Jets Need to Go Through Cup Window
By Patrick Hoffman
The Winnipeg Jets have been one of the NHL's most consistent clubs over the last few seasons.
They usually end up near the top of both the Central Division and NHL Standings, they are a team that is tough to play against, they have a great offense, and when he is on his game, they have a great goaltender in Connor Hellebuyck.
With that said, however, the Stanley Cup Playoffs have been a much different story for them. They lost the streaking St. Louis Blues in the first round last season, lost in the Western Conference Finals in 2017, and in 2016, they failed to make the postseason.
At the most important time of the year, the Jets have failed to rise to the occasion. That needs to change this season if they want to continue to give themselves a chance to win the Cup.
For starters, they need a bounce back season from Hellebuyck, Yes, he had 34 wins and two shutouts last season, but his 2.90 goals-against average and .913 save percentage certainly are not what we expected from him last year.
Hellebuyck, 26, needs to cut down on the number of soft goals he allows and at the same time, needs to get back to being consistent. When Hellebuyck is on top of his game, it makes the guys in front of him play with a lot of confidence and ends up leading to more wins.
Speaking of keeping the puck out of the net, the defense in front of Hellebuyck needs to be a bit better this upcoming season. They were 15th in the league last year in goals allowed so that needs to change this year.
Unfortunately for the team's backend, they no longer have Jacob Trouba (now with the New York Rangers) or Tyler Myers (Vancouver Canucks. This means the club will have to rely on Dustin Byfuglien, Neal Pionk, Dmitry Kulikov, Josh Morrissey, and whoever else ends up rounding out the teams defensive corps to stand tall this season.
Offensively, the team needs a more consist season out of 21-year-old Patrik Laine. His future with the club may be uncertain, but it does not take away from the fact that he struggled last season.
Laine finished last season with 50 points on 30 goals and 20 assists. While those numbers may look decent, he was extremely inconsistent last year and because of that, his numbers were way down as it was his lowest point total in his three seasons in the league.
Speaking of Laine, the rest of the team's offense will need to continue to be one of the best in the league. With an offense that consists of guys like Blake Wheeler (20 goals and 71 assists for 91 points last season), Mark Scheifele (38 goals and 46 assists for 84 points last season), Kyle Connor (30 goals and 20 assists for 50 points), Bryan Little (15 goals and 26 assists for 41 points last season), putting the puck in the net should not be an issue this upcoming season.
The regular season should not be a problem for the Jets. All they need to do is transfer the success they have in the regular season to when it matters most.
I know that is easier said than done, but it is something they must do if they want to give themselves every opportunity to win the Cup because sooner or later, their window is going to close and major changes will need to be made.
Patrick covers the NHL for The Ultimate Hockey Fan Cave.
He has previously covered the league for WTP Sports, Sportsnet.ca, Kukla’s Korner, Spector’s Hockey, NHL Network Radio blog, TheHockeyNews.com, The Fourth Period, Stan Fischler’s “The Fischler Report”, as well as a slew of others.