Winnipeg Jets Random Thoughts: Christmas Break 2016

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With the Christmas break coming to an end, it feels like the perfect time to capture some random thoughts on the Winnipeg Jets and some of their key players. (Also, because I’m on a Christmas break, I finally have the time and motivation to capture some thoughts.)

We’re 36 games into an 82 game season and so we should have a decent idea of what this season’s Jets actually are … a frustrating team to watch with some obvious talent, inconsistent play a couple of potential superstars and a couple of players who just need to go.

Winnipeg Jets: Happy Thoughts

Mark Scheifele

Scheifele has turned into a terrific centreman who still appears to have additional upside. He sees the ice well and is both an adept playmaker and a dangerous goal scorer. The opportunity to play with talented players such as Laine, Ehlers, Wheeler and perhaps Kyle Connor down the road should only enable him to become more productive. He hasn’t appeared to have quite the same strength to his stride since going down with what was probably a thigh or hamstring injury a few weeks ago, so the Christmas time off will likely help him.

Patrik Laine

All I can say is wow. Laine has demonstrated more skill than I expected in addition to his ridiculous shot. He’s clearly a goal scorer, but also appears to be much more than that. He’s already had occasion to begin to throw his 6’5″ frame around and is a deft passer. You can see his confidence grow as the season progresses and it’s exciting to envision what he might be with a couple of years of experience. He’s definitely a franchise changing player.

Nikolaj Ehlers

Ehlers is a very skilled, confident player who has made tremendous strides in his sophomore season. He plays bigger than he looks and his speed is a game changer. He’s cutesy with the puck more than I’d like, but he also seems to be figuring out what he can get away with and generates a ton of chances. He definitely appears to have been a steal from his draft class.

Blake Wheeler

Blake Wheeler is a machine. His motor never stops and he give 100% all of the time and has no quit in him. He’s grown into the captaincy far better and far quicker than I was worried he might and has become a consummate leader. His size and speed are very difficult to defend a he’s continued to just get better and smarter as a player.

Adam Lowry

After regressing in his sophomore season, Adam Lowry has had a strong bounce back season thus far. He’s got a mean streak, but plays under control and he uses his size well. I have no problem envisioning Lowry as the club’s primary defensive centre for years to come … and you just have to respect a guy who tells Jonathan Toews he’s going to mess him up in his home town. 🙂

Josh Morrissey

Josh Morrissey looks like he’s arrived as a bonafide NHL player. He skates really well, moves the puck well and has really good vision. He’s been very defensively responsible while playing with Dustin Byfuglien, yet you can see the offensive potential to his game as well. He’s stronger on his skates and more physical than I would have expected, with a little bit of a nasty streak he occasionally shows glimpses of.

Paul Maurice

He may be the most well spoken coach I’ve ever heard and he comes across as though he has a big picture view of things, knows what he wants to accomplish, and has a plan for how he’s going to get the team there. I just like him as a leader and hope he gets an extension. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with living with the same coach for a ten year stretch and with Maurice, the Jets have that option.

Winnipeg Jets: Mixed Thoughts

Dustin Byfuglien

For me Dustin Byfuglien is an entertaining player, but he’s been more reckless this season than last. That may be a product of the number of minutes he’s been playing, first with Jacob Trouba unsigned and then with Tyler Myers out of the lineup. I’m also not wild about his tendency to shoot the puck in on the power play, which is something that drives me crazy with the Jets power play in general — I hate that they give up possession of the puck and then have to chase the puck into the offensive zone. Assuming the Jets get back to health on the blue line and rein in his minutes, Byfuglien can still be a game changing player.

Nic Petan

Nic Petan’s game looks much more effective to me so far this season as compared to last. He’s clearly a skilled player and his ability to hold possession along the wall and create space for himself is really impressive. He’s a difference maker on the power player, but I still wonder how he ultimately fits with the Jets in the grand scheme of things. In my opinion, he’s undersized to play as a full-time centre and I don’t see how he will hold a position ahead of Scheifele, Little and eventually Jack Roslovic. In the short-term, perhaps he holds down the fourth centre position (Lowry, Little and Scheifele being the others) and Perreault moves to the wing. Long term, I just don’t see there being a spot for Petan at centre because I believe Roslovic is ultimately going to bump Little down the depth chart and Lowry is always going to be the better defensive centre option.

Jacob Trouba

I’ve been surprised by how seamlessly he’s integrated himself back into the lineup after missing time without a contract. It’s obvious he has all of the pieces to be a standout defenceman, yet I wonder if he’ll actually be able to put it all together. I’d actually like to see him play with Josh Morrissey as a pairing.

Mathieu Perreault

I generally love the way Perreault plays and especially like his versatility. His durability is a concern and I’d prefer to see him take less penalties. While there hasn’t been a lot of sample size to really judge, I was surprised at the lack of obvious chemistry between Perreault and either Patrik Laine or Kyle Connor early in the season. Assuming he’s not lost in the expansion draft, I wonder how and where Perreault will fit in the roster over the next couple of seasons.

Connor Hellebuyck

He hasn’t been the saviour so many people wanted him to be, but I do believe he’s trending in the right direction. When he has a bad game, it can be really bad. He seems like a different goaltender 5 on 5 than when the Jets are (too often) short-handed. You can almost see the “oh crap, another penalty kill” trepidation creep into his body language. Or maybe it’s just my imagination.

Kyle Connor

I was disappointed that Kyle Connor was sent down to the Manitoba Moose, but for the time being it’s probably the best place for him. I firmly believe Connor is going to be a star. His speed is off the charts, he’s a natural finisher and his defensive game showed good progress. In my opinion, when the Jets do decide to bring him back up, he needs to play in the top six — likely with Little and Wheeler. I can see him with Scheifele and Laine too, but with the way Ehlers is fitting in with those two, adding Connor’s speed to Little’s line makes more sense to me. My only real concern with Connor is his durability. He hurt his shoulder at the world championships last spring and was hurt taking a hellacious hit earlier this season, so I hope there’s not a trend developing with him. He may just need an additional year to physically mature.

Bryan Little

Little is a very effective player and his absence due to injury really hurt the team. My biggest concern with him is whether or not he may be beginning to break down as he’s had two unfortunate injuries that limited him the last half of last season and the first quarter of this season. He seems to be taking more hits than he used to. He’s still very good with the puck, solid at face-offs and very reliable in his own zone. He’s a good all around player and the Jets need him on the ice.

Joel Armia

I love the way Joel Armia plays and can see why he was a first round draft pick. There’s something intangible that strikes me as missing though and I find myself wondering if he’ll be able to become a consistent top 6 forward. If he can’t, he’s still a very good bottom 6 guy. I just can’t shake the notion that he should be more somehow.

Winnipeg Jets: Unhappy Thoughts

Alexander Burmistrov

Burmistrov has been a tire fire. I find it exasperating to watch him play. He clearly has skill and can be pretty effective on the penalty kill, but he has no chemistry with anyone on the ice. It’s as if he’s a square peg trying to fit into a round hole. He fails to read his linemates consistently, dangles when he shouldn’t, and is a bit of a puck hog. For all his obvious skill, he demonstrates very little hockey sense. For me, his time in Winnipeg is done.

Mark Stuart

While I have always respected his heart and his grit, Stuart seems to have devolved into a caricature of himself. Now, he is just a mean hockey player who doesn’t seem to have any sense of where the line needs to be drawn. As a result he takes far too many bad penalties. His on-ice decision making just seems questionable to me at best and he doesn’t have the speed or quickness to make up for it.