Top 4 reasons why the Winnipeg Jets have struggled

Winnipeg Jets (Mandatory Credit: James Carey Lauder-USA TODAY Sports)
Winnipeg Jets (Mandatory Credit: James Carey Lauder-USA TODAY Sports) /

A recent CBC article by Bartley Kives foretold a troubling reality. The Winnipeg Jets are in jeopardy of the greatest regular season collapse in NHL history. In mid-January, had the Jets’ odds of making the playoffs at 98%. The club’s futility over this home stretch is proving to be a statistical anomaly.

So, what happened? Occam’s Razor applies, as the correct explanation is usually the simplest one. The Jets’ record to start the season belied the true measure of this team, and regression has seized the reigns of their fortune. Put simply, the Jets’ overall record is an accurate reflection of where the Jets should be in 2022-23 – scorching start aside.

That narrative is bland and lacks editorial punch, so let’s dig a little deeper:

The Winnipeg Jets’ stars are not being stars

For their first 48 games, the Jets were being buoyed by elite goaltending and opportunistic scoring. Both have wilted to an extent. The Jets’ best players, Kyle Connor and Connor Hellebuyck have not been at their best:

The decline for Hellebuyck has been less precipitous than his Connor counterpart, as Kyle has seen his weighted GAR go from the 90th percentage to the 67th (courtesy of @GarretHohl). We can see above that his Game Scores have correspondingly declined based on a 10-game moving average.

If we combine the foregoing with a disproportionately anemic second half from PLD and Scheifele, we have a recipe for disaster for this talent top-heavy team.

Coaching matters

I’ve covered this ad nauseum, but coaching is and continues to be a problem. Roster decisions matter, and Coach Bones has struggled to maximize efficiency as it pertains to the quantity and quality of his lines:

For a team that is struggling to score goals, it is coaching malpractice that the line of Ehlers-Dubois-Connor has not been reunited. The Game of Thrones-esque public shaming of his players has not yielded the desired outcome, compounding his roster indecision.

Puck Luck

The Winnipeg Jets currently sit 28th overall in “Goals Scored Above Expected” with a negative 20.91. In January, the Jets were 17th overall – marking a significant decline. The team is just not finishing at a rate to be expected based on their shot quality.

It is an inopportune time for team shooting to go cold, but some of their woes are self-inflicted. The Jets are in the bottom 3rd of the league in “Rebound Goals Scored” and “%of Goals From Rebounds”. For a team that likes to shoot from the point, these metrics should be much higher. “Get bodies to the net” is an axiom for a reason.

Winnipeg Jets Game Theory

Game theory studies interactive decision-making, where the outcome for each participant or “player” depends on the actions of all. A remedy to losing is to optimize the decisions of the players, who may have similar, opposed, or mixed interests. The Jets have, in totality, failed to maximize their output and harmonize the decisions of the players. Responsibility for this lies with the GM, the coach, and the players.

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As the team struggles, it becomes increasingly apparent that this is not a synchronized unit.  That is the primary concern. Puck luck can rebound, player production can spike, and coaching can improve, but if a team is just not built to succeed under duress – mathematical anomalies really don’t seem like anomalies anymore.