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Before camp opens the Jets have to address issues

September 3, 2019, 12:35 PM ET [95 Comments]
Peter Tessier
Winnipeg Jets Blogger •Winnipeg Jets Writer • RSSArchiveCONTACT
Okay enough with the August filler blogs, it's time to get down to hockey. I've been deliberately not thinking about RFAs, contracts, rosters and everything Jets for a bit so that I can make sense of where this team is, what it could be and how it will be successful.

The Twittersphere is full of information and some of it is good, some bad and some hilarious but at the end of the day we need all of it to find context about what the underlying concerns are as the Jets enter their 9th season in Winnipeg.

The only thing that should matter right now is cleaning up the mess left behind from the end of last season after the Jets were ousted in 6 games by the Blues, the eventual Stanley Cup champion. By all meaningful and relevant metrics the Winnipeg Jets were a sinking ship since Christmas 2018. They failed to drive play, they relied on too few players playing too many minutes, the diversity of the offensive attack was predictable and the transition game was suspect at times all this despite being relatively strong against the rush.

Something broke down and before looking at what to expect for this season Jets fans need to be concerned with how head coach Paul Maurice will adjust his team. The pessimist will believe that Maurice is too stubborn to change, set in his ways and trying to rule with a stern hand by fitting square pegs into round holes. The optimist will believe that Maurice has made changes in the past and because of roster changes will be forced to do so again and find success with a talented roster. The realist will probably want to wait and see because there are other variables.

Last June at the NHL entry draft I had the chance to talk to Maurice about some issues as he came out of the coaches meeting. This was the meeting where the NHL explained the rule changes that were coming this season and gave the coaches a chance to discuss them. The one that Maurice seemed to home in on was the choice of face-off side when in the offensive zone. With the option to choose what side of the ice to have the face-off the coach can play to strengths unavailable last season. As not only will a line change no happen for the defending team the coach can then pick to have that team on the side of the ice that does favour the handedness of the defending team.

It's this kind of tactical thinking that Maurice seems to enjoy and there was no lack of curiosity when he talked about variables and possible on-ice situations. It's these variables that may force him to try things he would not normally consider and those efforts may have some positive unintended consequences. Think line combinations do to the side of the ie the face off is on based on who had a shift or how a play can be set up.

This is the crux of what the Jets need to address and losing Myers, Trouba and Tanev is but one aspect of change. A change in thinking has to come from Maurice and the Jets management to figure out why the Jets nose-dived after Christmas. He/they have to figure out who and how play is driven on the team and where to best use players. Basically can the whole team be adjusted to accommodate the Wheeler-Scheifele pairing as was the case last year?

If Bryan Little remains the de facto second line center who does the team get more production from the two very talented wingers that will play with him, no matter who they are? Fans know what doesn't work, analysts know what doesn't work and the data shows what doesn't work so it's on Maurice to figure out what does work.

What becomes the former TLC line with the loss of Tanev? Is he replaced by another speedy player in Roslovic? Does Maurice even want to use the remaining two players, Copp and Lowry, in the same way this season- should he? How will the Jets get value from talented winger Kristian Vesalainen while he still has entry-level contract numbers? Will the Jets been have Laine and Connor in a uniform come training camp or opening night in New York?

The issues here are many, but at the root is a team that woefully underperformed during the second half of last season and a coach that seemed to not notice where problems were occurring despite mountains of evidence.

There will be explanations of why various decisions are made and they will likely sound smart and thoughtful, that is the nature of Maurice. However, if he is not understanding why things went awry last season and showing the curiosity to learn more to improve the start to this season might only be a continuation of last year and that's something no fan wants to see or pay for.
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