Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION
Posted: 12/9/2013 1:00 AM | Comments: 0
They were gone for what seems like an eternity, leaving on Nov. 23 and -- as one esteemed colleague pointed out -- before the Grey Cup game was held and three CFL teams hired new coaches, the passing of Nelson Mandela and Jennifer Jones & Co. punching their ticket to Sochi.
So when the Winnipeg Jets touched down back in Manitoba in the wee hours Sunday morning after a six-game swing through the Eastern Conference in which they both thrilled and disappointed en route to a 4-2 record, it could be said a whole lot of miles had been travelled, both literally and figuratively.
Time then, to weigh in with a few thoughts we trot out once in awhile in a piece we like to refer to as 'Nobody asked me, but...'
... It's about Jacob Trouba and his tremendous upside. Look, yours truly has been waving the banner for the 19-year-old defenceman since the first week of the regular season, and while there were some miscues during this recent Eastern Conference swing, there were also many, many, many more occasions when he was the Jets' best player. We're seeing more of his notorious mean streak, his confidence with the puck is growing by the shift and more and more outside of the Jets are taking notice.
Rewind, now, to draft day in 2012 when the Jets picked Trouba ninth overall... remember the gnashing of teeth from folks who slammed the club for passing on high-profile forwards Filip Forsberg, Mikhail Grigorenko and Radek Faksa? Hey, it's still too early to make any concrete conclusions, but any arguments now the Jets crushed a homer here?
... There were some snickers this past week when Claude Noel inserted Chris Thorburn onto the second line with Olli Jokinen and Devin Setoguchi following the injury to Evander Kane in Philly.
Yeah, about that... sometimes a player gets exposed with more minutes, but Thorburn has given the Jets some solid play, picked up a pair of assists in the win over the Rangers in New York (he could have had another had Anders Lindback not robbed Setoguchi) cycles the puck well and willingly throws his body around.
OK, so he's not the next Mike Bossy, but if everyone on this squad understood their role -- and fulfilled it -- as consistently as the gritty winger, the Jets might not just be hovering around .500.
... A guy that has to get off the schneid soon: Toby Enstrom. He's now gone 16 games without a goal and has just one helper during that stretch. All this from a guy who is second only to Dustin Byfuglien on the team for power-play time.
... Now, about this notion -- floated by some fans in Twitter-verse -- that the Jets were "better off" without Kane in the lineup... c'mon, really? Hey, there's no question Kane's game could use the development of a few more layers. But this team is in too many one-goal games (tied for the league-lead with 18) to not miss a sniper with his cannon shot. He's a streaky scorer and if the Jets are going to remain in the playoff discussion they'll need No. 9 to heat up again ASAP.
... Got into an interesting discussion with some readers who suggested our praise of Blake Wheeler's effort Saturday against Tampa was a little generous and that the big winger was more lucky than good in his one goal, one assist effort. Agree to disagree, but fair comment.
What's interesting is how Wheeler's game, in many ways, mirrors the Jets as a whole. When he's engaged, when he's skating and using his speed and size to get around defenders and drive to the net he can be dynamic. And when he's not, he can be invisible.
... An update on the Jets' power play after the six-game trip: Still last, tied with Edmonton for the most short-handed goals against and, after going five-for-13 over a four-game stretch from Nov. 15-21, is 0-for-18 in the last seven games. That, folks, is the definition of awful and right now it's the difference between a playoff club and one looking up at those who will be playing meaningful games in April.
... He still needs to get stronger on his skates and mature physically, but Mark Scheifele's offensive confidence is growing. He had two goals, including the game-winner in Tampa, and two assists on the trip, and has been responsible defensively. His next assignment? Shoot more. Scheifele is currently tied for 10th on the team in shots and he does have a good one.
... A statement we made in Sunday's paper but will open it up again today for further discussion: Given Al Montoya's numbers, does he now deserve to be referred to as the Jets' No. 1A goaltender, not Ondrej Pavelec's backup? His stats -- a 4-2-1 record with a .922 save percentage and 2.23 goals against average -- are superior to Pavelec's (10-11-3 2.76/.914) and it's clear the team plays well in front of him.
... As a diehard Winnipegger, I'll defend my good ol' hometown to anyone. But what, exactly, do you say to somebody in Florida who, after gleefully reporting the 77-degree Celsius temperature difference between Winnipeg and Tampa on Saturday, asks: "How do you guys survive up there?"
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Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition December 9, 2013 0
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