On the back of a six-game losing streak, the Winnipeg Jets are under no illusions that they need to make some immediate improvements if they are going to have any chance of making it into the playoffs. Head coach Paul Maurice has been dealt a number of blows in recent weeks, most notably the news that Evander Kane will be sidelined for as long as six months following surgery on his injured shoulder, but the Jets need to move on from their issues and put an end to their dismal run of losses.
Here are a few areas where the Jets could improve, but they need to do it quickly if this season isn’t going to result in disappointment:
With a power play that ranks tied for 21st in the league with a meagre 17% success rate, it’s clear this is an area where the Jets need to make some significant improvements. While things might be better than they were during the first part of the season, Winnipeg will need to move that closer to 20 per cent if they are going to have any real chances this year. Having the likes of Dustin Byfuglien, Bryan Wheeler, Andrew Ladd and Bryan Little is all well and good when it comes to having a man advantage, but not enough of those forwards’ goals have come during power plays this season and that impacts on the Jets’ odds.
Despite taking the fourth most face-offs in the NHL and more than twice as much as any other Winnipeg player, Little is coming out with the puck in just 48.8 per cent of the time and failing to hand possession to his team-mates at the sort of rate they need. While there is little doubt he is coming up against some of the best in the business, the Jets really need Little to be closer to 50 per cent, although Little is hardly being pushed for the job, with Mark Scheifele recording a disappointing average of just 43 per cent. Things could be worse but Jim Slater has more than held his own when called upon, boasting a 56.6 per cent success rate from his draws.
It’s been strange for Jets fans to see an area of the team that was once their strongest point now one of their weakest, but there is no denying that the Winnipeg defense needs to rediscover its form as soon as possible. While they both played their part in the recent problems with a number of high-profile blunders, goaltenders Ondrej Pavelec and Michael Hutchinson haven’t exactly been helped by those players ahead of them. Despite going on an impressive winning run earlier in the season, regardless of losing their top-four defenders to injury, a fully-fit defensive line has resulted in a complete loss of form, shipping a worrying amount of goals at this point in the season. And it isn’t just the defensive ranks that need to have a look at their recent performances, the rest of the team need to help out when it comes to the dirty work and move things away from their own end.
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