It hurts to say this as a Winnipeg Jets fan, but this season has hurt me and my fellow fans.
Let’s break down how this team is not a playoff contender, far from even making the playoffs and what they need to do if they want to win.
#1: Far Below Sub-Par Goaltending
For all those who were happy or content with seeing what Ondrej Pavelec could do with a big contract in his back pocket, I want to say one thing: “I told you so.”
When Pavelec was signed to his current five-year, $19.5 million contract (which is also backloaded at $4.25 million in 2015-16 and $4.75 million in 2016-17) I saw the writing on the wall and this is what it said: “We will get to the playoffs in after 2016-17.”
I’m baffled that True North in all its past endeavours to make their former tenants – the AHL’s Manitoba Moose – have failed to make sure that they have a solid goaltender between the pipes that is proven before they sign the big contract.
Look at the Moose history and you will see good goalies throughout – Johan Hedberg, Manny Legacy, Alex Auld, Wade Flaherty, Drew MacIntyre, Cory Schneider, Eddie Lack – all who led the Moose to at least the playoffs (even if it was just the AHL or IHL).
I am not about to believe that True North after all the work they put into fifteen years of smart hockey management with the Moose are going to continue down this road with an unproven goaltender they signed to a long-term contract.
Let’s look at the numbers.
Pavelec has never posted a goals against better than 2.80 in Winnipeg – his 3.05 this season is horrendous – and has never posted more than one more win than loss in a season – his first in 2011-12.
The numbers are not even close to having earned a contract of the size he is on right now.
I understand the Jets have no other options really after inheriting the Atlanta Thrashers, but they seemed to be more concerned with winning with what they had (a non-playoff team) than trying to build their own team.
Contract buyout anyone? It may put the team a few years back, but then again Pavelec isn’t the only problem.
#2: Trade Evander Kane
Listening to former NHL GM Bill Watters talking to TSN 1290’s Rick Ralph last week, I was struck at how someone else from another market – another hockey mind aside from Winnipeg – wants to see Evander Kane do well, but thinks he should be shown the door if he isn’t going to show his true potential.
Fans in Winnipeg are getting fed up with the same old, same old with Kane.
Let me guess: He gets the puck, he streaks down the wing at blinding speed, the defenseman plays him perfectly to the outside and he shoots it at the side of the net or at the goalies pad which is kicked to the corner.
Again and again.
Watters stated that he was tired of telling people how good Evander Kane is – he wants to see it.
You and Jets nation wants to see it Bill.
He had 30 goals in his Winnipeg debut in 2011-12 (his best season by far) and has followed it up with a sub-par 17 goals in 48 games last season and now 17 more goals in 58 games this year.
At $4.5 million that is a disappointment.
If this continues, it will be at $6 million and a disaster up the same alley as Pavelec’s goaltending numbers.
#3: Ship Out Underachievers
I don’t know of any team in sports history that hasn’t just simply said goodbye to any players who weren’t performing at the level they needed them to to compete.
I was very sad when I saw that the Jets own Tobias Enstrom was ranked fourth in The Richest’s Top 10 Underachieving Players in the NHL.
Add to the list Devin Setoguchi, Kane, and Pavelec, mixed with the injury to the team’s lighting rod in rookie Mark Scheifele – who’s injury was the nail in the Jets season – and you don’t really have much of a team.
Names that always come up that need to be shipping include the three above and may also include Zach Bogosian, Dustin Byfuglien, and Enstrom.
#4: Coaching Staff Continue to Preach Accountability
If the Jets want to be a playoff team they need to act like one on and off the ice.
For that to happen they’ll need to morph out of this Atlanta attitude they are still apparently under.
If the management wants to have that accountability, stop signing large contracts to unproven players and start making these kids earn their minutes, example: Jacob Trouba and Mark Scheifele. These kids need some more support and leadership to show what accountability really is.
Don’t spoil these great players early because you are just going with the status quo in what you have.