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Winnipeg Jets Are An Improved Team Under New Head Coach

Rick Bowness, Winnipeg Jets

Depending on how a team finishes the year and what transpires during it, changes can be made. Every team wants to improve and reach the ultimate goal. This past off-season saw a coaching carousel go around the league. One team that underwent that change was the Winnipeg Jets. Former Head Coach Paul Maurice stepped down, and as a result, the team missed the playoffs. It’s a new year, and the 2022-23 Winnipeg Jets are led by former Dallas Stars coach Rick Bowness.

Winnipeg Performing Well Under New Coach

After Bowness stepped down in Dallas, the Jets brought him on board. A new voice and a new system can do wonders for a team. With the other teams that underwent coaching changes, you are seeing that trend. The Stars, Boston Bruins, and Vegas Golden Knights are all thriving under new systems. Winnipeg is also doing well under Bowness and is second in the Central Division.

Life Under Bowness

When a new coach comes in and implements his system, he has the tools to make it successful. Known for his defensive-minded system, he has the team playing more structured in that regard. The team remains the same in terms of possession (49.41 CF% in 2021-22, 49.17 CF% in 2022-23). In Dallas, Bowness had similar possession numbers (49.01 CF%), which is a slight decline from this season in Winnipeg. An area that has improved is their goals against and keeping the puck out of their net.

The Jets have only played 20 games to start the year and are at the top of the league for the fewest goals allowed. However, they also do not score a lot at even strength either (37 goals). They have the fourth-fewest in all situations (53), and the third-fewest at even strength (31). For example, in 20 games to begin last season, they allowed 58. The team has vastly improved in this regard as they average 2.65 goals against per game (7th) compared to last year being 20th. But not only has their even strength play gone up, but so has their special teams play.

Areas Of Improvement

The 2022-23 Winnipeg Jets are in a defensive-minded system. The last thing you want any team to do is to have their way in high-danger areas. Last season the Jets allowed the seventh most shots against in that area (591), whereas Dallas allowed the 12th fewest (525). This season is wildly different for the Jets as Bowness has brought that element to this team. Winnipeg has allowed the 8th fewest high-danger shots (123) and the 7th fewest high-danger goals (18). It’s a significant improvement, and you see it on the ice when you watch them play. It’s one area the team lacked last season and it is helping this year as well.

What’s wild is despite the way Bowness likes to dump and chase, the team has been just as effective offensively. Under Maurice, the Jets averaged 3.05 goals per game, whereas under Bowness to start the year they are averaging 3.15 goals per game. As it stands the Jets have scored 63 goals in all situations this season (20th in the league). Last season the team finished middle of the pack in this regard and could very well do the same thing this season.

Special Teams Play

The special teams’ play is thriving under Bowness. This season, the 2022-23 Winnipeg Jets are applying the system in this area of play. Last season it was abysmal. Winnipeg had the 28th-best penalty kill unit (75% success rate) and allowed 50 goals while down a man. However, they were an opportunistic bunch generating the second most high-danger chances for and scoring eight goals short-handed.

But what a year a difference makes. This team under Bowness has allowed the second-fewest power-play goals (9) while scoring two short-handed. So far they have allowed the fewest shots on goal and only 12 have been high-danger. It’s early, but this team is better in that regard than Dallas was last season.

Who Has Stood Out Under Bowness

Connor Hellebuyck

If we learned anything from watching the Stats play hockey, they lacked possession and rode hot goaltending. Jake Oettinger stood on his head saving that team from embarrassment. And no knock on Oettinger, but Hellebuyck is the better goaltender. Aside from being good defensively, the Jets goalie has been a rock in net. Connor Hellebuyck has a 2.43 GAA and a .925% save percentage. He is fourth in goals saved above expected (10.6) and is a Vezina Trophy front-runner at the season’s quarter mark.

Josh Morrissey

If you would have guessed who has the highest point totals at this given time, would you have said Josh Morrissey? I know I would not have, but this guy leads the team in points. What’s strange is Bowness had John Klingberg and Miro Heiskanen at his disposal last season, but Morrissey has already reached half their point totals in just 20 games. Morrissey has four goals (3 being game-winners), 19 assists, and 23 points. He is 14 shy of tying his point totals from last year. In addition, he has chipped in on the PP and is averaging 23:08 TOI. He leads all defensemen on the team in takeaways and CF%. He is the clear-cut number-one defenseman on this team, and his play is paying off.

Jets Flying High

The 2022-23 Winnipeg Jets are better than expected. They were never a bad team and have a good group of players. Winnipeg is a low-scoring team that also keeps the puck out of their net and has an elite goaltender. How long that success is sustainable remains to be seen, but the Jets are thriving under the new system. Bowness has players that fit what he wants to do, and it’s working. For a team many may have picked to miss the playoffs entirely, they seem to be one of the better teams in the Western Conference. The system is working now, and it will be fun to see how it does the rest of the way.

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