Despite the Winnipeg Jets struggling in their last several…months, they’re still in rock solid position to earn a playoff spot. But what if Paul Maurice was forced to put me, your author, in the lineup for the remaining 16 games?
Let’s take some liberties with the Winnipeg Jets and well, with the NHL as a whole. I am not an NHL caliber player. I am not an NHL caliber anything.
In all reality, I can barely skate. I can’t skate backwards at all. I played a little hockey as a youth, but if we had a team in high school, I would’ve been hard-pressed to make it.
But in this exercise, Paul Maurice has been instructed that I be placed in the lineup. I need to play every game, and I can’t be stashed away and play a few shifts a game. I need to be regularly there.
So, let’s start with the immediate implications. The Winnipeg Jets currently sit at 39-23-4, good for 82 points. They could get to 114 points, which was, oddly enough, exactly their output last season.
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That would require winning all sixteen games. which seems unlikely even with a normal lineup. But you can get into the playoffs with less. Last season, the lowest point total of the playoff teams was Colorado with 95. The year before, it was the Predators and Flames with 94 apiece.
The year prior to that, Minnesota slipped in with 87. I can’t imagine that’ll happen again, the West is pretty tough. Let’s say 95 would do it. That would require 13 points, roughly a record of 6-9-1.
The Jets seem content to ride that pace as it is, but let’s say they get a little bit of McCarthy on ice. I’m number 72, by the way. My first few choices are taken.
So, where could they put me to do the least amount of damage?
Due to my skating abilities and minuscule experience, I’d be best in goal. Best for me. Not for the team. I’m not stopping a single shot. Well, I’m physically pretty large, so I’d get in the way of a few. I’d just never see them. Scrap that idea, the Jets are 0-16 with me in the net.
Winnipeg is pretty thin around the blueline, so maybe they could stick me there and I could throw the body. Saying the blueline is thin and then putting me on it is akin to saying you’re hungry and ripping a chunk out of your own bicep, however. That’s out.
Fourth line grinder? I’ve spent enough time blasting Tanner Glass to think I could do better, but I’ve seen Tanner Glass throw a check without immediately becoming a corpse, so I know I’m not.
I have to avoid contact, which, for a man who is 6’5 and skates with the furious speed of George R. R. Martin putting out Game of Thrones books, seems near impossible. Let’s assume that this fourth line grinder will be immune to injury, since they can’t put me in the lineup if I’m dead.
That would, however, be about worth the same value. So, here I am. Left wing. Fourth line. Roughly 7 minutes a game, which is probably about nine shifts.
Winnipeg kills penalties at about an 78% clip, which isn’t ideal to start with. Seeing how I am physically there, I could probably block a shot. I wouldn’t, though, since fear would set in, so basically I’m a human penalty kill.
My possession numbers would be horrible, since, well, I’m a penalty kill and I should never be counted on to handle the puck.
In the miraculous even that I ever got a shot off, it would appear on camera like the stick had broken or I had whiffed on it, gliding to the goaltender like someone just turned on an air hockey machine.
Roslovic isn’t a defensive genius, but he’s not a Great Pyrenees on skates like I would be. Copp is pretty adept at the unsexy aspect of the game. Offensively, I’m a liability. That’s an understatement.
I’ll make every opposing player look like Selke (or Norris) contenders, which is especially damaging since the opposing coach can use those seven minutes to rest his better defenders.
More likely, however, is that they use that opportunity to put their powerplay unit on the ice. The worst plus minus among Jets is Patrik Laine‘s -20, and the worst he’s managed in a sixteen game stretch is -9.
Let’s say I’d probably….triple that? That sounds reasonable, especially when you consider the dearth of minutes I’d be skating in comparison. I know I’m kinda playing it fast and loose with the term ‘skating’, but bear with me.
We’ll say the Jets are ~30 goals worse with me on the ice, in just a sixteen game stretch. I’m costing them easily two goals a game just by existing. Offensively, I’m useless in those minutes as well.
Winnipeg averages 3.4 goals per game. They give up, on average, exactly three. Take away about a tenth of the game of offensive production, and we’ll say they’ll score about three a game with me around.
Unfortunately, if you add the two goals I’m worth to the other team, and I feel like a Hart Trophy candidate if I hated the Winnipeg Jets. That’s three goals for Winnipeg, and roughly five a game for the opponent.
The playoffs then seem like a pipe dream. Would the team manage to win a single game with me on the ice?
The Jets have surpassed twenty minutes of penalties in a single game three times this season, and shockingly enough, they’ve won two of them. A 4-1 victory over Vancouver, a 7-1 drubbing of Philly and a 7-1 loss at the hands of the Avs.
I’m not going to dig into each one and try to find the merits of fighting majors and whatnot. But the Jets can win with heavy penalty kill minutes. We also have to factor in the remaining schedule.
The Kings, Ducks, Blackhawks and Coyotes are currently out of the playoff picture. The Kings are a possible victory, because they’re pathetic, but they do have actual hockey players on their roster. The Winnipeg Jets do not have that luxury.
Colorado is also on the outside looking in, but that’s a team that’s given the Jets quite a bit of trouble recently. Their scoring punch has given the real Jets trouble, but with me on the ice, yikes, it’ll look like an Orlando Solar Bears exhibition.
The other 11 games are all against possible playoff teams. I genuinely think the Jets could eke out a win. Pure rage would do it. Despite my obvious charms and leadership qualities, I’d tear apart the locker room. I’d be too awful to offset the emotional contribution I’d make.
So, I think we’d need the rest of the division to collapse into itself in impressive fashion. On a brighter note, I think we’ve established the answer to my question, handily.
I could absolutely keep the Winnipeg Jets out of the playoffs. Put me in, coach. I’m ready.