The Jets are a team that’s loaded with firepower up front, but they’re having trouble keeping pucks out of their own net through two games. I’ve got a some questions about this team for our good friend Tim over at SB Nation’s Arctic Ice Hockey, the nice page full of Jet people.
Thanks go to Tim for his time.
Copper and Blue: Patrik Laine gets a fair bit of press when talking about the Winnipeg Jets, though I think non-Jet fans forget about Mark Scheifele. Scheifele put together an 82 point season (32-50-82) in 79 games in the 2016-17 season. Is there any way he improves on those numbers in 2017-18?
Arctic Ice Hockey: Scheifele's 82 point season was fun to watch. It was a great consolation after ANOTHER difficult season. Was is sustainable? Tough to say. Scheifele has been on a ridiculous pace for a season and a half now with only Crosby, McDavid and Kane out-producing him since the 2016 All-Star break. That said, Scheifele did ride some favorable percentages last year. Even still, there's enough skill in the top 6 to carry him to a similar total - even if he's not the driver.
Copper and Blue: Nikolaj Ehlers just signed a 7 year deal valued at 42 million dollars. The 21-year old finished the 2016-17 NHL season with 64 points (25-39-64). Good deal? Bad deal? Why or why not?
Arctic Ice Hockey: Great deal! Ehlers is one of the most exciting young players in the NHL. He is so dynamic with the puck, regularly skating end to end and treating the opposition like pylons. His offensive zone entries are beautiful and he's still got untapped scoring potential. I expect multiple 70-point seasons over the term of that contract.
Copper and Blue: After allowing thirteen goals in two games, Jets head coach Paul Maurice says "It's the right time" for Connor Hellebuyck to take the reins in net. How much of this start is to be blamed on Steve Mason? Is it, in fact, the right time for Connor Hellebuyck? Why or why not?
Arctic Ice Hockey: Connor Hellebuyck is still the goaltender of the future in Winnipeg. He is coming off a rough second season (first as a starter), but that doesn't erase the good from the years prior. Prior to entering the NHL, Hellebuyck put up some of the best numbers in the history of the NCAA and followed it up with some strong play at the AHL level. As much as Mason was brought in to start, he was brought in add a veteran presence within the 1A, 1B tandem. Was Mason to blame for the early struggles? Not really. Team defense has been atrocious. My expectation for this season is that the Jets will ride the hot hand.
Copper and Blue: Tell us about a Jet that's ready for a breakout season.
Arctic Ice Hockey: This question makes me sad. The Jets have a ton of young talent that is waiting for an opportunity and there are some obvious breakout candidates. That said, we aren't sure if any will be given a chance to succeed. Marko Dano, Nic Petan and Kyle Connor have breakout potential, but Mo insists on his young skill getting demoted, playing with grinders, or getting parked in the press box. Instead we get to watch Adam Lowry among the TOI leaders and a 4th line that is waiting for Matt Hendricks to fix their ills. I honestly don't see anyone breaking out unless Maurice pull his head out of his ass.
Copper and Blue: Finally, this is the fifth year for Jets coach Paul Maurice, and it's been two seasons since the Jets have seen the playoffs. If the Jets get a slow start out of the gate, is his job in jeopardy?
Arctic Ice Hockey: This one is hard to handicap. Should Paul Maurice be on the hot seat? Absolutely. Many fans wanted him removed this summer. Instead, both Maurice and GM Kevin Cheveldayoff were handed multi-year contract extensions that don't START until the end of this season (for some reason, the term of these contracts was not made public). The Jets ownership group is fiercely loyal. Charlie Huddy and Wade Flaherty have coached the Jets defense and goaltending since 2011. Both positions have been under immense scrutiny over this time period, yet both remain with the team. Shy of something like a disastrous opening 20 games, it is hard to picture the Jets without Maurice behind the bench.
Four Fun Facts:
- In 20 NHL seasons, Maurice has coached his team to the playoffs 6 times.
- In 20 NHL seasons, Maurice has coached his team to 41 or more wins once.
- Seven more losses will make Paul Maurice the losingest NHL coach of all time.
- Paul Maurice is likely safe, regardless of outcomes this year.