June 20, 2019

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Opinion

Jets taking the good with the bad

All-star festivities wrap up with a few mixed emotions

JOHN WOODS / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES</p><p>Winnipeg Jets defenceman Jacob Trouba (left) will be out for six to eight weeks with a high ankle sprain leaving his blue-line partner Josh Morrissey (centre) to play with another teammate.</p>

JOHN WOODS / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES

Winnipeg Jets defenceman Jacob Trouba (left) will be out for six to eight weeks with a high ankle sprain leaving his blue-line partner Josh Morrissey (centre) to play with another teammate.

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 1/2/2018 (503 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

The true stretch drive got underway this week and the Winnipeg Jets got it going with a well-deserved win over the National Hockey League’s top team, the Tampa Bay Lightning, showing once again why the Jets are legitimately in a battle for top spot in their division, their conference and perhaps the league.

It hasn’t, however, been an easy road for them.

The NHL’s all-star festival last weekend was supposed to be a fun time for players and fans, but Jets disciples had both good and bad news come out of it.

Getting Connor Hellebuyck and Blake Wheeler back home safe was the first order of business and they managed to enjoy their well-deserved trip free of injury.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 1/2/2018 (503 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

The true stretch drive got underway this week and the Winnipeg Jets got it going with a well-deserved win over the National Hockey League’s top team, the Tampa Bay Lightning, showing once again why the Jets are legitimately in a battle for top spot in their division, their conference and perhaps the league.

It hasn’t, however, been an easy road for them.

The NHL’s all-star festival last weekend was supposed to be a fun time for players and fans, but Jets disciples had both good and bad news come out of it.

Getting Connor Hellebuyck and Blake Wheeler back home safe was the first order of business and they managed to enjoy their well-deserved trip free of injury.

There was more good news coming. The extra days off had centre Adam Lowry returning from the injured list on Tuesday versus the Lightning and he came back with a stellar defensive performance. He joined Andrew Copp and Joel Armia to shut down the Steven Stamkos line, barely giving them a sniff of the net.

Last weekend also brought reports of No. 1 centre Mark Scheifele unofficially skating with some teammates on an off day. He’s since joined the regular crew in a non-contact sweater.

Once the all-stars had survived their game on Sunday, we were left with figuring out what head coach Paul Maurice was up to when he decided last week that backup goalie Michael Hutchinson was going to play against Tampa Bay, despite playing the night before in the American Hockey League all-star game.

Maurice said Hellebuyck needed a rest due to his heavy travel schedule and the number of games he had played recently. That his all-star appearance was a day before Hutchinson’s didn’t factor into this.

It was the negative statistics of goaltenders playing back to back and Hutchinson’s travel schedule from Utica, N.Y., on Tuesday that moved some people to speculate that Hutchinson was being selfish in going to a game where he had earned recognition as being a top goalie in the league.

However, the Jets sanctioned Hutchinson’s trip, sending him down to the Manitoba Moose so he could play. It may have been done reluctantly, but they agreed.

I believe Hutchinson knew himself better than anyone else did, wanted to succeed and made his decision accordingly.

A huge part of a goaltender’s game is his mental approach and if he thought that having a fun day and playing a relaxed 10 minutes of hockey was going to prepare him properly for the Lightning, it was good enough for me.

It was also suggested he might be mad at the Jets organization for burying him with the Moose until recently. Sorry, even if true, it wouldn’t make him shoot himself in the foot. He’s driven to play in the NHL.

You need to trust the player in these circumstances. I’d be saying the same thing if he had lost the game, I’d just be reporting a different result.

I mentioned earlier there was some bad news from all-star weekend and it hit Jets fans like a truck.

Arguably the Jets’ best defenceman, Jacob Trouba was diagnosed with a high-ankle sprain before the Jets returned to the ice after the break. With a six- to eight-week estimate on his recovery time, it was one more challenge for the team.

What was even more frustrating was that he was in absolute beast-mode for the Anaheim Ducks game where he was hurt. His skill set and style stood out against a physical team like the Ducks, who look to bang you into submission.

The big question became whether the Jets should look to trade for help on the right side to replace him. Let’s look at the Lightning game for hints.

Maurice moved Tyler Myers into Trouba’s spot with Josh Morrissey. Tucker Poolman drew in beside Ben Chiarot (Dmitry Kulikov is currently out with a concussion). Dustin Byfuglien and Toby Enstrom stayed together.

Maurice bumped the ice time of four defencemen and dropped two down from their average over the year.

The biggest jump was Enstrom, who played almost 4½ minutes more, with Morrissey and Myers almost hitting four more.

Byfuglien was just under two minutes higher, but took a couple of penalties. He had a good, impactful game though.

Chiarot was on the ice for two minutes less than normal, while Poolman played three minutes less than his average number.

It was a game where the Jets wanted to prove something and it’s a small sample. Special teams work and the way each game is playing out might change this approach, but it should continue to work against most opponents.

Having the last call on line and defence matchups for the next eight home games in a row will allow Maurice to continue to shelter the third pairing (Chiarot and Poolman).

In December, I wrote about what the Jets needed to do via the trade market to maximize their chances at making a long playoff run. Along the blue line I suggested they look to acquire a quick, left-shot defenceman who moves the puck well.

Even though Trouba shoots right, I still stand by that. You can only try to insure so much and depth on the left side is still a concern.

The Jets should stay the course and look to fill other needs — ones we’ll revisit soon as it becomes clearer on who’s really available and affordable.

Meeting a good, fast team like the Vegas Golden Knights on Thursday night may accelerate this discussion.

Chosen ninth overall by the NHL’s St. Louis Blues and first overall by the WHA’s Houston Aeros in 1977, Scott Campbell has now been drafted by the Winnipeg Free Press to play a new style of game.

Twitter: @NHL_Campbell

Scott Campbell

Scott Campbell
Columnist

Scott was a member of Winnipeg Jets 1.0 for a couple of seasons and also played for the WHA Jets team that won the last Avco Cup in 1978-79.

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