It’s finally Christmas. With families around the globe opening presents and enjoying time together, it’s a great time of year. There are many traditions that fall in line with Christmas and one of them is opening gifts. Almost everyone has written a wish list to Santa at one time or another with a list of toys or other items that they hope to find under the tree on Christmas morning.
The Winnipeg Jets are no different in that regard. I’m sure they all have a unique list of items they hope to unwrap this morning. With the Jets struggling over the past week, let’s take a look at what the team really needs for Christmas this year.
First and foremost, the team needs health. While this is a tough ask from Santa Claus, the Jets desperately need to get healthy. Progress has been made with both Gabriel Bourque and Mason Appleton returning, but the team is still missing two thirds of their dominant third line in Mathieu Perreault and Andrew Copp. On the backend, Dimitri Kulikov is still out while Sami Niku can’t even be called up because he’s also injured.
It’s been a tough season on the injury front and the team is hoping that the Christmas break can help heal some bodies.
Secondly, the team needs a new penalty kill under the tree. After allowing four powerplay goals in their last four games, the Jets have slid all the way down to 73.3% on the penalty kill this year. That’s the third worst percentage in the entire league. The only two teams that are below the Jets are the Los Angeles Kings and the Detroit Red Wings, both of which are basement dwellers in their respective conferences.
It’s hard to pinpoint exactly why the Jets are so bad on the PK. For one, they allow zone entries far too easily. There is little pressure at the line and teams are routinely able to set up their attack. The other issue is that Winnipeg struggles with cross-ice passes. While they are able to deflect a few of them away, they often allow quick passes along the top which causes the defense to rotate. That rotation also opens up other lanes which teams exploit to create a dangerous chance.
Take the Montreal Canadiens powerplay goal from Monday night as an example.
Montreal ties things up on a power play of their own thanks to Thomas Tatar. pic.twitter.com/1bsZEPbQL9
— JetsNation (@NHLJetsNation) December 24, 2019
As the pass goes to the far boards, both Kyle Connor and Blake Wheeler are in a straight line. This poor structure gives way to a wide open passing lane as everyone watches the player with the puck. Thomas Tatar starts to sneak a little bit closer to the net, but nobody sees that because they are all watching the puck. Connor misses on the pass deflection and Nathan Beaulieu is too slow to recognize the pass coming across. This leaves Tatar plenty of time to control the puck and fire a shot past Laurent Brossoit who was also taken by surprise with the cross-ice pass.
Here’s hoping that Paul Maurice wakes up and finds a new penalty kill plan in his stocking.
Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, the Jets are really hoping that there’s a brand new #33 jersey to unwrap. The Jets defense has been relatively poor all season long, but it’s started to catch up with them in the last while. The Jets need at least one more capable defensemen, someone who can play top four minutes and clear out the crease to help the goalies. Dustin Byfuglien sounds like the perfect match for what the team needs.
While some people think it’s a longshot, the best present that Winnipeg could receive this Christmas is Dustin Byfuglien getting healthy and making his return to the organization.
Nobody knows if or when that might happen, but that would be the best gift that Winnipeg could ask for.
From all the people at Jetsnation, we want to wish you a very Merry Christmas and a happy holiday season!