When I was young (I mean, younger than I am now) I was told that any good news item asked “the five W’s” – Who, What, When, Where and Why.
We already know the When (last night), the Who (Winnipeg Jets) and the Where (Bell MTS Place where by the way the Jets have lost four of their last five games). The things I struggle with this morning are the Why (and as Paul Maurice explains below, he didn’t seem to know why either) and the What. So as we think back to last night, I thought it would be good just just stick to that one word and try and figure out what went wrong against the Los Angeles Kings.
What the heck was THAT start?!
— Scott Billeck (@ScottBilleck) October 23, 2019
It’s an 82 game schedule and even the best teams are not going to be sharp every single period of every single game. I get that. But the start of that game against the Kings was worse than butt ugly which considering the last three games the Jets have had where they’ve been steadily better each time out, it was almost jarring to watch and it was against the Los Angeles Kings who were 3-5-0 coming into the game and to borrow a phrase from Drew Doughty, a team like that should not be outplaying a team like ours.
If not for Connor Hellebuyck, the game is over after the first 15 minutes.
Maybe the most comical part of the game was that midway through the first period with his team having taken two lazy penalties and a ton of shots against, head coach Paul Maurice had to smile and wave for the fans as they acknowledged his 700th career victory when what he probably wanted to do was have a mini-freak out on his sleepy hockey club.
What did we just see? 55 and 26… Finally separated?
Look, I love Mark Scheifele and Blake Wheeler is a fantastic captain and they’ve easily been the Jets two best players over the last two seasons, but splitting them up was long overdue. We’ve been asking for it for a while.
So not only is it encouraging to see Paul Maurice get that line blender out and put Nikolaj Ehlers with Scheifele and Patrik Laine, while bumping Wheeler down to a line with Kyle Connor and Bryan Little, but after the game it sounds like PoMo is open to doing it more often.
— Ken Wiebe (@WiebeAthletic) October 23, 2019
It should be stated that this doesn’t have to be put on Blake Wheeler at all. Granted he hasn’t been good the last three games – something he was freely admitting last night – but as we’ve been saying for months now it takes the two best players on this team and “spreads” the wealth and gives opposing teams something else to think about. We all know what the Jets have in Wheeler and Scheifele but teams haven’t really had to deal with Scheifele and Ehlers as a tandem, especially this new and improved Ehlers we’ve seem to have been blessed with early on this season.
I’m all about silver linings and if a putrid start to the game helped accelerate Paul Maurice’s decision to mix up lines, then that’s a heck of a silver lining I can live with.
What were the refs thinking not calling “too many men”?
I know this will shock you, but the refs might have missed a call…
— The Last Jeti (@The_Last_Jeti) October 23, 2019
This was the breakaway that was stopped by Hellebuyck, but seconds later lead to the second Kings goal on the night as the Jets defense couldn’t quite recover from the breakdown. Was it “too many men”? In real time I felt it was way too close to call and even with the still frame evidence, I don’t know if that should be called. The Jets bench at that moment thought different of course.
This is where I am going to preach though that every game can and will feature missed calls, sometimes for both teams. It just happens and honestly in a game like this, a potential missed call like this still feels a bit inconsequential to a game in which the Jets played pretty bad hockey for a little over half of it.
Not ideal, but not a play I am going to lose sleep over either.
What is up with Josh Morrissey?
Are the Jets putting too much of the work load Josh Morrisey? They kind of don’t have much of a choice right now, but Josh has struggled at times this season and last night was another example of it.
It’s worth pointing out his main partner last night was Dmitry Kulikov and that’s an issue of it’s own, but some of the numbers from last night’s game would suggest that Morrissey struggled no matter who his partner was. He was on the ice for eight high danger scoring chances against and his xGF% was 26.40% which was by far the worst of the six Jets defensemen.
Morissey has felt like a bit of a mixed bag this season with one game up and the next game being poor and the Jets need him to find a more consistent level of play going forward or else they may want to double-down on their efforts to bring back Dustin Byfuglien.
What do the Jets have in Pionk and Heinola?
At the moment it would seem they have a pair of decent puck moving defensemen who will struggle in their own end of the ice. Neal Pionk does mostly because his decision making defensively in his own end can be questionable at times, and Villie Heinola struggles in the physical side of things as he’s getting worked off of and beaten to loose pucks – which you’d expect from an under-developed 18 year old.
I keep saying it about Pionk, but it’s likely because our expectations were so low of him that we’ve been pleasantly surprised. He actually reminds me a bit of Tobias Enstrom on the power play although Neal doesn’t seem to hesitate to shoot which at times can be to his detriment since it’s a shot that can easily be blocked and go back the other way. Still, we’re starting to see a benefit to his wrist shots from the point as teammates like Nik Ehlers get more comfortable with deflecting it.
The Jets will still have to figure out what they are going to do with Heinola, and maybe it’s just me wanting to brace for the inevitable, but I do see value in sending him down to the AHL for the season and keeping him stashed away until next year. There is some development that needs to happen and while I get the argument that the NHL may be the best place to do it, there is the matter of burning a year on his contract and speeding up just how quickly he becomes an unrestricted free agent.
Heinola is a player I think the Jets can build a defense around for years to come, waiting one extra season – which is something we all thought would have to happen anyway – may not be the worst thing in the world even if he’s better than three other players on the Jets right now.