What do the Winnipeg Jets need to improve?

Winnipeg Jets' Kyle Connor (81) celebrates his goal with teammates Nikolaj Ehlers (27), Pierre-Luc Dubois (13), Blake Wheeler (26) and Neal Pionk (4) during third period NHL Stanley Cup hockey action against the Montreal Canadiens, in Winnipeg, Wednesday, June 2, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/John Woods

We here at The Airport Lounge are pretty bullish on the Winnipeg Jets for the upcoming 2022 season. That doesn’t mean we haven’t retained some good ol’ fashion Winnipeg skepticism. Our last article was intentionally a bit hyperbolic, but rooted in the belief that this team is very talented. Talent is one thing, but actualizing that talent is another (I’m looking at you Zach Bogosian).

Here is what needs to happen for the Winnipeg Jets to operate in the elite circles of the NHL this year:

1) Our forwards need to be better. Hard hitting analysis, I know. Specifically, they need to be better defensively. What do Mark Scheifele, Kyle Conner, and now Blake Wheeler all have in common (other than a penchant for glorious hockey salad)? They don’t seem particularly interested in playing 200 feet of hockey. Stats like Corsi, Fenwick, Expected Goals, and PDO are not as predictive as we might like, but they are a good measure of a player’s overall value – and these guys were all below average last year. That is why every sane and rational Jet’s fan (which is an oxymoron) seethes at the prospect of this line being paired up against other top lines in the league (Connor McDavid owns real estate in Scheifele’s head).

It is not intellectual pablum to point out that their defensive metrics were not aided by the JV defensive squad we dressed last year. However, nothing explains the disinterest these players (and others – I’m looking at you too Ehlers) routinely show on the defensive end.

2) Pierre Luc Dubois needs to be better. Once again – hard hitting. Patrick Laine was a lot of things, but unpopular is not one of them. “Hat Trick” Laine (never liked that one) could singlehandedly change the outcome of a game with his transcendent shooting. When he was dealt to the Blue Jackets there was trepidation that we had acquiesced to a trade demand, rather than sought out, and landed the best deal.

Enter Pierre Luc-Dubois. He’s big, he’s a centre, he skates well, has good hockey awareness, but for whatever reason, he always seemed a step behind last year – or prone to a giveaway. Dubois was recently quoted as saying that he had not conditioned properly prior to last season, and was looking forward to being in better shape to start this season. Firstly, let’s hope so. Secondly, really?! I do enjoy when professional athletes openly admit that they failed to do the one thing they get paid to do. Regardless, he is a big key to the Jets success.

3) Our coach needs to be better. You know the drill. I have articulated my full thoughts on Paul Maurice here: https://thefhn.net/some-people-call-me-maurice. With this roster, we should good. Kevin Cheveldayoff has plugged the holes that needed plugging, and basically dummy-proofed this roster. Time will tell if Paul Maurice is John Cleese or Kevin Klein.

4) Advanced statistics are like TikTok videos – succinct, trendy, and nowhere near a perfect representation of reality. That said, they are very good at backing up what you can see on the ice. Case in point: the Winnipeg Jets won a bunch of games last year by converting on good scoring opportunities (we have elite scorers), and stopping high danger chances of the opponent (we have a good goalie). The Jets did both of these things at an unsustainable rate. How do we know? There is a ‘Stat For That’ (not affiliated with Apple or Apple products). ‘AxDiff’ is a representation of the actual goal differential minus expected goal differential. A positive AxDiff means that a team is converting or stopping an inordinate amount of good chances compared to league average. The Winnipeg Jets led the NHL in AxDiff at +33. AxDiff traditionally is attributed to great shooters, a prolific goalie, or my worry…just blind luck. Let’s hope it is not the latter.

So that’s it, the forwards, defense, and coach just need to be ‘better’. Your move Jets.


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