Looks like scoring’s a problem here

Playoff players must fill nets and make sure chances pay off


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We're all just getting to know these Winnipeg Jets and find out what they're capable of, but one thing is becoming obvious -- they're going to struggle scoring goals.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 29/09/2011 (4081 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

We’re all just getting to know these Winnipeg Jets and find out what they’re capable of, but one thing is becoming obvious — they’re going to struggle scoring goals.

Oh, this group will defend its net like a mama bear protecting her cubs, and that’s a good thing, as defence is the core of any great team. But it ain’t a rum and coke if there’s no booze in the tumbler, and a hockey team doesn’t win many games if it can’t outscore its opponent.

Not much has changed in terms of the team’s offensive dynamic from last year, when the then-Thrashers finished 20th in league scoring with 223 goals for an average of 2.66 per game. That wasn’t enough to get them into the playoffs, and it won’t be this season.

Phil Hossack / Winnipeg Free Press Jets� Bryan Little (18) works his way between Carolina�s Zac Dalpe (22) and Jeff Skinner to put a puck on Hurricanes netminder Brian Boucher in the first period.

Wednesday night’s 3-1 win over the Carolina Hurricanes had all the frustrating trademarks of a team short on polish. Winnipeg heavily outshot the visitors 38-18 but didn’t score a goal until midway through the third period. They added the winner and an empty- netter and the win sure was nice, but it shouldn’t disguise a major flaw in this group, and that’s lack of finish.

The Jets huffed and puffed and looked busy but came up with little to show for it. They missed from everywhere imaginable — in close, with the goalie out of position and flying in on the rush.

Last season, Andrew Ladd, a dandy hockey player with a complete game, led the Jets in scoring with 29 goals and 30 assists. Solid numbers, and when Ladd’s leadership is factored in, there’s very little not to like about him as a player. But if Ladd and his 59 points are the best on a team, that team is going home early and we won’t be keeping our cottages closed due to an extended hockey season.

The Jets need a 100-point man in the mix and two or three or four putting up 50-plus numbers. At this point, it’s difficult to see those types of players bursting up from this roster.

Scoring touch is an expensive commodity in today’s NHL and though teams went nuts during this summer’s free-agency period, the Jets chose to stay out of the action and save their pennies for a later day.

Some will leap to the conclusion this is all the more reason for rookie Mark Scheifele to stick around, but that’s just not true. First of all, placing the scoring burden of an NHL team on the shoulders of an 18-year-old is entirely unfair. Once-in-a-generation players — your Dale Hawerchuk, Teemu Selanne or Sydney Crosby types — are able to lead their clubs in scoring and transform fortunes in so doing.

Scheifele has had flashes in the pre-season but certainly there’s been nothing to suggest he’s on the verge of anything so grand as an 80-point season. Hey, keep the kid if he’s ready, but don’t hang that kind of pressure on him.

The Jets have some promising offensive players in Evander Kane, Blake Wheeler and Bryan Little and they’ll need to break through if this club is going to change its profile.

Kane is the potential superstar in the mix and since turning pro as an 18-year-old he’s posted a 14-goal season and a 19-goal season. He’s got speed and he popped a pair on Wednesday and maybe he’s ready to do more. He’ll have to if the Jets want to mark this comeback season with a playoff party.

Growth and development through the draft will be the foundation of these Jets as they move forward, and buying scoring will rarely be an option.

That leaves us with patience until the planted seeds begin to flower. Maybe this is the season or maybe there’s another to wait.

gary.lawless@freepress.mb.ca Twitter: @garylawless

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