By now the masses in Winnipeg are beyond restless with the contract status of Patrik Laine and to a lesser extent Kyle Connor. It's the former who has the rumors and questions surrounding him and depending on whether you are an optimist or a pessimist today's 31 Thoughts edition may either restore your faith or sink it.
Let's take a look at what is believed
to be true about the situation.
1. The Jets finished the season and there might be problems within the locker room as it relates to either accountability, ice time, roles, and line mates. Or it might be all or some of those issues.
2. Laine may have issue or concerns with his usage by the coach and the way he is deployed with various line mates.
3. There are feathers that need to be unruffled, not sure who's.
What has also fueled the recent concerns is some tweets that are either blind squirrel finding a nut lucky guesses or a bit of some from some that have a bit of a track record of being close to right. The fact is, teams should be calling Chevy to get a sense of where things are and Chevy should be listening, that's his job. His job in this case is to get some one to grossly overpay for Laine in a way that it is a deal he cannot turn down, one that no one should turn down.
As of yet not one person, even those from Finland seem to have an inside track on what the player or the team is doing or wants. It's a void of information and that seems to be a good thing as no one is so pissed off that they leak information to prepare for the worst in a PR cold war.
Where things get strange is if you follow the logic of the 'possible' issues one two and three. If all of those are basically founded in some truth and the feathers are attached to a tall landing Finn then what does trading him do?
This leads to training camp and probably he biggest issue for the Jets heading into this season: what does Paul Maurice change to compensate for roster changes and performance woes from last season?
The point I'm trying to make here is if trading Laine is the strategic path that's chosen why is that the one instead of others, namely making adjustments to take advantage of a generational scoring talent? There are only 2-3 coaches who have had any long term success with one team in recent years, Trotz with Nashville (now gone) Babcock with Detroit (now gone) and Quenville with Chicago (now gone). They are the exceptions to the general trend of coaching job longevity on one team. Coaches are hired to be fired. Paul Maurice does not fall into that category, basically few do. They may be recycled, but they rarely last as long as those three did for one team.
It's not choosing coach over player as much as it's choosing environment over player and that's what became concerning with Friedman's comments today. Paul Maurice has helped create the environment that is built on the backs of Wheeler and Schiefele, Byfuglien and Morrissey and a select few others. If this environment, meaning the culture and player dynamics, is going to remain as it is will Laine want to adjust or will the team adjust to his unique skills?
That's the challenge that exists and it's one that has to be addressed as camp opens. It might be that nothing can be done in terms of change but would this not have been something to figure some time ago, not now?
It could also be a numbers thing to as with only 15.5 million in cap space either Laine or Connor is taking less than the other and that won't work for either. The bridge deal seems to make the most sense for both Laine and the team but given his goal scoring ability and the market what guarantees will he want should things not go right, what would the Jets want?
Again this is not choosing the player or the coach, that's not the argument. It's choosing the the player's style or the culture that has been built. That's a much tougher thing to figure out and probably why we're seeing the existing stalemate.
As for training camp the rosters have been announced and this year, there is a real chance for change and jobs to be won, or earned, coming out of training camp. What do fans think will happen this year and what might be the most desirable outcomes?
Two intriguing players who fans should hope make an impact at Tucker Poolman and David Gustafsson Poolman has show promise as a depth defender and he may not project to be anything more than 4-6 guy but this is an area the Jets need shore up and find a dependable option. With his concussion problems last year he will want to have a much better professional season and he is affordable with only a 750K salary.
Gustafsson is a player that many like and he could project to be a good 3rd line centre with upside to a second line but will he meet that projection this early? Having him show well may not be enough to secure a spot but if it gives him the option of more NHL games as a call-up that will be a very good thing.
Sami Niku will likely have to keep proving his worth still and that means taking a step forward with his play. Niku will have to bring a quicker read in his defensive play with a bit more of a direct approach to his game in his own zone. Improving on his first pass out and quick reads up the ice should be easy for him and some opportunity to play in the 'fun zone' should be there for him.
Many eyes will be on Pionk, the main piece back from the Trouba deal as few from Winnipeghave seen him play or even remember him play. For many expectations are low but perhaps he will come in knowing he's got something to prove.
Kristian Vesalainen will have pressure too after leaving the team to return to Finland and play early last season. He needs to bring improved dynamics to his game here in North America rather than relying on his success in Europe. With 4 goals and 9 assists with the Moose in 22 game last season he might be finding his game.
First round draft pick Ville Heinola has been notice in the rookie games and having a strong camp only helps his cause. That's an obvious statement but he might be at the cusp of that learning/development curve as he's had a great summer of hockey.
Finally there is the coach. Change has been forced upon Paul Maurice with the roster but likely it was something he was prepared for long before it happened. There will be eyes on him based on the forward lines and defense pairings. What adjustments will he make and how he finds roles for players with their usage. Yes this is probably the first training camp since Maurice arrived in February 2014 where it can be said, there is some heat on the coach's seat.
He has to fix a team that should have been building on the success of 2018 instead of backing into the playoffs as they did in 2019. The roster is what it is and a good coach, a capable innovative one devises a strategy and tactics to get the most out of it. With Connor and Laine on the roster the Jets are still a top level team of talent even if the blue line has some warts. Develop a system that when having possession supports the defense and pushes the pace of play towards the other end using the best of the roster.
This won't be easy but the data and information is there to work this roster into something that can compete it's question of whether the coaches tries to mold players to his style or adapt his style to best use the existing skills of the players.