For the uninitiated, regression to the mean is a statistical phrase used to describe when outliers, pros and cons, fall back to the average if given enough time. The Winnipeg Jets are regressing to the mean.
After last night’s debacle in Boston, the Jets find themselves almost where they always are: at .500. Precisely at .500. A year ago tomorrow, the Jets were exactly .500. The Jets have made a lot of changes this year and are fighting many injuries, so perhaps that says something, but it doesn’t say nearly enough.
After a spirited game against Chicago on Tuesday, the Jets have produced two stinkers in a row. Last night was their worst performance of the year, and Thursday’s loss against Philadelphia wasn’t much better, if at all. In both games, the Jets were fighting against teams that were significantly faster on the ice. The Jets are known for being a fast team, but Philadelphia left them in the dust in their 5-2 drubbing. Last night, the Jets were in quicksand. Poor passing. Poor transition game. Getting caught in their defensive zone. And poor goaltending. Again.
Before a full-on diatribe about the Jets performance, let’s look at what they did well. Tanev continues to fight out there for every puck, Petan continues to grow although he had a rough game last night, and Adam Lowry should be gaining consideration for the number one center. More on that later. Even Dano and Burmistrov showed some hustle and passion last night.
That’s the positive. The Negative is much longer, I am afraid.
To start, Mark Scheifele is in a slump. Although he still stands on top the NHL, Scheifele has played three horrible hockey games in a row. Even against Chicago he was awful. He isn’t skating well; he isn’t passing well; and he is coughing up the pass. He has to shake himself off and get back to where he was. Right now he looks barely AHL level. This is a major regression. He doesn’t even look confident out there. Last night he picked a pseudo fight with Patrice Bergeron and couldn’t even look Bergeron in the eye (watch the replay). He just lost some zest.
Byfuglien, similarly, is having an awful stretch. It isn’t bad enough that in his 19th game of the season he still hasn’t registered a goal, but he is coughing up the puck and making poor decisions on the ice. I’ve said before many times: Buff is not worth a $7.5 million contract, and he is spending too much time proving me right. Currently Byfuglien leads the league in ice time, and that is likely a coaching error. Given that Byfuglien plays a hybrid defense/forward style of offence, he should have less time. When players are tired, they grab and trip, and Buff is starting to get penalties. Give Buff 25 minutes a game tops and spread the rest around.
Hutchinson simply isn’t cutting the NHL. Paul Maurice is starting to remind me of Blue Bomber coach Mike O’Shea in his stubbornness towards his goalies. Bring Pavelec up, at least as backup. As I’ve written, I believe Pav is the best goalie on this team—hands done. But no one can legitimately argue he isn’t better than Hutchinson. It makes zero hockey sense and zero business sense to leave a $4.5 million player in the AHL. It is stubborn. Stupid, actually. And this mentality may cost Maurice his job if they don’t get better soon. Interestingly, Maurice blamed last night’s game on his inability to prepare the team properly. He was, in fact, taking a bullet for the team. But he was right, and there seems to be a lot of coaching errors, as evidenced by poor special teams play, an area which I think defines coaches.
Laine hasn’t played particularly well of late, but he gets a pass because he is 18 and is learning on the top line. That is a lot to ask, and he has adjusted well. But he gave up a bad puck that led to a Boston goal last night, and it wasn’t his first cough up. One thing about Laine: everyone talks about his wrist shot, but his passing is spectacular. Best on the Jets bar none.
Even the commentators last night (who had the gall to say Winnipeg’s goaltending has been outstanding this year) noted that the Jets are worst faceoff team in the league. I’ve been harping on this for years. Without Bryan Little, who is very good in the circle, the Jets have only one other true center, Adam Lowry, who has been masterful. Your number one line can’t have a guy with a sub-45 percent faceoff percentage, and that’s what Scheifele is right now and has been historically. He is right on his mark and it isn’t good enough for the number one spot. I challenge Paul Maurice to put Lowry on the top light and put Scheifele on the second. When Little comes back, even consider putting Scheifele on the third line: not as punishment, but the Jets could legitimately have three awesome lines which would be a real problem for opposition teams. But Lowry deserves a chance given his play.
And one final regression point is penalties. The Jets were doing much better this year until the last few games. Last night Winnipeg had five penalties which was too much, including one point with three men in the box. Given that Byfuglien was in there, I’m not sure how the other two could fit.
The Jets have a chance to turn the tables late this afternoon in Raleigh against the Hurricanes. The Hurricanes aren’t considered very good, but they are also at .500 ball, so perhaps it is a meeting of equals. The Jets look tired, and these back-to-backs are killers: this one with only 19 hours apart.
By the way, without trying to dump anymore on the Jets, those fans out there that are celebrating the third-place showing by the Jets are fooling themselves considering they have 2 or 3 games in hand on the remaining teams in the Central Division. It is possible and perhaps likely that the Jets will be alone in the basement once the other teams catch up. Minnesota is one point behind with three games in hand; Dallas is one back with one game in hand; Nashville is three back with three in hand; and Colorado is four back with three in hand.
At least as of right now, the Jets are what they have always been: at five hundred.