The Winnipeg Jets latest six game pointless streak really came at an inconvenient time.
Thanks, Captain Obvious.
It isn't any secret though why it happened when it did.
On March 4th, rookie Mark Scheifele – the face of the franchise – went down due to an injury and that 3-2 loss at the hand of the Islanders that night began a six game pointless streak that lasted until last night's blowout win over the Dallas Stars.
It came on the heels of the Jets doing so well to jump back into the playoff race and make fans in Winnipeg believe that their team could be on the verge of breaking out of that "Atlanta Syndrome".
Head coach Paul Maurice, who sparked the Jets so well in his first few months as coach commented on the loss of Scheifele, "First it was our mood. The day of the game after the injury you could feel the loss in the locker-room. From a purely tactical point of view, he's a player that was appreciated by the coach. He's really good in his own end, does all the little things right, the puck comes to him and he makes really smart decisions with it."
Big praise from the new head coach on the Jets first pick ever back in the NHL.
Many things have been expected from Scheifele since his draft year in 2011, but now that he was molding into that second line centre the team had expected him to be, he is no longer there in a playoff race the Jets can take seriously.
"Statistically he was a big driver of our offense. Net goals against, red-zone shots and all the funny stuff we look at, his numbers were top one or two in every category. He didn't give much up defensively and he was a part of goals scored. Not all of our offense, but a good chunk of it, came when he was on the ice."
"We miss him."
Scheifele is expected to be a big part of the team's future, granted, but for the present he probably won't play again this year because of a sprained MCL.
Big blow to a team on the verge of a playoff breakthrough.
If the Jets are ever to get into the playoffs, Mark Scheifele needs to be a part of it.
His 34 points (13 goals, 21 assists) in 63 games was one of the leaders among rookies before his injury. A slow start to the season had many people wondering if he had what it took.
But Scheifele improved, working on his mental and on-ice game.
In his first 24 games, the rookie centre had only five points – one goal, four assists – with a lengthy goal drought between October 1st versus Edmonton until November 25th against New Jersey.
In his last 19 games, Scheifele collected 12 goals and added 17 assists for 29 points – one of the most by a rookie through the stretch lasting from November 23rd until his injury.
Compare that with other top Jets players through that stretch, Blake Wheeler – 34 points, Andrew Ladd & Bryan Little – 26 points, Dustin Byfuglien – 25 points, Olli Jokinen – 21 points, or Michael Frolik – 20 points, and you see how much value Scheifele was contributing as a number two centre.
To be blunt, the Winnipeg Jets may have to learn to swim without Scheifele, or they will sink.