Connor Hellebuyck and Laurent Brossoit would like to get something off their chests. The Winnipeg Jets goaltenders are not happy with the NHL’s latest equipment experiment, saying it is literally proving to be a real pain.
"I’m getting bruises all over my arms. I’m pretty exposed in my shoulders," Hellebuyck said Tuesday following practice at Bell MTS Iceplex in advance of tonight’s game against the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Netminders are being forced to wear smaller chest protectors this year, following previous reductions in the size of their pads and pants. The league felt too many goalies were essentially beefing up their own statistics by wearing gear that was too big for their frames. By cutting them down to size, the hope is scoring will go up.
And the early returns suggest it is, although how much that’s linked to the equipment is impossible to say. But Hellebuyck and Brossoit believe the process was flawed.
"It just kind of sucks that we end up being the guinea pigs, whereas you think you’d maybe try that out in other leagues before you get a finished product. It was a rushed process in the summer. And that’s kind of what the issues are. A lot of guys didn’t get to try out their chest protector until, like, a week before camp. By that time, if you don’t want that one, you feel kind of trapped," Brossoit said.
Brossoit was surprised — and not in a good way — by the first one he put on in early September.
"It wasn’t even usable. I felt very vulnerable. Pucks were sneaking through, pucks were hurting. You could even feel a wind in some areas when on the ice. You don’t want that. You want to feel warm and fuzzy," he said with a laugh.
Brossoit switched manufacturers and said the second attempt is more comfortable.
"I haven’t had too many stingers. Maybe a couple in the arm," he said.
Several other masked men have spoken out in recent days. Hellebuyck said he knows Kay Whitmore, the NHL’s vice-president of operations, has been hearing a steady stream of complaints.
"If I was Kay, I’d be getting annoyed with how much back and forth has been going on. It’s part of it, he knows and he expects it," Hellebuyck said of the former NHL goalie. "We all knew this would happen. The sad reality is it’s here. I think it’s here a little too soon. I think we should have had these chest pads, maybe for a couple years, then work out the kinks. But that’s what we have to deal with, and we’re going to go ahead and deal with it."
Hellebuyck said equipment manager Jason McMaster has been in constant contact with NHL officials while they try to modify his upper-body protection.
"It’s hard — they identify one spot and then a game comes and you identify a new spot. So, it’s continually changing. It’s a painful process," the Vezina Trophy finalist said.
"We’re trying to add little pieces here and there, but then it has to get approved by the league first. There’s only so much we can do. The pieces we’re putting on can only be so thick. With the new approval it’s tough, because we have certain guidelines we have to follow. So far, it’s not perfect."
Hellebuyck and Brossoit have been strong in net so far for the 6-2-1 Jets, and the team’s 2.67 goals-against average is ninth-best in the NHL.
"It’s definitely going to add a couple goals. We’re not talking big numbers. But it will add a couple goals and affect some save percentages. But that’s what the league wants. They want more goals, and they just gotta understand it’s going to reflect negatively on us," Hellebuyck said.
"I still feel a little vulnerable in there. But it’s nothing I’m concerned or scared about. I’m more worried about the long term, if I’m finding spots that you don’t know about now. You never know when one might be the big injury and the bone break or something like that."
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Jets head coach Paul Maurice pushed all the right buttons in bringing out the line blender Monday night, as the Jets rallied for a 5-4 overtime win over the St. Louis Blues. And it appears the new-look top six may stay put, at least for now.
"A little change every once in a while gets some different perspective to players, and sometimes, they get energized by it," Maurice said following Tuesday’s practice.
Patrik Laine seemed to have an extra skip in his step as he moved to the top trio with Mark Scheifele and Blake Wheeler.
"It was awesome. Those two are (among) the best players in the league," Laine said. "It’s a great opportunity for me. If you want to play with those guys and keep up with those guys, you’ve got to push your limits every day. That’s only a good thing for me and, hopefully, I can stay on that line and bring something positive, maybe positive energy to that line and stay out of their way."
Kyle Connor moved to the second line with Bryan Little and Nikolaj Ehlers and seemed to find some chemistry.
"You know going into the season you’re probably going to see a bunch of different combinations throughout the year. We’re at that point now where I think we’re still trying to figure it out a bit. So, it’s a nice problem to have, where you can mix and match a lot of guys in our forward group," Little said.
Expect the other two lines to remain the same, with Adam Lowry between Andrew Copp and Brandon Tanev, and Jack Roslovic with wingers Mathieu Perreault and Brendan Lemieux.
Mike McIntyre grew up wanting to be a professional wrestler. But when that dream fizzled, he put all his brawn into becoming a professional writer.
Updated on Tuesday, October 23, 2018 at 8:40 PM CDT: Adds photo