Showing posts with label Dustin Byfulgien. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Dustin Byfulgien. Show all posts

Thursday, July 19, 2012

What Jets Management Doesn't Know Does Hurt

Ondrej Pavelec was charged with a DUI in the Czech Republic before signing a five year contract with Winnipeg.
(Photo Courtesy Yahoo! Sports)
The signing of their undisputed number one netminder Ondrej Pavelec this off-season to a multi-year deal was the climax and biggest accomplishment of the first few weeks of the aptly named "Free Agent Frenzy" for the Winnipeg Jets and GM Kevin Cheveldayoff.

But what they didn't know occurred in Pavelec's personal life was what hurts the most.

Is Ondrej Pavelec the Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde type?

Or did he have a serious lapse in judgement?

Having been written off as a lack of character for such a young man, Pavelec's reported DUI charge in his native Czech Republic has set off fires all over Winnipeg and the NHL.

But what matters most is - he was not entirely honest with his team, teammates, and fans.

For Jets owner and governor Mark Chipman, this does not sit well whatsoever.

Chipman's mandate throughout the duration of True North Sports & Entertainment's reign in Winnipeg has been accountability, respect, and honesty.

For Pavelec, he broke all three of Mr. Chipman's golden rules.

A. He did not hold himself accountable for his actions until much too late (after he signed a five year contract)

B. He lacked the respect of himself by driving while heavily intoxicated and therefore lacked respect for others that could be in harms way because of his actions.

C. And he did not fully disclose his actions until weeks after he signed his contract of which Mr. Chipman pays 100% of.

So - long story short - there is no reasonable assumption that can be made to say that Mark Chipman is not very happy with his start goalie.

The scene of a fatherly talk to Pavelec by Chipman may be stretching it a little too thin in this case.

Of course, Chipman's brand of hockey through True North has had a bit of a stain being cast upon it.

Last summer, it was incoming star Dustin Byfuglien with a DUI while boating, but that was a different situation entirely - the Jets players were not fully cemented into the community and Byfuglien had not freshly signed a new long-term contract.

The hockey world should not look any differently on the Jets franchise or True North whatsoever, since it was Pavelec and agent Allan Walsh who were so tight lipped about anything that my have happened until weeks later.

Assuming Walsh knew about Pavelec's behaviour, it would have indeed slowed negotiations, but it would have been for the better for both sides to have everything out front.

Once again - True North = accountability, respect, and honesty.

Ondrej Pavelec has apologized for his actions, but now he needs to put those words into actions.

And with True North, it's not the normal three strikes and you're out rule.

I'm thinking one more strike and things could look much different in the Jets net.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

The Case For Toby Enstrom

Toby Enstrom was a big part of Jets success, posting a +6 rating, one of only two dmen with a plus rating.
(Photo Courtesy Yahoo! Sports)


It's been a relatively quiet off-season for the Winnipeg Jets and their players.

However, as the playoffs stretched along and the last regular season game lingered farther and farther behind in the minds of Jets fans, rumours started to swirl.

And, as any fan of any of the fourteen teams that could only watch other teams compete for the Stanley Cup, Winnipeg Jets fans have predicted what their team could bring come next season.

Including who should stay and who should go.

One of the main targets of this off-seaosn aside from the furor over the Ondrej Pavelec/KHL situation and the Evander Kane who-doesn't-want-to-play-in-Winnipeg rumour situation, Toby Enstrom has become the third and most interesting target for Jets fans and other teams.

As late as June 20th, Twitter has been abuzz with Enstrom rumours with various NHL team beat writers commenting on how Toby would fit into their lineup if he were dealt from the Jets for offensive help.

Edmonton Journal's Bruce McCurdy commented on Twitter that "size is a big knock against Enstrom" and that "to [him] Enstrom is a Lubo Visnovsky type.  Lots of room on [his] team for one of these." (@BruceMcCurdy, June 20)

Oilers Nation's Jonathan Willis cited Enstrom as the link between the Oilers and Jets getting a trade done to bring a puck moving defenseman to Edmonton and some scoring help to Winnipeg (Edmonton Journal, 06/19/2012).

The Hockey Writer's Jeff Mazur questioned whether the Jets should build with Enstrom or sell him and get more assets with his trade. (The Hockey Writers, 06/04/2012)

TSN 1290's Illegal Curve Hockey Show made an interesting point that "if you're not going to re-sign Enstrom after next season, then the draft is the place to deal him, at the latest.  The longer you hold on to him, the less you get back for him." (Illegal Curve Hockey, 04/03/2012)

Even the Winnipeg Sun's own Ken Wiebe asked the question if the Jets were willing to part ways with the Swedish defenseman (Winnipeg Sun, 05/31/2012)

Rumours swirled at the draft that the New York Islanders had even asked what they would need to give in terms of bringing Enstrom to Long Island.

While most of the earlier rumours swirling around Enstrom was, for the most part, fan-based and roused, I would like to state the case for the Jets keeping the seemingly undersized defenseman on their team.

Enstrom was picked to be an NHL All-Star in 2011 before injury.
(Photo Courtesy Yahoo! Sports)
Two years off an NHL All-Star invite while playing his fourth and final season in Atlanta, Enstrom was playing very consistent defense and was, again for the most part, a plus player on a very sub-par team.

Even though injury caused him to miss the 2011 NHL All-Star Game, Enstrom finished the season with 51 points (10 goals, 41 assists) in 72 games with a minus ten rating.

To add to his consistency factor, he appeared in all 82 games in his first three season with Atlanta, including his rookie year where he collected 38 points and was only a minus five.

In 318 games as a Thrasher, Enstrom was a combined -6, missing only ten games in his four seasons wearing a Thrasher jersey, while also contributing more than 32 points every season.

His play in Atlanta could be said to have crossed over into a Jets uniform last season, despite missing 20 games with various injuries, including a collarbone injury that forced him to miss much of the first half of the season after Halloween.

Here's the most important stat that can state the case for Enstrom, he had 33 points in 62 games, while being a plus six in 62 games.

His point per game clip fell from .607 in 2009-10 and .708 in 2010-11 to .532 in 2011-12, but he was one of only six regular Jet players who posted a plus rating.

Add to that he was only one of two Jets defenseman to post a plus rating (surprisingly Ron Hainsey was the other at plus nine), and the Jets should not even think of trading away Toby Enstrom - at least not yet.

Remember when the Tomas Kaberle trade speculations were racing around as every team supposedly needed a really good puck moving defenseman such as Kaberle?

In 380 games, Enstrom has 98 power play points.
(Photo Courtesy Yahoo! Sports)
The Jets have Enstrom and Zach Bogosian, and to a lesser extent Dustin Byfuglien, as puck moving defenseman, but the skill and deftness that Enstrom possesses at his first pass and power play smarts.

Due to injury, Enstrom's power play numbers did drop off in 2011-12, where he had only 11 power play points (two goals, nine assists), but his power play numbers in Atlanta show he has the adept ability to be a power play quarterback.

Even in his rookie year, Enstrom collected four goals and 22 assists via the power play, while his best season came in 2010-11 where he netted six goals and added 22 assists with the man advantage.

In his 380 career games, of his 204 career points, Enstrom has 98 power play points, which accounts for almost half.

And for a Jets power play that fizzled out at times (mostly on the road, mind you), trading Enstrom away as a quarterback defenseman on the power play could hurt their power play and the entire team than help it.

As of right now, Enstrom is one year way from becoming an unrestricted free agent, so the Jets have time to make a deal or deal him away if they think they can make up the gap with him out of the lineup.

But if the Jets want to have continued success, the soon-to-be 28 year old Swede should stay in a Jets uniform unless the trade value is very, very high.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Jets Win Big With Jacob Trouba

The Winnipeg Jets select Jacob Trouba ninth overall in 2012.
(Photo Courtesy Yahoo! Sports)

When the International Scouting Service handed out their May 30th, 2012 rankings, Rochester, Minnesota native Jacob Trouba was ranked fifth ahead of the likes of Matt Dumba, Rielly Morgan, and Griffin Reinhart.

However, Central Scouting ranked him ninth behind those same defensemen.

Whatever the ranking, the Jets have won big with selecting the big, hard hitting American defenseman.
Trouba had 18 points in 22 games with the US U-18 Team.
(Photo Courtesy Yahoo! Sports)

Through 22 games with the United Stats Under-18 Development Team, Trouba was able to collect 18 points (four goals, 14 assists) in his second season with the team.

Trouba at 6'2, 193 lbs, is committed to play for the Michigan Wolverines next season, under legendary head coach and former NHLer Red Berenson while his OHL rights belong to the Kitchener Rangers.

Again, the Jets have seemed to selected a player who has both skill, size, and great character.

According to michiganhockey.net, Trouba is a man of his word.


"When the highly touted defensive prospect is ready to make his decision whether to play in the OHL for the Kitchener Rangers — who hold his CHL rights –  or the NCAA, there won’t be any late de-commitments or promises broken. 
'That’s sort of why I haven’t (committed), because I don’t want to make a commitment and then back down from it.'" (michiganhockey.net, 09/27/2011)
Showing how much of a physical edge the big defenseman plays with, TSN was showing a video of an eleven year-old Trouba levelling an opponent while playing in a game in Sweden.
On a team that needs to stock up on physical and defensively sound defensemen, Trouba is a big win for the Jets organization.
Already with an influx of offensive defensemen - Postma, Redmond, Bogosian, Enstrom, Byfuglien to name a few - Trouba will be able to add a defensively minded aspect to the Jets back end.
However, with his commitment to Michigan upcoming, there will be a growing period for the young defenseman as he will take the proper time to develop to be an impact player in a Jets uniform.
Again, the Jets win big with a good skilled player that has a positive attitude Jets brass looks for.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Jets Beef Up Coaching Staff; Add Perry Pearn

Perry Pearn will return to Winnipeg as an assistant coach for the first time since 1996.
(Photo Courtesy CBC.ca)
Last season, former Montreal Canadians General Manager Pierre Gauthier thought it necessary to relieve defensive coach Perry Pearn of his duties mid way through a dismal season for the storied franchise.

Was is it a wake up call for everyone in the organization - whether coach or player?

Whatever the case, Pearn, 61, a veteran of sixteen seasons as an assistant coach in the NHL, has now found a new home.

Pearn was added to the Winnipeg Jets coaching staff, alongside head coach Claude Noel and assistants Charlie Huddy and Pascal Vincent.

And it's no surprise that Pearn returned to the city and the second version of the team that he had his first NHL experience with during the 1995-96 season.

During the Jets final season in Winnipeg in 95-96, Pearn alongside current Toronto Maple Leafs head coach Randy Carlyle were assistant coaches under head coach Terry Simpson.

Since his inaugural season as an assistant coach in Winnipeg, Pearn spent eight seasons (1996-2004) in Ottawa alongside Jacques Martin and then was with the New York Rangers for four seasons alongside Tom Renney (2005-2009).

Pearn was let go by the Montreal Canadiens mid way through his third season with the Habs, having started in Montreal at the start of the 2009-10 season.

However, it was Pearn's reaction to returning to the place where he started that was most meaningful.

"I didn't want to leave when I left the last time," said Pearn at his hiring press conference.

"I really enjoyed the year I coached there." (TSN.ca, 6/14/2012)

However, the biggest question becomes what will Pearn's role become with the Jets?

In Montreal, Pearn was the Canadiens defensive coach, helping the progress of young PK Subban and Josh Gorges.

However, Huddy currently has the post as the defensive coach showing vast improvements in the games of Zach Bogosian and Dustin Byfuglien last season.

With his wealth of experience and knowledge, Pearn adds to the already knowledgeable Jets staff (Huddy has 13 years experience) as they try to put the proper people in place to make another step towards a playoff spot in 2012-13.

In addition to signing Pearn, the Jets re-upped their other assistant coaches including goalie coach Wade Flaherty, video coach Tony Borgford, and St. John's Ice Caps assistant coach Mark Morrison.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

If Nashville is the Benchmark For Jets, Fans Need Not Wait Too Long

As the Nashville Predators have made their way into the Stanley Cup Playoffs second round for the second time in as many years, many of Jets reporters (Winnipeg Free Press' own Gary Lawless), pundits, and fans are looking to them to see what they will acheive.

Will they be able to do more than simply win one round and bow out?  Or will they rise to the occassion of a team that showed they were worthy of being a part of the last eight teams to play hockey in May?

Peering at the Predators roster, there are many players who are workhorses - players who are the backbone of the team. Players including All-Star captain and Norris Trophy candidate Shea Weber and defensive partner Ryan Suter along with others such as Mike Fisher, Martin Erat, and others. And not to forget the Predators MVP - their goalie - Pekka Rinne.

Organizational philosophy aside, the Predators makeup over the past 13 seasons has been one that has been ever evolving and ever growing. Names that have been through the Nashville lineup through the draft include the likes of Scott Hartnell, Dan Hamhuis, Cody Franson, and Scott Upshall as well as current Predators Weber, Suter, Rinne, Kevin Klein, David Legwand, Colin Wilson, and up-and-coming offensive defenseman Ryan Ellis.

Point in case: the Predators have built their team through the draft, not through free agency - a similar approach that Jets General Manger Kevin Cheveldayoff seems to be employing quite strictly.

As the 2011 Stanley Cup Playoffs were the first true post-season success for the Nashville franchise (13 seasons into existence), the team had thirteen full-time players who were Predator draft picks.

It is slow, successful progressions towards success that has made the Predators a model franchise as they are also a very low budget team.

According to nhlnumbers.com, Nashville has the fifth lowest payroll in the NHL through the 2011-12 season (Winnipeg is the sixth lowest) and were one of four teams in the bottom ten of league payroll to make the playoffs (Florida, Phoenix, and Ottawa the others).

What Nashville has different from Florida is the makeup of their team is mainly draft picks while Phoenix and Ottawa could be seen as similar situations to Nashville, but without the slow progress into success as both franchises have seen ebbs and flows of success having been around much longer. 

Another thing that stands out from the Nashville model is Winnipeg bred Barry Trotz - the only head coach in Predators history.

Trotz, an unassuming and humble coach who demands the most out of his players, has seen his success not only climb in his 13 season behind the bench, but has seen how to build a winner from the ground up.

His input into the team's success over his tenure has been essential to the maturation of those draft picks that the organization has given him to help along.

In his 13 season as head coach, he has only had five losing seasons (the first five from 1998-99 to 2002-03) and has not seen his winning percentage in a season dip below .537 (in 2008-09 the only season the Preds did not make the playoffs since 2002-03).

Translating into the Winnipeg situation - there are the similarities from Nashville to take into Winnipeg's current lineup.
Seven full time players in the Jets lineup this season are Atlanta/Winnipeg draft picks including Evander Kane, Ondrej Pavelec, Tobias Enstrom, Zach Bogosian, and Bryan Little.

Despite the quick transition over the summer from Atlanta to Winnipeg, the Jets have not made any big moves to bring in any big names to bolster any part of their lineups - but have made trades that addressed needs they may need down the road.

All in all, both franchises have not gone for the classic "band-aid solution" when it comes to equipping their core group of players for a long Stanley Cup run.

You will never see either franchise going after a Marian Hossa type deadline deal to bolster their lineup.

If winning is going to happen in Nashville or Winnipeg, it will start and ultimately end with the players that have been drafted, matured, and successful within the system.

And thanks to poor finishes in their 11 seasons in Atlanta, the Jets have a solid foundation of young talent highlighted by names above and by pieces frugally added to the lineup that are still early in their careers and luckily already with Stanley Cup experience - namely Andrew Ladd and Dustin Byfuglien.

Unlike Trotz, the Jets ownership had a prior history with the head coach before the season started. But not unlike Trotz, Claude Noel is being looked to to be the coach that helps to mature the Bryan Little's and Evander Kane's of the Jets young core.

Noel's longevity will depend on his ability to have a Trotzesque type of coaching style - calm, quiet, and patient. If the 2011-12 season was any indication, Noel is well on his way as of now.

If Nashville is the benchmark for the Jets, then Jets fans need not worry.

And if they're lucky, it won't take 13 years.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Jets Off Season Needs & Wants Part 1


As a former Canadiens fan of the late 1990s and early 200s, I know what early April usually brings - watching other teams play in the playoffs instead of my favourites playing themselves.

Now as a newly converted Jets fan this season, the whole rigamarole starts over again (although the Habs did finish worse than the Jets) but it's not exactly the same as with my former team.

The Jets - albeit young and needing depth - are on the up slope to becoming a better team and the organizational philosophies that Kevin Cheveldayoff has installed in the Jets organization can begin to take root more effectively with the good graces coming down from owners Mark Chipman and David Thomson.

This meaning the Jets will not over pursue any big name free agents in an attempt to find the quick fix solution to the Jets finishing eight points out of the playoff picture.

Let's assess the Jets needs and the possible wants they could also be looking for to shore up the roster for the 2012-13 regular season.


Need #1: First Line Centre
This is in no way directed as a hit against Bryan Little, the Jets default first line centre this season. Little's goal output rebounded above the 20 goal plateau this season after it dipped to a career low 13 in 2009-10 and only bettered itself to 18 last season in Atlanta.

With 24 goals as a first line centre, Little ranks tied for 13th in centres for goals along with the likes of Eric Staal, David Backes, and Mike Fisher. That's some good company when it comes to the goal scoring department, but Little's meager 22 assists was a drop from 30 a year before which kicked Little out of the top 30 in points by centres altogether.

What the Jets need is a centre who can score 20-30 goals a season and be responsible for being the setup man for his wingers as well. To be brutally honest, the combination of Little centring Andrew Ladd and Blake Wheeler is not a first line on any other NHL team. But that just points out the fact the Jets have some depth issues going forward.

If the first line is to be a force, Bryan Little cannot be that first line centre. Little should be counted on as a second line centre and play the role of secondary scoring in years to come, but as for now, he is making due with the situation he has been handed and shown improvement this past season.


Want #1: A 50 Goal Scorer
I've heard many Jets fans on either Twitter or my own friends who obsess over the team that we should make a bold move for possible pending free agent Zach Parise.

"Why not?" they ask, "He's a 50 goal scorer waiting to happen," after which they salivate over the possibility of Parise and Kane together on the Jets first line.

Let's stop that drooling for a minute and look at this with brutal honesty.

Firstly, Parise is currently in a playoff run with the Devils as they face off against the Florida Panthers. Who's to say he would want to come to a team that is trying to make the playoffs versus a team he is already on - and captaining - that is a legitimate playoff team every season?

Secondly, how much will Parise demand if he was to go to a non-playoff team to be a catalyst for building a winner? The Jets do have alot of cap room, but is it worth the risk? The Jersey captain made $6 million this past season on a one-year deal only to get himself into becoming an unrestricted free agent, so chances are he is looking north of $6 million as a payday.

And thirdly, Parise - though a very tantalizingly great thought of dawning a Jets jersey - is not a viable option for Jets management if they wish to continue the route they are on. Of course, if Parise does get to July 1st without signing back with the Devils, the Jets should undoubtedly go after him, but they will not be alone and possibly not one of the teams willing to go north of $6 million.


Need #2: Stronger Back End Defensemen
Lately, I've also heard alot of chatter on Twitter about the possibility and the need to trade top end defensemen Tobias Enstrom. As a big fan of Enstrom, I was not sure why fans would even consider it.

Enstrom was an All-Star defenseman last season - though he didn't play due to injury - and he was also hurt for significant stretches during the season and seemed to be caught up in the hype of the NHL's return to Winnipeg.

Though his points per game decreased from his last two season in Atlanta, Enstrom is only due for a rebound in 2012-13. Despite size issues, his first pass and deft stick handling make him a defenseman that any other team would jump at to get a puck moving defenseman.

That moves me to telling fans - let's not worry about our top defensemen, but our secondary defensmen. The likes of Ron Hainsey, Mark Stuart, Mark Flood, and others.

It wouldn't be an overly big surprise to see Randy Jones not re-signed and the Mark Flood situation is tentatively odd and perplexing at best.

Mark Stuart is a shot blocking expert and heart and soul guy, while Zach Bogosian continues to improve every game, and Grant Clitsome has found a niche in Winnipeg though his defensive play could use some work at times.

As for Hainsey, the Jets could do better. Much, much better.

Despite Hainsey's +9 being second on the team behind leading goal scorer Evander Kane, Hainsey's point production dropped immensely from 19 points a year ago to only 10 assists this season and his stock continues to drop the past three seasons after a career year in 2008-09 - his first in Atlanta.

Injuries did plague Hainsey, but his inconsistent play was the biggest weakness on the Jets back end. Granted, Hainsey was not the only Jets defender with problems in his own zone, but his veteran play did not equal up to his paycheck that he has been receiving - $5 million this season with $3 million on the way next season.

If the Jets could deal Hainsey out of the lineup, his $4.5 million cap hit would free up room to get a steadier, more reliable fifth or sixth defenseman that could cost in the range of $1-$2.5 million and be more responsible in the Jets end - a desperately needed thing for such a young club.


Want #2: Top 5 Pick
I'm not entirely sure what's going through my mind as I write this second and final want for now.

The Jets already have a top 10 pick, but what if they were able to trade up for a top 5 pick in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft?

Last season, taking Mark Scheifele seventh overall proved to be a decent pick, although eighth overall pick Sean Couturier is lighting it up with the Philadelphia Flyers this season.

But what if the Jets could have the likes of a Nail Yakupov or a Mikhail Grigorenko on their team? Or even an Alex Galchenyuk on the team?

It would cost the team dearly, but may be worth it. With the Jets depth on the back end, there could be a possibility to trade up in the draft, especially since the Oilers hold the first overall pick and are in desperate need for defensive help. Could a Ron Hainsey along with a few prospects and picks work? My first reaction is: No.

I've heard ideas tossed around about shipping Enstrom to Edmonton and getting the pick or others but not the likes of Byfuglien, Bogosian, or Stuart or even Paul Postma or Zach Redmond.

But with the two latter young, AHL All-Star talents upcoming from the playoff bound St. John's Ice Caps what would the Jets be losing if they were to trade an Enstrom or a Hainsey for a very NHL ready Yakupov?

Yet again, Yakupov has expressed his want and excitement to play in Edmonton should he be picked first overall by the Oilers. (Marcy Di Michele, The Hockey Writers, 04/17/2012)

Interesting idea, but still a want.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Confidence & Consistency Reforming Jets Lineup

With his 15th goal on the season last night, Blake Wheeler extended his career point total to 54 - good enough to tie him for 33rd in league scoring.

Maybe it's not that significant that Wheeler is 33rd in the league, but the fact that he is tied with the likes of Corey Perry (33 goals, 21 assists) and Henrik Zetterberg (15 goals, 39 assists) puts him into some very highly esteemed company (not to mention Wheeler's 39 assists is good enough for 12th place tie with Martin St. Louis, Ray Whitney, Eric Staal, and Zetterberg)

Even if he stumbles in an interview with TSN's Sara Orlesky after the game, Wheeler has shown on-ice maturity that has started to take hold in the Jets room.

"I like the fact we didn’t get demoralized when we gave up a goal with thirty-five (35) seconds left in the second period." Claude Noel said in his post-game press conference last night.

"That was good. We were very resilient coming back into the third period and just playing." (Winnipeg Free Press, 03/05/2012)

Ask any Jet earlier in the season what the room and mood was like after a late period goal or any late deflating goal and the answer would probably be more negative than positive.

Not to be outdone, the maturity reforming the Jets lineup has let to consistency.

Now to take the consistency out onto the road.

"We did a great job of taking advantage of this homestand." stated Bryan Little, who collected three assists Monday night.

"We did a great job of getting points we needed. We didn’t play easy teams. Tonight was an especially hard game and we found a way to get the two points. Hopefully we can take that on the road with us." (Winnipeg Free Press, 03/05/2012)

Handfuls of Jets are having career seasons - showing the maturing process first hand.

Evander Kane has posted a career high in goals so far with 26, Wheeler keeps on adding to his career year point total, while Dustin Byfuglien is operating around a .80 point per game clip this season.

Not to be outdone, Andrew Ladd is showing that last year's 29 goals was not a mistake, Ondrej Pavelec has been solid with a career year in wins, and Little is finally showing signs of the player who scored 31 goals three seasons ago.

"They did a really good job of pouring everything into the game and to me it's evident, the passion that they are playing with and we're getting rewarded for that." commented Noel about the Jets resurgence in the third period and throughout the latter half of the season. (WinnipegJets.com, 03/05/2012)

As for the recent young teams to capture Stanley Cups in Pittsburgh and Chicago, the growing years were the most painful - as evidenced in Atlanta.

Now, in Winnipeg, in their first year in the MTS Centre, that youth and raw skill is slowly turning into confidence and consistency that shows great signs and paths for the future.

Friday, February 3, 2012

No Third Period Relapses Here


When watching the third period of yesterday's 2-1 Winnipeg Jets overtime victory against the Tampa Bay Lightning, I couldn't help but notice that the Jets have been a team that has played some solid hockey in the final frame thus far after the All-Star break.

And on the road to boot.

Sure, Victor Hedman scored the game tying goal midway through the final frame, but the Jets didn't collapse as they have been prone to do, especially on the road.

Tampa outshot the Jets 10-8 in the final frame, but still the Jets managed to get at least one point heading to extra time, where Kyle Wellwood ended it with his first game winning goal in over a year.

It seems the returns of Dustin Byfuglien and Alexander Burmistrov were the spark the Jets needed to cure their third period relapses on the road.

Not only are the Jets now 7-4-2 against Southeast Divisional opponents, they improve their dismal road record with another important win against an Eastern Conference team - this time one that is behind them trying to make up ground.

Having played the most games in the Eastern Conference (52) besides the Ottawa Senators (53) and cellar dwelling Carolina Hurricanes (53), the Jets have started their second half with the urgency that they needed in their game.

With players such as Byfuglien and Burmistrov coming back from injury, the situation turns into a blessing.

Maybe this team will reverse the fortunes of last season and the relapse in winning has already come and gone.

We all remember last season when the Atlanta Thrashers tanked the season in the new year.

Granted, the Jets are only 5-8-1 in 2012 so far and now 24-22-6 good enough for tenth in the East, but the sense of resurgence cannot be lost on the fans or the players.

"We dug ourselves a bit of a hole in January and we came out of it and realized we were still in the race." admitted Kyle Wellwood, the hero Thursday night.

"It's a tight one; there's teams creeping up behind us and we're creeping up on teams, too. We're focussed on if we can get to that long stretch of home games -- I don't know when it is exactly but it's coming up -- if we can get somewhere near that top eight when we go into that stretch, then there’s no reason we can't be in it until the end." (courtesy Winnipeg Free Press, 02/02/2012)

This road trip has a now or never attitude and hopefully the Jets can make the best of it.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Urgency Fuels Jets In Second Half Start

Bryan Little's goal in the third round of the shootout Tuesday night capped off a hard earned two points on the road.

Not only was it a hard earned point in a building other than MTS Centre - which has been the achilles heel of the team thus far this season - but it was a moral victory to come out of the All-Star break with a win to start things off.

Chris Thorburn netted his first goal as a Jet and it couldn't come at a better time - when the Jets were down 1-0.

Urgency fuelled all four lines to play a tight checking game against the run-and-gun offense of the powerful Philadelphia Flyers.

Add to that the notable absence's of Evander Kane, Dustin Byfulgien, Tim Stapleton, and Alexander Burmistrov and the Jets not only won a hard road game but they won it with a very real and palpable determination.

Call-ups Spencer Machacek and Aaron Gagnon provided fourth line checking, hustle, and grit while the GST line provided what they always provide - a solid performance shift after shift of being matched against the other team's top lines.

Ondrej Pavelec redeemed himself in the final January contest after a dismal month record wise.

He finishes January with a 3-5-1 record along with a 2.75 goals against average and a .896 save percentage.

Limping out of January, urgency needs to fuel the 23-22-6 Jets, who after the win in Philly sit in 10th three points back of Florida - who is in action Wednesday night and four points back of division leaders the Washington Capitals.

It's a real predicament that the Jets are on the outside at this point, but also a blessing that they are only four points out of the division lead at the same time.

With a few healthy bodies back in the lineup - most notably Byfuglien - the Jets urgency can be jacked up a notch as the trade deadline is now only 26 days away.

Here's to forgetting any history in Atlanta and making new strides in Winnipeg.

Let's hope a 8-14-4 road record improves again Thursday in Tampa Bay.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Jets Better Off Without All-Star Representative

Many fans think the NHL has snubbed the city of Winnipeg and it's beloved new Jets for not having at least one player going to the All-Star game, but to be honest the team is better off without sending a player to Ottawa.

Looking down the roster, there are other teams who will not have any veterans in the lineup - including the New Jersey Devils, despite sending two rookies Adam Larsson and Adam Henrique.

Jets fans can look at the lineup and claim that the Ottawa Senators are over-respresented with Jason Spezza, Daniel Alfredsson, Milan Michalek, and Erik Karlsson all playing in the game.

But remember that Spezza (50 points), Alfredsson (38 points), and Karlsson (47 points) all have more points than Jets leading scorer Blake Wheeler (33 points), while Michalek has 23 goals.

In short, they may have been voted in by fans not by their play, but they still deserve to be there.

Does any Jet really deserve to be there based on their play this season?

Blake Wheeler, Toby Enstrom, and Ondrej Pavelec may be the leading candidates in that regard.

Wheeler leads the team with 33 points (nine goals, 24 assists) and was a +10 before the Jets started their nose dive going into the All-Star break.

Despite being injured and only having played 30 games this season, Enstrom has tried to fill the gap left by Dustin Byfuglien - the Jets only named All-Star - and for a time Zach Bogosian with 19 points (four goals and 15 assists), including a three game goal scoring streak.

And for Pavelec - the runaway so far for team MVP - his numbers are not comparable to the best goalies that are going to All-Star Game as he sports a 2.84 goals against average (the next closest goals against average from any All-Star goalie is Carey Price at 2.41) and a .909 save percentage to go with a 16-17-6 record.

To be honest, the Jets don't have the All-Star calibre lineup they need to send a player that deserves to be there.

And for a team that had promise going into 2012 and out of a great December of wins, the team deserves to not send an All-Star to the game because they need to focus on bigger and better things for the back half of the schedule.

Right now, the farthest thing the Jets need to ponder is the All-Star Game in Ottawa.

They need to fight for their playoff lives.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Lightning Doesn't Strike MTS Centre


Call it what you will, but the Winnipeg Jets brought their "A" game to the hangar on Monday night against a very difficult and stingy opponent.

At the end of the night, they had their sixth win of the season and two points in the bag.

The best part of the game was not the fact that the Jets had goals from five different players, but that it was a complete 60 minute effort from start to finish.

As a sort of reward, the Jets Skills Competition added to a seemingly relaxed and calmed team - a team that has finally shown what it is capable of on it's best days.

To that point is the emergence and necessity of a good game via defenseman Dustin Byfuglien.

Without his "A" game, the Jets are not a good team.

With it, they are almost unstoppable.

Every team has that lightning rod that sparks the offense and drives a team to win and the Jets lighting rod is #33 on the blueline.

The upstart of Evander Kane, who leads the team with six goals this season - the sixth one coming Monday night - is another positive step.

Watching the Skills Competition gave fans and possibly coaches and players a possibility to take a step back and really see what we have here in Winnipeg.

The Jets have a young core that needs to stay intact for the long haul if they are to be competitive.

This is a team of the future, not the present (as of yet), and the fans and organization is and must continue to treat the team as such.

From Kane, Bryan Little, and Byfuglien to Alexander Burmistrov, Andrew Ladd, Zach Bogosian, and Ondrej Pavelec, this team has the essentials to create a winning franchise that is capable of winning in the season and the playoffs once there.

Experience and leadership comes from the likes of Ladd and Byfulgien (two Stanley Cup rings), while the speed, skill, and size comes from the crew supporting the rest - Bogosian, Burmistrov, Little, etc.

If the Skills Competition showed Jets fans and brass anything it's this: We have one good hockey team.


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Saturday, November 12, 2011

Jets Fall To Lowly Jackets


The Winnipeg Jets' struggles continue as they fell to the lowliest team in the NHL as Ryan Johansen, a healthy scratch for their last game, scored twice as the Jets lost 2-1.

Mark Stuart responded with the only tally for the Jets shorthanded for his second with under five minutes left.

Despite the 36 shots on goal by the Jets, none could make it past Steve Mason.

Evander Kane led the team in shots with five, while Alexander Burmistrov had four.

Dustin Byfuglien led the team in ice time with 26:19, Zach Bogosian had 25:41 of ice time, Bryan Little had 20:45, Andrew Ladd had 20:36, and Nik Antropov had 20:16.

The Jets power play went 0-for-5 on the night while losing the faceoff battle and the hitting game.

Ondrej Pavelec stopped 25 of 27 shots on the night.

Jets play next on Monday against the Tampa Bay Lightning at home.


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Friday, November 11, 2011

Jets Fall Flat Back At Home To Panthers 5-2


It was another former Chicago Blackhawk that had the big night on the scoresheet Thursday night at MTS Centre as the Florida Panthers came into Winnipeg and took two points away from the hometown Jets.

Kris Versteeg scored the game's opening two goals and added an empty netter for his first hat trick of his NHL career as the Panthers came away with a 5-2 victory when it was all said and done.

The game featured a number of players from the now dismantled 2010 Stanley Cup champions, including Jets captain Andrew Ladd, Jets defenseman Dustin Byfuglien, Panthers forwards Tomas Kopecky and Versteeg, as well as Panther defenseman Brian Campbell.

Also scoring for the road team was Jason Garrison and Mike Santorelli.

On the board for the hometown Jets were Tim Stapleton with his first as a Jet on the power play and Andrew Ladd with his fourth of the campaign.

The Panthers had leads of 2-0 after one and 4-0 after two before the Jets forced their way back into the game in the third with two quick goals by Stapleton and Ladd in the first six minutes of the final frame.

Ondrej Pavelec made eleven saves on 15 shots and was sat for the final frame as Peter Mannino made his Jets debut, stopping all four shots he faced in the third period.

The Jets outshot the Panthers in the final period by a 17-4 margin, but Jose Theodore ended up stopping 25 of 27 on the night for the win.

The Panthers went two-for-five on the powerplay while the Jets went one-for-three on the man advantage.

Mark Stuart was the only Jet who finished with a plus rating (plus one) over 18:16 of ice time.

Dustin Byfuglien logged 24:44 of ice time to lead the Jets. Zach Bogosian logged 24:22, Johnny Oduya logged 22:29, Alexander Burmistrov logged 19:46, and Evander Kane logged 18:55.

Bryan Little was excellent in the faceoff circle, winning 15 of 20 draws on the night, while Jim Slater won seven of fourteen and Burmistrov won eight of fifteen.

Slater had a game high six shots on net, while Byfuglien had four.

The Jets now go back on the road for a meeting with the lowly Columbus Blue Jackets and former Jet and Jacket head coach Scott Arniel Saturday night.


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Sunday, November 6, 2011

Rangers Shutout Jets in Big Apple 3-0


Marian Gaborik singlehandedly beat the Winnipeg Jets Sunday night, with three points, including two goals, en route to a 3-0 win over the Jets.

Martin Biron, who has started both games for the Rangers against the Jets, stopped all 23 shots against him in the win.

Derek Stepan's power play marker at 10:01 of the second period proved to be the game winner.

Gaborik made it 2-0 8:31 into the third and then iced the game with an empty netter with two seconds left.

Ondrej Pavelec stopped 24 of 26 shots for the loss.

Mark Stuart did dress for the game and played only 18:05.

Zach Bogosian led all Jets in ice time with a season high 29:47, while Paul Postma only played three shifts all night.

Ben Maxwell had only three shifts as well while Tim Stapleton only had seven shifts for 6:49 of ice time.

Kyle Wellwood, Alexander Burmistrov, Dustin Byfuglien, and Evander Kane were all minus two on the night.

Jets now focus on the last game of their road trip in Buffalo on Tuesday.


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Saturday, November 5, 2011

Jets Grab Important Point In 3-2 OT Loss To Devils

Mark Flood made quite the impression Saturday night in only his second Winnipeg Jets game with a goal and an assist.

Flood's first career goal in his eighth career NHL game was a big one as it got the Jets on the board 6:43 into the third period.

Later on, he would chip in with an assist on Jim Slater's tying goal that would send the game to overtime.

Despite Flood's two point night, it would be New Jersey Devils rookie Adam Henrique, who would have a two point game of his own, that stole the show with two goals, including the winner in overtime as the Devils took the game 3-2.

Patrik Elias also scored for Jersey.

Slater scored his fifth goal of the season at 17:15 of the third. Slater's career high in goals is 11, which he scored in 2009-10 with Atlanta.

Dustin Byfuglien also figured in offensively with two assists - his fourth and fifth of the season.

Zach Bogosian led all Jets and players in the game in ice time with 26:25, with a -1 rating, one shot, one blocked shot, and four hits.

Byfuglien had 25:01 of ice time, Evander Kane had 24:07, Blake Wheeler had 22:40 with a +1 rating, and Alexander Burmistrov had 22:40.

Flood had 19:44 of ice time with a +1 rating and two shots.

Ondrej Pavelec stopped 25 of 28 shots in the loss.

The Jets now turn around to play at Madison Square Gardens tomorrow against the New York Rangers at 6:00 PM CT.



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Friday, November 4, 2011

Jets Shutout Islanders on the Island 3-0

Ondrej Pavelec stopped 34 shots and the Winnipeg Jets and their starting goalie captured their first shutout of the season as the Jets blanked the New York Islanders 3-0 Thursday night.

Evander Kane continued his great play, scoring his fifth of the season at 4:21 of the first period on a great second and third effort which resulted in the puck finally eluding Islanders goalie Rick DiPietro.

Kane's goal would hold up as the only goal until Johnny Oduya would score his first goal on a shot from the right side that careened off an Islanders defender and behind DiPietro for a 2-0 Jets lead at 16:04.

Alexander Burmistrov would ice the game with an empty netter at 17:44.

Kane would finish the night with a goal and an assist - which puts him at eight points in eleven games this season, with all of those points coming in the last six games.

It was Kane's third multi-point night of the season.

Johnny Oduya was also figuring into the scoring with a goal and an assist as he was thrust into more action with the absence of Tobias Enstrom.

Oduya had 22:07 of ice time last night. His points in the game were his first since October 13th against Chicago. He finished a season-high +2.

Kyle Wellwood continued his consistent play with his fourth assist of the season. He now has nine points (five goals, four assists) in twelve games.

Nik Antropov, Burmistrov, and Kane all finished with +3 ratings, while Dustin Byfuglien and Oduya finished as +2.

Byfuglien played a team high 23:40 of ice time, while Zach Bogosian played 22:54, Oduya 22:07, and Brett Festerling 19:05.

Randy Jones had played a team high 18:55 before taking a slapshot off the leg early in the third period.

Mark Flood played 13:41.

Bryan Little won 12 of 18 faceoffs, Burmistrov three of three, Antropov two of six, and Jim Slater five of fourteen.

Jets are back in action Saturday night against the New Jersey Devils.


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Thursday, November 3, 2011

Jets Defensive Injuries Cues First AHL Re-Call

While Tobias Enstrom is back in Winnipeg amidst the Jets longest road trip of the season, the Jets have gone to the bullpen to help their ailing defensive core.

With Ron Hainsey and Derek Meech already on the shelf for a while now, there is the potential that Mark Stuart will not suit up Thursday night in Long Island due to an undisclosed upper body injury.

Knowing Stuart's defensive style - the shot blocking, hard nosed type - a game off would do his body good in recovering for the remainder of the Jets seven game road trip.

Having four of their top seven defenseman out of the lineup now, the Jets have their first AHL call ups from the rock in Newfoundland - Brett Festerling and Mark Flood.

Flood is the first ex-Manitoba Moose to return to Winnipeg in the NHL.

The former sixth round pick of the Montreal Canadiens in 2003 has played in eleven games for the Jets affiliate Ice Caps, collecting one goal and six assists, along with a +4 rating.

Festerling has also played in eleven games, with four points (one goal, three assists) with a +1 rating.

The Jets defensive core that may start in Long Island now stands with Dustin Byfuglien, Zach Bogosian, Johnny Oduya, Randy Jones, Festerling, and Flood.

Stuart is listed as day-to-day and is possibly a game time decision.

Head coach Claude Noel said that there is a possibility that Hainsey would be back by the weekend or after the weekend when asked about his veteran defenseman.

Enstrom will likely miss the remainder of the road trip, but Noel did disclose that his injury was not concussion related.


Sources:
TSN1290.ca


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Monday, October 24, 2011

Rangers 2, Jets 1


Despite outshooting the Rangers 28-17, the Jets were not able to come back Monday night at the MTS Centre.

Ruslan Fedotenko would open the scoring at 5:51 of the second period on the power play.

The Jets would be able to tie the game with a nifty wrist shot short side by Nik Antropov at 14:29.

The Rangers would get the go-ahead and winning goal at 8:41 of the third period on a power play goal by Ryan Callahan that careened off Zach Bogosian's skate and behind Chris Mason.

Besides the two power play goals the Rangers had, the Rangers had five power play chances while the Jets had only one chance on the power play for the night.

Mason stopped 15 of 17 shots on the night in goal.

Tobias Enstrom led all Jets in ice time with 26:14, Dustin Byfuglien 23:32, Bogosian 22:14, Burmistrov 21:44, and Bryan Little 20:52.

Little won 12 of 19 faceoffs, Antropov won 11 of 20 faceoffs, and Tim Stapleton won two of six faceoffs.

The Jets will now embark on a seven game road trip starting Thursday in Philadelphia.


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Sunday, October 23, 2011

Jets Down 'Canes 5-3


It was another slow start for the Jets, but this time, they followed it up with a more than strong finish.

Propelled by five unanswered goals between the second half of the first period and the entire second period, the Jets won their second game in a row on home ice 5-3 over their divisional rivals the Carolina Hurricanes Saturday night.

The Jets and starter Ondrej Pavelec found themselves down 2-0 very quickly on a weak first goal by Jussi Jokinen and then another goal by Jeff Skinner prompting head coach Claude Noel to shake things up.

Chris Mason would relieve Pavelec not even seven minutes into the game, as Pavelec allowed two goals on the first five Carolina shots.

Alexander Burmistrov would get the Jets on the board with a highlight reel power play goal that found the roof of the net on Carolina starter Brian Boucher's glove side.

With time running out in the first period, Kyle Wellwood found the puck at the side of the net with under a second remaining to tie the game after one period 2-2.

In the second, the Jets would continue to pressure Carolina. After outshooting them 13-6 in the first period, the Jets would only get six shots at Boucher in the second but half of their shots made their way to the back of the Hurricanes net.

Jim Slater would net his third of the season from Tanner Glass, as Slater would wrist a shot past Boucher's shoulder for a 3-2 Jets lead.

Nearly two minutes later, captain Andrew Ladd would score his second on a weird bounce off the board that he took a swipe at near the blueline. The puck fooled Boucher and found the back of the net to give the Jets a 4-2 lead.

Evander Kane would make it 5-2 at 7:30 of the third when he finally potted his first of the season from in tight, being the recipient of the great work by Nik Antropov behind the net.

The 'Canes would respond with a goal midway through the third period, but the damage was done as the Jets came away with a 5-3 victory giving them a 2-4-1 record, good enough for five points on the season.

Chris Mason stopped 18 of 19 shots after replacing Pavelec and was honoured with the first star selection.

Antropov, Zach Bogosian, and Wellwood would finish the night with two points apiece.

Antropov was seven of 13 in the faceoff circle, while Bryan Little was 12 of 18, Slater was three of six, and Maxwell was seven of eight.

Mark Scheifele played only nine shifts for 7:21 of ice time. It seems he may only be playing nine games this season for sure now.

Tobias Enstrom led the Jets in shots with five and ice time playing 27:12. Dustin Byfuglien played 23:39, Bogosian 20:56, Oduya 20:17, Little 20:05, and Ladd 20:03.

Despite being banged up from the Senators game Thursday, Ladd's goal would stand up as the winner. In addition to his goal and 20:03 of ice time, Ladd had three shots, three hits, and won all three faceoffs he took during his 23 shifts.

Jets now prepare for the New York Rangers Monday night.

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Friday, October 21, 2011

Nothing Doing In Ontario For Jets

It was another off-night for the Winnipeg Jets in their sixth game of the season.

For the third time in three games the Jets managed to score the opening goal, but for the second time in three games, they did not manage to keep the lead stand up.

Many knew that scoring was an issue for the team last season in Atlanta and this season scoring has also been a problem in the early going.

Maybe it isn't scoring - maybe it's the lack of an identity yet.

We are talking about being only six games into the season - so please put away the panic button, it's unnecessary at this time.

What the Jets truly need is an identity which they can fix their focus around for the season.

I look back and watch the same team in Atlanta last season and I can see that they were starting to form an identity with GM Rick Dudley and head coach Craig Ramsay at the helm.

They wanted to change the atmosphere and perception of the franchise, however, they came in with changes a few years too late.

Now that True North is putting their stamp on the Jets, they are going through another - shall we say 'identity crisis'.

With Claude Noel and staff being the third coaching staff many of these players have had the past three seasons, the adjustment needs to be made quickly, but the mindset of the players needs to be that these coaches are here for the long run this time.

There's a sense of commitment there.

A sense of community.

But also a sense of accountability in the locker room between coaches and players.

So, once again, put away the panic button and no - Dustin Byfuglien will not be a forward this season, so stop talking about it - it's not going to happen.

Two games here at home in the confines of the MTS Centre and then the Jets go on an extensive seven game road trip before they are back in Winnipeg November 10th.

And it isn't a walk in the park, as the Jets will meet the likes of the Philadelphia Flyers, the Tampa Bay Lightning, the Buffalo Sabres, and the New York Rangers.

This will be the early season identity crisis test and hopefully our boys come back better off than worse off.

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