system and the resulting success, the Winnipeg Jets just look as though they have some confidence back.  I discussed some of the effects of confidence in a previous article “Is it finally time for fans to believe in their beloved Winnipeg Jets“.  When they get down a goal or two or three for that matter, they aren’t hanging their heads like in the past.  They believe in themselves and their system.  They are working closer to having a real identity for the first time since returning to Winnipeg.

Climbing higher

Face-Offs

The Winnipeg Jets have got to find away to win in the circle.  By taking the majority of the draws, this where the top five Winnipeg Jets centermen sit for face-off win percentages.

Jim Slater: 56.3%
Mattieu Perreault: 54.9%
Bryan Little: 47.9%
Mark Scheifele: 44.6%
Adam Lowry: 42.6%

I understand there will be some growing pains with the likes of Adam Lowry and Mark Scheifele.  When Sidney Crosby came into the league, he struggled as well.  He practiced until he became better.   No reason the same can’t be said for Mark Scheifele and Adam Lowry or anyone else struggling.  Spend some time on it and make themselves better.

The Power Play

The dreaded 8.6% Power Play …  Is anyone else getting sick of discussing this?  How many failed attempts to we have to witness before something changes.

For years we have watched Andrew Ladd, Bryan Little, Blake Wheeler, Toby Enstrom, and last but not least Dustin Byfuglien chew up a minute and thirty seconds trying to score with the man advantage with limited success.  Sometimes they throw Mathieu Perreault out on the side wall but they don’t really change much.  Fans all know what is happening and one has to assume that other teams do too.  The old bomb from the point.  Dustin Byfuglien has a great shot but when everyone is waiting for it, it makes life easy for the opposing penalty killing unit.

Everyone has an idea; put Dustin Byfuglien in front of the net, give Mark Scheifele more time, take Ladd off the top unit, whatever!  Mix it up for the love of Pete just make a change.  The definition of insanity is trying the exact same thing over and over and expecting different results.  Cliche I know but it couldn’t hold more true than for the Winnipeg Jets and their Power-Less Play.  It doesn’t have to be the top of the league but some additional goal support would go a long way for the Winnipeg Jets.

The Fourth Line

With a solid system in place, there should be no reason to limit your fourth line as Paul Maurice has … is there?  Top contenders all find a way to use their whole bench for the whole season.  Are they really that bad?  Does it come down to personnel?  I’ll leave it for Winnipeg Jets fans to discuss.

Coach Paul Maurice hinted that the team looked tired late in the game after losing to the Detroit Red Wings.  Not surprising, given the ice time the top nine has had to endure the past few games.  It will only continue if they can’t get more from their fourth line.

The fourth line has to contribute.  Scoring would be nice but take it one step at a time.  Contributing less than 3-5 minutes per game isn’t going to cut it down the stretch.  If Paul Maurice can find a way to get them to contribute with more ice time, it would pay dividends late in games and season.

I understand Paul Maurice wants to get the top guys out there to create opportunities but if you want anything left in the tank at the end he has to find away to use the fourth line.  Blame G.M. Kevin Cheveldayoff for not giving the tools Paul Maurice needs if you like.  You may be right but the fact remains the coach needs to find away to make it work if they want to improve in the long run this season.

Go Jets Go!

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