Checking in on the Winnipeg Jets at the All-Star break

Winnipeg Jets (Photo by Marianne Helm/Getty Images)
Winnipeg Jets (Photo by Marianne Helm/Getty Images) /

After 52 games, the Winnipeg Jets have 10 more wins, and 17 more goals than last season. Their penalty kill has improved from 24th (76.6 %) to third (83.3 %) corresponding to 18 fewer goals allowed overall. Most importantly, last year, the Jets were 12th in the Western Conference, six points out of the playoff picture at the 52-game mark. This season, they’re second in the West with 12 more points.

They currently sit 6th overall in Moneypuck’s Power Rankings, 9th in rankings, and 11th in CBS NHL rankings. They sit ninth in ‘PDO’ which is an amalgam of a team’s shooting and save percentages at 5-on-5.

Individually, Nikolaj Ehlers, since returning to the lineup on Jan. 6, has scored four goals and tallied 14 points in 11 games. Kyle Connor, Josh Morrissey and PLD are also all at a point-per-game pace, and Hellebuyck is back in Vezina form.

In short, the Winnipeg Jets (thus far) have exceeded nearly every expectation of them this season.

Alas though, we must also look at the proverbial glass half-empty. The Jets are struggling again, losing grip of the top spot in the Central Division. They’ve gone 5-5-0 in their last ten games and lost three straight, including a divisional loss to the Nashville Predators, before winning against the St. Louis Blues before the All-Star break.

The Winnipeg Jets are making curious lineup decisions.

At even strength, their expected goals per 60 minutes ‘for’ (16th) and ‘against’ (21st) are below average (even with a +29 goal differential). There also appears to be a dampening in the honeymoon period with Coach Rick Bowness. The lineup centrifuge might just be a tactic employed by all NHL coaches, but his recent comments regarding Cole Perfetti and Nik Ehlers are concerning.

The fact that both of their minutes have been reduced speaks volumes. His further insistence on inserting Logan Stanley in the lineup seemingly based on size is also cause for consternation. Preferring size for the sake of size, without context, is just wrong.

Finally, based on Evolving Hockey’s Team Goal +/- Components for this year – the Jets and Islanders are comparatively heavily buoyed by elite goaltending. For what it’s worth, the Islanders just landed the prize asset in this year’s free-agency class.

What does all this mean? I addressed the Winnipeg Jets Stanley Cup aspirations here.

The Winnipeg Jets need to act with a sense of urgency.

What seems to be missing, outwardly anyway, is a sense of urgency. That is exactly what the Winnipeg Jets should have right now. A failure to transition their excellent start into a legitimate playoff run will have the following downstream effects:

1.       Lessens the odds that PLD will want to return to the Jets long-term. The rumors and his charitable aspirations suggest his bags are packed for Montreal regardless, but unceremonious exits won’t help.

2.       Lessens the chances future free agents Mark Scheifele and/or Connor Hellebuyck return after the 2023-24 season. Hellebuyck has stated his sole motivation moving forward is to win a Stanley Cup, so I don’t think he’ll hesitate to reassess his tenure in Winnipeg if this season ends abruptly.

3.       For a team currently struggling to fill its arena, if fans believe the organization has failed to seize an opportunity to make a run….well, there is only a finite window of goodwill.

Next. Winnipeg Jets look lost after fifth loss in past seven games. dark

Nothing is as invigorating as Winnipeg Jets playoff hockey. The “White Out”, the crazy street parties…everything is at a 12. Let’s hope the organization can bring in some reinforcements and Jets fans can relive some of the magic from 2018. Get some rest Jets fans…the rest of the season could be a wild ride.