The Winnipeg Jets look like a shell of their early-season selves as they’ve been sliding into the All-Star break. They dropped their third consecutive game on Jan. 28 against the Philadelphia Flyers, but the problems we’re seeing extend further than just this three-game skid.
After cruising to the top of the Western Conference and Central Division, the Jets have now scuffled and now sit three points back of first. It’s easy to look at the standings and plead with others not to panic, and I’m not saying you should.
That said, it may be time to address the fact that the Jets have some glaring holes and it’s finally starting to catch up with them. The unfortunate fact is that they still aren’t guaranteed one of those top spots, and now have a re-energized Colorado Avalanche closing the gap.
To get back to form and take that next step, they need to address the holes in their lineup and get back to what made them successful.
The Winnipeg Jets look like a shell of their early-season selves
Let’s start with the obvious, losing sucks. The Jets have now lost their past three games in decisive fashion to the Nashville Predators, Buffalo Sabres, and the Flyers. After their 4-0 loss to the Flyers, the Jets left the ice while hearing boos from their own fans.
With one game remaining until the All-Star break, it seems as if the break can’t come fast enough. The break also symbolizes a one-month warning to teams about the trade deadline, and that warning should be heeded by the Winnipeg Jets.
A problem that’s been rearing its ugly head as of late is the scoring depth or lack thereof. When the top-six struggles in any capacity, games tend to swing in the favor of the opponent. This has been the case in both wins and losses this season.
The issue has been increasingly apparent over the past seven games. The Jets are 2-5-0 in that stretch, scoring two goals or less in all five of those losses. In the wins, coincidentally, they notched five goals in both of those two games.
The fewer goals you score, the harder it gets for your defense and goaltender to keep you in games. The Jets are lucky enough to have one of the best goalies in the league with Connor Hellebuyck manning the crease, and despite doing so many times, he can’t steal every game for them.
The Jets are reaching a point where they need to make a definitive decision on if they’re planning on going all-in. To put it simply, it’s time to push all the chips in and make a big deal to push this team over the edge.
They’re getting a Vezina Trophy-caliber season from Hellebuyck, a Norris Trophy-caliber season from Josh Morrissey, and have a bunch of roster and contract questions that begin presenting themselves this season and next.
To avoid missing a window in a wide-open Western Conference, the Jets should address their depth-scoring issue by acquiring a top-six talent who can put the puck in the net. By doing this, you also bolster depth further down the lineup in the form of current top-six players sliding down.
Let’s dream for a moment here.
In an ideal world, the Winnipeg Jets decide to make a big-time move for San Jose Sharks’ forward Timo Meier. What you’re able to do now is move someone like Blake Wheeler down to the third line and begin transforming a top-six/bottom-six setup into a top-nine/bottom-three. Meier would slot in on the top line, then suddenly that’s one of the more talented forward groups top to bottom in the league.
Regardless of who they target, it’s a necessary addition for them in order to remain in the hunt for the Stanley Cup this season. Ideally, the Jets can target one of Meier, Sam Reinhart from the Florida Panthers, or someone who fits the bill of a “top-six scorer.”
There’s been a lot of buzz around a possible move for Winnipegger and Chicago Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews, and while the cup pedigree is the most cited reason, that just doesn’t seem to move the needle much in terms of performance. He’d profile as the third-line center this season, and there’d have to be some sort of salary retention by Chicago (or a third team) to make the remaining contract easier to swallow.
Making a move like this will cost a lot, but it’s going to be worth it to prove to the players and the fans that the team is serious about making a run this season. It’ll take picks, prospects, or whatever else is the hot commodity, but you have to spend to win sometimes.
The Jets are proving that they need some sort of help as they stumble toward the All-Star break, but a big move could help place them back on the right track before their scoring issues become any more of a problem.