Winnipeg Jets Summer Mailbag: Barlow, McGroarty, Samberg, more

Winnipeg Jets (Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images)
Winnipeg Jets (Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images) /

We are in the doldrums of the NHL offseason, yet lingering questions persist. I asked readers for their best questions, Winnipeg Jets or otherwise, to help get us through the summer months:

On January 10, 2023, you wrote an article “Are the Jets legitimate Stanley Cup contenders”, in which you explored the non-zero and real possibility of the Jets winning the Stanley Cup. On March 23, 2023, you wrote another article “Playoffs or not, does the Jets’ core need changing?” where you essentially called for the fission of the Jets core. Cognitive dissonance, or are you off your meds? (Brian Guthrie – or Dad)

Stoicism is not a trait I possess in any great abundance. The Winnipeg Jets have undergone tectonic shifts over the past few years. From Stanley Cup hopeful to tattered relic – twice over. The shift in tone and tenure reflects the rollercoaster ride synonymous with being a fan of the Winnipeg Jets.

Now is the time however to offer a caveated mea culpa. Ultimately, I was always acutely aware that the 2022-23 version of the Winnipeg Jets was a marginal playoff team that, on a balance of probabilities, was not truly a playoff contender. A Bayesian approach is effective at remaining malleable, but prone to hyperbole.

The issue was with the January 10 article. Early 2023 was peak “vibes” for the Jets as they were tops in the Western Conference and riding high. However, the underlying metrics were not favorable as the Jets were buoyed by elite goaltending and opportunistic scoring. I eschewed reason for emotion and let the fever pitch rule the day.

But speculation can be fun. So can fandom. I respect those that are unwavering in their core beliefs as fans. Some view any critique of the Jets as clickbait or doom-seeking. Others have resolutely determined that the Jets organization is destined for relegation. The truth is (as always) somewhere in the middle.

I don’t regret the January 10th article – it was fun. I do regret getting swept into the euphoria and ignoring the analytical part of my brain. But thanks for reading Dad.

With the Wheeler buyout and PLD trade, should the Jets entertain overpaying slightly for the services of Hellebuyck and Scheifele? (Laurent Chapdelaine)

Let’s evaluate this question on a sliding scale of confidence.

We can be confident that the Jets’ brain trust will aggressively attempt to re-sign both Hellebuyck and Scheifele. Failing that, we can also be confident that these 2 Jets stalwarts will not be traded for future picks or speculative prospects. Chevy will look to replicate a return similar to that of PLD so as to adhere to the mantra of “win now”.

Of utmost confidence is the belief that signing both Hellebuyck and Scheifele to $7-8 M deals for anything more than 3 years is a mistake. If Blake Wheeler has taught us anything, it’s that paying players past their age apex is a bad process.

Scheifele has been rumored to Boston, and Hellebuyck to New Jersey, but unlike the PLD buildup – news is simmering slowly. Theoretically, the Jets could use Hellebuyck to procure a top 6 centre, and Scheifele to land a promising goaltender (i.e. Bruins’ Jeremy Swayman) – ostensibly replacing the vacated spots for each.

My bet is that the Jets start the season with both Scheifele and Hellebuyck on the roster. The Jets’ signings of AJF and Brossoit signal a team looking to minimize change and embrace familiarity. It begs the question then though, how do you build a culture of winning when key pieces of the roster are shrouded in ambiguity?

By all accounts, Barlow and McGroarty seemed to have bro’d out at Jets Development Camp. Big deal, or is much ado about nothing? (Vaughan Mitchell)

Firstly, even if at a superficial level, it is comforting (anecdotally at least) to see that Barlow and McGroarty are both: (a) getting acclimated; and (b) as advertised from a personality perspective. Reading “vibes” is an ethereal practice, and can be an exercise in confirmation bias, but the buzz around Development Camp this year is palpable.

That said, good character means little if it is not paired with on-ice production. Both guys have copious room for growth. The Jets seemed to have put a priority on ‘character’ and ‘leadership’ which is a worthwhile pursuit, but meaningless if not coupled with a robustness of play. Personally, I’d rather be regaled with tales of shooting acumen or improved skating from either player.

Lambert, Lucious, McGroarty, Barlow, and Chibrikov are exciting prospects, but it is important to remember that the majority of NHL draft picks see limited action. Even a 40% hit rate would be a boon to the Jets organization. McGroarty and Barlow bonding like Dragon and Nighthawk from “Step Brothers” is fun, but overall noise as opposed to signal.

Dylan Samberg recently signed a very reasonable 2-year deal. What does this mean for the likes of Heinola, Stanley and Chisholm? Put more succinctly, how do the Jets clear out the glut of defensemen? (Adam Milne)

Dylan Samberg got his opportunity and he capitalized on it. No small feat for a young, up-and-coming defenseman on the Winnipeg Jets. Signing him to a 2-year contract for under $1.5 M/year is good business, but it is shadowed by the stark reality that the Winnipeg Jets’ cup runneth over as it relates to defensemen.

If Winnipeg is content with the likes of Schmidt, Pionk and Dillon for the foreseeable future, then they should aspire to obtain value for young prospects while they have cache. If not, jettison veterans – understanding full well that their relative value has depreciated since initially acquiring them.

Unfortunately, the best opportunity to move an aging defenseman has passed. The NHL Draft represented an opportune moment to garner draft picks from contenders looking to bolster their D-core. With Pionk and Schmidt both making close to $6M for the next two years, they are virtually untradeable.

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Brendan Dillon is the one top 6 D-man that I think has legitimate trade value, but given he acted as an assistant captain throughout the year, I am skeptical the Jets make him available. Trading Heinola and/or Stanley seems like the most likely outcome, both 1st round picks that have languished in the press box.

Why can you remember Neal Pionk’s Corsi percentage but not our anniversary?

My wife reads these articles as well.