Thursday, November 10, 2011

What We've Learned So Far...

After a 7 game road-trip the Jets are still trying to develop an identity

Roughly one-fifth of the way through the regular season represents a good opportunity to gauge the performance of the new Winnipeg Jets. Through 15 games, this is what the play on the ice has told us...

Tanner Glass is the Jet whose stock has risen the most among fans
The 27 year-old rugged left-winger gives the most consistent effort night-in and night-out. Glass plays hard and has just about matched his entire point production from last year in Vancouver (73 games, 3 G and 7A). Third and fourth line type players are perhaps Winnipeg's deepest strength (back-handed compliment alert!), but Glass stands out among this group and Cheveldayoff and company should be looking to sign him to a new deal before he hits unrestricted free agency next summer. We knew Mark Stuart was going to be nasty to play against. Glass has been a pleasant surprise.

Ondrej Pavelec looks like a bona fide #1 goalie
The young netminder showed flashes of brilliance his last two years in Atlanta, but after a bit of a rough start (he allowed 9 goals on his first 54 shots this year), Pavs has really found his groove, starting every game on the road-trip and turning in five stellar performances. He is absolutely capable of stealing games for this team. The traditional numbers (3.31 GAA and .896 SV%) don't look good, but for 24 minutes a night Pavelec's playing in front of only one defenceman. Which brings us to...

Dustin Byfuglien is a defenceman! Yes, he is. No really.
We know this because coach Claude Noel continues to insist on playing him there. And we've also been told that he refuses to even consider playing forward. Never mind that his blatant disregard for: staying in position, choosing his spots to pinch, back-checking, and making quick stops and starts (nobody makes bigger loops back into action) have directly resulted in a number of goals against. Apparently that is part of the "learning process" that fans and Pavelec will have to suffer through. Logic might suggest that with a shortage of offensive punch up front, Byfuglien would provide more value to this team playing forward. Clearly logic is not part of this equation.

Jets management believe in Johnny Oduya, even if you don't
Other than Byfuglien, Oduya has been the favourite whipping boy for local fans. But when Winnipeg slapped an "A" on his jersey after Enstrom and Antropov went down, it was a clear signal that Jets management believe Oduya is considerably better than his early season play had indicated. And you know what? The vote of confidence has seemed to work as Oduya has been noticeably stronger on the puck since the move.

Alex Burmistrov is talented
The 20 year-old Russian has played very well in the young season, and his shiftiness along the boards and overall puck control skills are elite. But his consistency is already a question. After a six game point streak, he has registered just a single point over his last six games. Shades of Alex Zhamnov?

Jim Slater is over-achieving (production-wise)
And no one should expect it to continue. My apologies to his agent and family, but it's true. Slater scored 5 goals in his first 11 games and is on pace for a 30-goal season. His career history suggests he is a 10 goal scorer, so even getting to 15 this year would be pushing it.

Tim Stapleton should not be playing the point on the powerplay
No matter the circumstances. Stapleton has 0 goals and 3 assists in 11 games this year and 13 points in his NHL career. He is 29. Those don't seem like the qualifications for a powerplay specialist.

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