Pavelec running out of elbow room

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IT is unfair to wholly blame the woes endured by the Winnipeg Jets the last three seasons on Ondrej Pavelec. Perception, however, can quickly morph into reality and once it takes hold it's difficult to unseat.

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Opinion

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 09/09/2014 (3012 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

IT is unfair to wholly blame the woes endured by the Winnipeg Jets the last three seasons on Ondrej Pavelec. Perception, however, can quickly morph into reality and once it takes hold it’s difficult to unseat.

Pavelec and the Jets’ save percentage have been the No. 1 complaint among fans and many media. It hit a fevered level this summer when GM Kevin Cheveldayoff reaffirmed Pavelec as his starter and, predictably, refused to burn a buyout on his goalie when many believed it was time to cut ties.

Chevy is all in on Pav and that doesn’t sit well with many in both the cheap and expensive seats. There is pressure building in the Jets crease. Pressure Pavelec will have to find a way to handle if he’s going to improve on decidedly middling career numbers.

Wayne Glowacki / Winnipeg Free Press Jets goalie Ondrej Pavelec speaks to media Monday at the MTS Iceplex.

Pavelec met with the media Monday for the first time since departing Winnipeg last spring and he was thinner and fitter after a summer of rededication. But Pavelec wasn’t trumpeting his new fitness level as a cure-all.

“We’ll see,” he said a number of times. Indeed, all of Winnipeg and most of the hockey world are taking a wait-and-see on Pavelec and this version of the Jets. Many have already written them off for this season.

Coach Paul Maurice has said goals-against is a team issue and one he and the entire Jets organization must iron out. But it’s easier to blame Pavelec and he’s become a punching bag.

It’s an unsophisticated view of the Jets to say their playoff hopes begin and end with Pavelec. Can he be better? Certainly. Should he be better? Even he admits as much.

Pavelec has become the lone focal point, but there are many more issues where the Jets are concerned. Pavelec must up his play and the same should has to be said about the rest of the roster. It’s not like the Jets are a top-end team being held back from greatness by their goaltender. Together, this team has missed the playoffs for seven straight seasons. Together, it will have to crack that trend.

Hockey is more complex than the goalie simply stopping the puck. But fans and media can focus on this aspect and believe what they see is black and white.

Cheveldayoff and his hockey operations department don’t believe Pavelec is a lost cause. They have bet a lot on Pavelec. First with a multi-year contract and then with their refusal to abandon him this summer.

Jets management loves his ability to make the flashy, athletic save. It’s the fundamentals, that have given Pavelec a reputation for inconsistency.

Sharper focus and defined practice habits are areas Pavelec can improve, leading to better play in games.

Continued

Please see Lawless D2

 

Establishing his confidence and finding a way to prevent it from wavering when he runs into some trouble is also a major key for Pavelec and Jets goalie coach Wade Flaherty heading into this season.

It’s fairly evident the Jets could benefit from better and more consistent goaltending. And the Jets goaltenders en masse could be better served by improved defensive play from the skaters.

Maurice introduced the chicken and egg theory late last season, saying it was impossible to evaluate Pavelec’s play until the defensive system in front of him was tightened up and adhered to by the entire team.

Maybe this statement was a coach covering for his player. Maybe it was accurate.

Doesn’t matter, however, as Maurice will soon be making his ultimate statement — with his lineup card.

Maurice is an experienced coach with over 1,000 in the NHL. He’s got a four-year deal to work with and its fair to say the lineup card is his to fill out. Influence from above won’t be exerted, nor would it be accepted.

Pavelec will play under one scenario this season: If he’s winning games. The days of putting him back in the net regardless of previous results are over.

Calling Pavelec a prospect is over. He’s either the answer or he isn’t.

The answer will become evident soon. More importantly, there will now have to be actions to follow. Good or bad, where Ondrej Pavelec and his future with the Jets are concerned.

 

gary.lawless@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @garylawless

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