‘Little’ sums up top line
Jets No. 1 unit has combined for paltry 5 points, minus-9 in 8 games
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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 26/10/2011 (4164 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
The kids haven’t trick-or-treated yet, there is no snow on the ground and it’s still two months until good ol’ St. Nick does his thing.
A quick glance at the calendar reveals all that. And, yes, it also means there’s no reason for anyone in Winnipeg Jets nation to get all lathered up over a 2-5-1 start that has seen the offence manage just 17 goals.
But here’s what does have everyone scratching their melons in bewilderment: the No. 1 line — No. 1 at season’s start, at least — of Andrew Ladd, Bryan Little and Blake Wheeler has produced just two goals and five points between them. Total. In eight games.
And so it’s not too hard to connect the dots as to why a squad so offensively challenged — it has been limited to one goal in half of the games so far — has struggled early. It also explains, in part, why head coach Claude Noel has spent so much time experimenting with his lines he should be decked out in a white lab coat with a beaker in one hand and a microscope in the other.
Asked Tuesday if he had any idea why the Ladd-Little-Wheeler combo has been so snake-bitten — Ladd and Wheeler are second and third in shots taken to Dustin Byfuglien — Noel was both blunt and sympathetic to their plight.
“No. I’m sure they’re perplexed as well,” he said. “They care about their game and they’re trying. My job is to try and help them. I’m sure they’re perplexed but we’ll eventually figure it out and it will eventually come around. It doesn’t last forever. These things work themselves out.”
Sooner, he hopes, not later.
What Noel has learned through the first couple of weeks of the season is Nik Antropov and Alex Burmistrov definitely have developed a chemistry and that Evander Kane looks very comfortable on the wing with that slick duo. And the GST line of Tannger Glass-Jim Slater-Chris Thorburn has done everything asked of it and more this season — effectively checking, bashing and crashing and chipping in with four goals of their own.
But it also means that unless Ladd-Little-Wheeler can get things rolling — remember, this was Atlanta’s most potent trio at the end of last season — Noel’s mad scientist routine with the lines will be front and centre through the upcoming seven-game road trip.
“That will continue, just because we’re trying to get people unclogged,” Noel said. “It will continue a bit more now. We’ll sort through that stuff.”
Asked if there were signs the lines were getting ‘unclogged’ in Monday’s 2-1 loss to the New York Rangers, Noel presented the silver lining: the results will come because the chances are piling up more and more.
“I thought they were pretty good,” said Noel of all of his lines. “I have no reason to fault them or blame them. They were good. I’ll watch the tape and we’ll figure it out, that’s what you do. If we continue to play like that then success will follow us. It’s a process and it takes time
“We’re doing the necessary things, we’re just not scoring. There’s no results — yet. It will come around.”
The other factor to consider is this: the Jets are who we thought they were — a team that finished 20th in offence and 29th in goals against last year. Their top offensive addition, winger Eric Fehr, is still on the shelf for roughly another month with a sore shoulder and, while there could be help on the farm, it is still green and relatively untested.
“You can only do what your team is, you can’t do anything more than that,” Noel said. “I can’t invent or manufacture offence when we are what we are. I know what we are and I don’t have a problem with that.
“There’s always ways to win games, that’s clear. You have to find a way to win games and there’s always a way. I don’t care who you play, you just find a way. Whether it’s David and Goliath, there’s always a way to do it and you just have to find a way to do it. You have to teach your players and everybody the way.
“This is the way, follow this way and then execute the plan. Sometimes it doesn’t go, like the plan (Monday) night was good, it’s just sometimes you’re going to get results like this. That’s just the way it goes.”
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They’re certainly not alone — 11 players who have suited up for games for the Jets this year have yet to score — but the spotlight is squarely on the team’s projected top line after some early-season woes.
Here’s a look at the numbers:
GP G A Pts +/- Shots
Bryan Little 8 0 1 1 -4 12
Blake Wheeler 8 0 2 2 -3 25
Andrew Ladd 8 2 0 2 -2 27