Thursday, December 28, 2017

The one thing I noticed during last year’s disaster was that Hellebuyck was good at the start of the season when challenged by Michael Hutchinson and then was good again after Christmas when Ondrej Pavelec was brought up from the AHL to challenge him for time.  He was good again in the final games of the regular season when Hutchinson was given more of an opportunity after the season was, officially, over as far as playoffs go.  In between, it appeared Hellebuyck really struggled when anointed as a number one.  This year, with Steve Mason on board as a security blanket, Hellebuyck has been fantastic.  I suspect as long as the threat of a credible replacement is in the background, Hellebuyck is going to be fine.  Note - when Mason was injured earlier in the year, Hellebuyck didn’t play as well.

His play was brutal in the first two games of the year.  He was, deceptively, outstanding after that until that last game before Christmas when the Islanders got to him for five.  His true value is in his ability to push Hellebuyck.

More depth on the blueline has meant a reduction in minutes per game for Byfuglien and the results have been promising, except for the two injuries he has sustained.  It would be nice if he had some goals, but the Jets don’t play a style that promotes goals from their back end.  Hopefully, he comes back fully healthy and plays with more of an edge.

I have to admit I was a non believer in this player.  Yet, I watch him on a nightly basis and see a guy who is a solid two-way defenseman and he doesn’t get nearly the attention that he should.  Again, the Jets don’t promote offense from their defensemen, but if they did he would get more points.  The sophomore jinx has missed him.  He just keeps improving.

My biggest issue with him is consistency.  He was awful and great in the Edmonton game last night all within the 60 minute framework of the game.  He’s not a number one defenseman, but he is going to want to be paid like one.  I see him more as a player who will tease and have stretches where he looks like a number one, but he’s a solid 2-4 overall.

Winnipeg’s most reliable and most complete defenseman this year.  Remarkable after missing almost a full year last year.  There is nothing to complain about with this player.  He could, perhaps, be a little more mean considering his size but then he’d end up in the penalty box more often and he can’t help you there.  Underrated.

A steal of a free agent signing by Kevin Cheveldayoff.  Kulikov has been the perfect partner for Myers.  He’s reliable, contributes a bit on offense, and plays valuable minutes.  I don’t think there is any question the Myers-Kulikov pairing has been Winnipeg’s best for the first half of the season.

Chiarot was a top four defenseman last year and he just isn’t that good.  But, as a seventh defenseman who can fill in when injuries hit, he’s better than good.  He deserves to be one any team’s third pairing.  The fact he’s a spare part for the Jets is a bonus.  He doesn’t hurt you.

A much heralded signing from the NCAA and I think had the Jets not added Kulikov or gotten the full season thus far from Myers, we’d have seen more of Poolman and been desperate to expect more.  But, he’s been brought along slowly and hasn’t shown that he doesn’t belong.  Again, the Jets don’t promote offense from the point, but Poolman has upside here.

Hurt every single year, it seems.  He isn’t the powerplay specialist he used to be either.  He makes too much money for fans to be happy with ‘not noticing him as a liability most nights’ when he does play.  His contract is up soon and I don’t imagine he will be brought back.  It could be argued he doesn’t deserve to play over Poolman or Chiarot, but his salary dictates that he will.

One of the top ten players in the NHL and his loss will be felt, greatly.  He’s a complete player who has worked hard on improving his face-off efficiency too (the one area you could nitpick at the start of the year).  Hopefully, he is back closer to the 6 week end of the time table and not the 8.  The Jets have depth to fill the gap, but they are about to learn just how important this guy really is.

Maybe the most underrated player in the league.  All he does is put up points, skate fast, lead by example, and stay healthy year after year after year.  The one good thing about the Scheifele injury is that we are going to see Wheeler distribute the puck to Patrik Laine.  I, suspect, this will be an overwhelming success and pose some questions for the coaching staff when Scheifele gets back.

The Scheifele injury will tell us whether or not Connor is a product of playing on the Scheifele line or whether he’s capable of being a first liner in the NHL without having a centreman the calibre of Scheifele out there with him.  I think it’s a bit of both.  Nobody will be hurt by the loss of Scheifele like Connor.  Look for a dip in production for the next two months.  Hopefully, he weathers the storm.

A grinding centre who is fantastic on face offs and seems to have a knack of being clutch.  As the Jets improve, I feel Little best helps them as a third line centre and not a second line one.  That’s not a slight on Little at all, but rather what I think teams need to win a Stanley Cup.  I think his style is a poor match for the wingers he’s had this year (Ehlers and Laine) , but the three of them have found a way to make it work, for the most part.

He’s had periods of the season where he’s disappeared and then he has had games like the Edmonton one last night where he looked like he could score three or four a night.  He’s fun to watch but has had his ups and downs.  I think playing with Wheeler will be better for him and his style.  He needs a centre who can get him the puck and just let him do his thing.  I am predicting this Jet will take off with his new linemates.

While not as noticeable as Laine, he’s also had peaks and valleys to his season.  He also had this last year.  Maybe he will be known as a streaky player, but we have to remember he’s still very young and getting better with each passing season.  He’ll move to right wing in the absence of Scheifele and the pressure may be on him the most to make up for the lost offense.

He got hurt after five games and I felt the team wouldn’t miss him at all.  He came back and got hot and has been a real driving force on the fourth line, giving Winnipeg something they’ve never had:  a scoring threat from their depth forwards.  He will move up into the top six with Scheifele out and I don’t feel he’s good enough to be much of a factor there.  He’s best when deployed as further down the line-up where opposing teams forget about him.

Why Vegas didn’t take him in the expansion draft is beyond me.  But, hey the Knights are one of the best teams in the league so who am I to wonder?  Armia was bad enough at the start of the year that he was a healthy scratch three times.  He has been invisible many nights, but has also shown glimpses of untapped offensive potential in the last month.  I’d love to see him play with better players.

Probably has found a home as a third line centre.  On a Cup contender, I think he’s best used as a fourth line centre.  He’s hard to play against and matches up well against opposing teams’ top lines and is a very effective checker.  He’s going to see more powerplay time in the absence of Scheifele in what may be his last opportunity to show he can score more than he has so far in his career.

After the first 10-15 games I found myself wondering what the Jets saw in him to keep him in the line-up night after night after night.  By the 40 game mark, I have finally seen the light.  He’s a buzz saw.  Skates like the wind, creates havoc out there, and does have the ability to pop the odd goal.  You have to watch him to appreciate him.  

I think he leads the team in +/-.  He doesn’t have Tanev’s or Lowry’s tenacity; but he does have the most offensive upside of the three.  He is defensively sound and is another underrated player.  A darkhorse to step into a more prominent role with Scheifele hurt, but it can’t be discounted.  He came into the league as a centre, so he has the experience.  Also, he put up points when given a top six role last year during a brief period (albeit as a winger on Scheifele’s line).

I don’t get too excited about fourth line players, but Matt Hendricks is perfect for the role of fourth line centre.  He doesn’t skate fast, but he brings a great set of intangibles and folks around Edmonton will tell you he’s badly missed in their dressing room.  He’s added more offense than I thought too, although playing with Perreault and Armia has given him two decent options in this regard.

He’s been pushed out of the line-up because of the effectiveness of other players.  I liked his game last year, but the sign of an improving team is when you see players like Matthias, who deserve to be in the line-up, but can’t seem to earn their way in.  Look for him to get first shot with Scheifele out, but the Jets have other options to look at.

He has only played six games because, until now, there has been no opening for him.  He will have to put up points to stay in the line-up (assuming he gets a chance with Scheifele out).  


BRENDAN LEMIEUX - He’d be a Jet already if the team wasn’t as strong.  He has a future as an Andrew Shaw type.

NIC PETAN - Jets have to decide what to do with him.  He can’t play a checking role.  He’s best suited as a playmaking centre in the top six, but is he good enough for that?

JACK ROSLOVIC - He’s a centre.  Scheifele is a centre.  Roslovic is a first rounder, a top player in the AHL.  It almost makes too much sense to call him up and pop him onto a line with Connor and Wheeler to see what he can do.