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Winnipeg Jets Rick Bowness’ Coaching Strategy Needs to Be Better Moving Forward

It is not the 1980s anymore, Head Coach Rick Bowness needs to better align his roster. You need to match skill with skill. Adam Lowry is a bottom-six centre and there is an argument to be made that Mason Appleton is a fourth-liner. Yet the Winnipeg Jets continue to play them at a second-line rate. For a while, the team was able to get away with it as Lowry turned the clock back to his analytical darling past self. But the lustre has worn off completely. Now it is starting to affect some of Winnipeg’s other prominent players negatively. For a long time, the onus falls on the players. But after repeated negative results Bowness has continued to drive a square peg into a round hole. Now some of the blame falls square on the shoulders of the head coach.

Lowry and Appleton Do Not Belong in the Top Six

The Winnipeg Jets are in a funk at the moment offensively. The top line can score but is not nearly as dominant as a contender’s top line should be. Due to the way Rick Bowness runs his forward core, there’s no room for the Jets next best scoring line of Nikolaj Ehlers and Cole Perfetti to get enough of a runway to consistently get back their mojo. Lowry and Appleton are fifth and sixth in Winnipeg Jet forward ice time. But when you adjust for points per ice time the pair is eight and 11th respectively. Furthermore, Lowry has eight points in his last 33 games while Appleton only has four points in his last 18. The Jets are running two players in their top six who are scoring at a fourth-line rate. It is one of the main reasons why the Jets are struggling right now.

Criticisms of These Claims

On the other hand, the Jets have been solid defensively to the point where they lead the NHL in even-strength goals against average. While yes they are very good at defending the opposition, this strength is slightly boosted by the elite goaltending play Winnipeg has. The Jets give up the seventh least amount of scoring chances at even strength which is again, very good. But when it comes to the price of completely draining all your offence, it is time to change your philosophy.

Lowry and Appleton are still positive possession players but a lot of this is off the back of their incredible start to the season. With the way the Winnipeg Jets have been struggling lately, they need to play more offensive players when the game is tied or they are trailing. In the recent loss to the Calgary Flames, Appleton received more ice time than Ehlers and Perfetti in the third period while the Jets were losing and had more power play opportunities than Calgary. This is completely unacceptable and outright incompetence by the Winnipeg Jets coaching staff.

A Simple Fix; Rick Bowness Needs to Coach Better

Bowness is so deeply fixated on the Jets having duos to rely on when it comes to each forward line. Except he picked the worst possible duos. Line one has Mark Scheifele and Kyle Connor. Two amazing players in their own right but defensively they are abysmal together and barely outscore their deficiencies. The second line has the already talked about Lowry-Appleton duo. While the third line is Ehlers-Perfetti. On paper this duo makes sense as Ehlers speed goes hand-in-hand with Perfetti’s smarts but it just hasn’t worked at all and Perfetti can’t keep up with Ehlers. The top duo should be Ehlers-Scheifele who has been electric in the moments they have been together. While the second duo should be Connor-Perfetti. It is highly doubtable Bowness is ever going to split up Lowry Appleton so this dream scenario just has them playing less than the actual second-line. To put it simply, the Winnipeg Jets need Rick Bowness to be a better coach than he has been lately.

Main photo: Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports


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