Winnipeg Jets First Month Report Card

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GOALTENDERS

Michael Hutchinson – D

Some would say 77 games is not enough to pass judgement on any player, let alone a goalie, but I’ve made my decision.  He gives up the same weak goals that he always has since he first broke into the league.  Even if he does improve, it’s very difficult picturing him as a starter on a contending team.  I’d move on.

Connor Hellebuyck – C

He’s been perhaps better than this, but the Jets need him to be an A in order to win, at least, half of their games.  His last two or three appearances have been encouraging, like Hutchinson, he has the propensity to give up the worst goals at the worst times (see the final minute against Washington this week).

I’ve heard a few say that Ondrej Pavelec should be brought back from the minors to help out, but that’s no different than playing Hutchinson every other game.  I’m not in favor of bringing up Eric Comrie either.  It’s time to look outside the organization.  Jaroslav Halak is available and he has a track record of stealing games, which is what this team could use.  I’m not saying he’s a long term answer, but this is a playoff team with a netminder who plays like a top 10 NHLer.

DEFENSEMEN

Dustin Byfuglien – C

I want to give him a D, but that’s harsh.  He plays a ton of minutes and hasn’t been bad.  The grade is more a reflection of his new contract and the fact if he’s being paid like a top player, he should play like one.  Nevertheless, he hasn’t had a game yet where you can sit back and say he was the best player on the ice.

Tyler Myers – C

I’m not an analytics guy.  For the most part, the numbers skew values and the sport nerds don’t actually watch games.  They just rely on analytics.  Myers is Exhibit A as to why I’m right.  When he was in Buffalo, it was determined he was the worst player in the NHL. The first 3-4 games this year made me wonder if maybe I should jump on the analytics train myself as he was pretty bad.  But, he got it together and was playing extremely well before getting injured.  Who knows how long he’s out?  Media doesn’t do any investigative work anymore so your guess is as good as mine.

Tobias Enstrom – B

Enstrom is a guy that when things are going well on the blueline, fans want him traded.  I’m assuming it’s because he’s paid fairly well; but doesn’t stand out.  He doesn’t hit anyone.  He doesn’t put up a ton of points.  He’s not flashy.  He’s not physical.  A closer look, though, indicates he is extremely steady.  Makes a good first pass.  He can play on either special team and when Byfuglien and Myers are experiencing peaks and valleys to their game, it’s Enstrom who’s the most reliable.

Josh Morrissey – A

His final year of major junior and his first year of minor pro had me thinking this guy has bust written all over him.  Trouba sits out, the door opens for Morrissey because, well frankly, they didn’t bother looking around the league to add anyone; and I assumed this was going to be nothing short of a disaster.  Instead, he’s a top pairing guy with only ten games of experience.  He matched up against Ovechkin this week and looked better than many who have ten years experience.  I’m going out on a limb here:  Morrissey will be everything we expected Trouba to be and then some.

Paul Postma – C

How do you give a failing grade to a player who is in the NHL but shouldn’t be?  Postma is the perfect number six defenseman for a team that is going nowhere and has no depth.  He can play the position without offering any value.  The mistakes are limited and you can’t afford to play him too much.

Ben Chiarot – C

When Chiarot first surfaced a couple of years ago, I thought the Jets had themselves a jewel.  Unheralded without much of an offensive upside, Chiarot looked like one of those guys who would be a better NHLer than he was a junior or minor pro player.  Yet, here we are two years later and he hasn’t improved at all and he’s the worst minus on the team.  If you are a contending team, he’s not part of your top six.

Mark Stuart – C

A perfect 7th defenseman.  He is an older guy who can be a mentor and has been through the trenches.  If you have to play him every night, and the Jets do, you are in trouble.  Problem is that Stuart, like Myers, is now also injured so he can’t even fill in.

Contrary to popular belief, the Jets do not miss Trouba at all.  What they do miss is a guy like Trouba who can step in and be a top four blueliner.  Winnipeg is, woefully, thin at the position and when Kris Russell and Dennis Seidenberg sat all summer, eventually, signing for very reasonable contracts; one has to wonder where Kevin Cheveldayoff was for four months.  He had to know this Trouba matter was going to boil over and he wasn’t going to start the year.  This right-shot, left-shot issue we hear so much about now is also overblown.  This unit needs help and only their GM can provide it.  Guys in the minors (Melchiori, Kichton, Kostalek, etc. aren’t the answer).

FORWARDS

Blake Wheeler – C

He was electric for the first four or five games, but has tailed off.  The new captain is still dangerous from anywhere on the ice; but the Jets need him to put up a point per game and be their best forward if they are to win with any consistency.

Mark Scheifele – B

His progression to being a legit NHL star continues.  Scheifele has been Winnipeg’s most productive forward this season; but he’s still under a point per game so I can’t give him an A.  Injuries to the support cast has allowed other teams to focus on shutting him down and not having to worry about the other lines.

Patrick Laine – B-

He has an incredible release and there are times when he brings you out of your seat.  There are other times you forget he’s playing and he disappears for really long stretches.  It’s not fair the Jets need him to be a top six guy immediately, but those are the breaks.

Joel Armia – A

The one forward who has exceeded expectations and it’s too bad he got injured last night because you got a sense he was turning the corner to cementing a role as a top six player.  Nobody appears to work harder and he is also a big reason why the penalty kill has improved dramatically from last year.

Nikolaj Ehlers – C

Again, probably not fair to him that the Jets need him to be a 25-30 goal man as he’s only in his second year and I’m seeing the same kind of progression with him that I saw in Scheifele. Nevertheless, he’s been inconsistent with his presence and, sometimes, he doesn’t look hard enough to play against.  Then there are other times,

he ends up blocking shots and is very sound.

Adam Lowry – B-

Great rookie year, terrible sophomore year, and so far in year three I find him to be in between the two seasons.  Maurice seems to want him to be their go-to face-off man and the results are mixed, at best.  The offense seems to be maturing a little, however.

Shawn Matthias – B

This is who every team should want as their fourth line centre.  He can do a bit of everything, including move up and be a top nine, or even top six when injuries strike.  Unfortunately, he’s been struck with an injury so he can’t fill in for anyone above him.

Kyle Connor – C

If it was up to me, I’d send him back to the major junior ranks (I realize he came from the NCAA, but I think a full season of junior would benefit him).  However, he was on the top line last night and Holtby had to make a huge save on him late in the third.  I don’t know how he helps you if he’s not scoring and expecting him to score as a rookie is asking for too much.

Mathieu Perreault – D

He hasn’t been good at all.  One goal in eleven games and he’s normally a top six guy even when everyone is healthy.  Last night against Washington, he got hurt too and the severity is unknown.  If he’s out for any prolonged length of time, his spot could be in jeopardy if Copp or Dano step up and show something.

Brandon Tanev – B

What’s not to like about a fourth line guy who knows he’s a fourth line guy and works his tail off every time he’s on the ice?  He’s going to eat minutes and shouldn’t ever cost you anything.  That’s his value.

Chris Thorburn – C

In this day and age, I’m not really sure why you would employ an enforcer.  Thorburn

is good at his job, but I’d argue the job is extinct.  What you need now is a guy who can do what Thorburn does, but also score points so that he’s not one dimensional.

Drew Stafford – D

They miss him being out of the line-up and they missed him when he was in the line-up too.  No goals in six games for a guy who should be an automatic 20 goal performer.  Let’s hope he can get healthy (again, no clue as to how long he’s going to be on the shelf) and return to the form we saw for a year and a half.

Bryan Little – Inc

He played one period and scored a goal.  The magnitude of his loss can’t be overstated.  He’s Winnipeg’s top face-off man and number one centre, with all due respect to Scheifele.  Little does everything well and when he’s in the line-up you take him for granted.  But, he’s been hurt now for over half a season and his absence has made many realize just how valuable he, truly, is.

Alexander Burmistrov – F

I’m not sure why they continue to pencil him into the line-up on a nightly basis. Surely, there is someone with the Moose who can do what he does, only better.  Even last night he was killing penalties and refusing to shoot the puck deep.  Don’t orget, this was Cheveldayoff’s answer for allowing Frolik to hit free agency and go elsewhere.  Yikes.

When healthy, I like the make-up of the forwards; but as I sit and write this the reare no fewer than five of them in sick bay with no clear cut timetable on any of them (except maybe Little, end of November) to return.  Copp and Dano have, suddenly, become very important pieces and they contributed a goal in the third-period uprising last night.  I’m encouraged by what’s on the farm too.  Roslovic has had a good start.  Petan, De Leo, Lemieux, and Howden are all players you may see at some point.  The guy who I’m watching close that stands to make a possible impact should the comeback trail continue to go well is Scott Glennie.  He has 2-points in 2-games and I wouldn’t bet against him making an appearance at some point.

COACHING STAFF

Paul Maurice – A

For what’s been given to him, I can’t say Paul Maurice could do any better.  He has a thin line-up ravaged by injuries and, somehow, has coaxed four wins and nine points in 12 games out of this group.  The penalty kill has improved and so has the overall discipline.  With a legit, veteran starting goaltender, this team is over .500 despite the flaws.

MANAGEMENT AND OWNERSHIP

Kevin Cheveldayoff – F

Harsh, but it’s inexcusable to not have a defense with more veterans and stability if you are going to run with two inexperienced goalies.  Of course, I think if you had a guy like Halak playing behind a D that also had Russell and Seidenberg then you’d have a team that doesn’t lose very often at all.  This Trouba issue doesn’t need to be an issue.  It’s been simmering for a year and didn’t need to reach this point.  They should have traded him last year when he had more value and before the world knew he was such a malcontent.  I also didn’t like how they made Ladd and Byfuglien twist in the wind last year wondering if they were staying or going and I think the distraction was a big reason why they missed the playoffs.  I’m also not

impressed that Ladd’s production hasn’t been replaced.  If they offered him $5M a year and he said ‘no’, then why didn’t they go out and spend those dollars on another player that can help them?  Getting Laine is a byproduct of being bad.  You can’t sell me that he’s the replacement for Ladd.  He should be ‘in addition to’ the replacement for Ladd.  Season ticket holders stepped up big with long term commitments when the team came back.  It’s time for ownership to return the favor and, so far, they haven’t shown a willingness to do that.