Sports. Honestly. Since 2011

Getting Better is Doable for the Winnipeg Jets

Jets problems

The Winnipeg Jets best path to becoming a top-tier contender is significantly murky at the moment. Winnipeg is a good but not great team. They possess two elite players in Connor Hellebuyck and Josh Morrissey. But besides those two the team lacks star power. However, the team is searching for a new head coach or even an entire coaching staff off the ice. Can a new head coach fix all of the Jets power play, penalty kill, lack of speed and Neal Pionk problems? Ideally, that is what the Jets are hoping for.

Head Coach is the Main way to Make the Winnipeg Jets Better

Scott Arniel seems to be the odds-on favourite at the moment, but I think hiring him would be a monumental failure. Arniel was abysmal in his lone tenure as a head coach and would be like hiring another Rick Bowness. Bowness was the perfect transitional coach for Winnipeg. He came in and fixed both the defensive structure and the locker room. But to win a Stanley Cup the Jets need a difference maker at head coach. Not another transitional coach.

There are a handful of solid names on the coaching free-agent list and the Jets have interviewed some already. Is this just a smoke screen to prevent immediate backlash from potentially hiring Arniel or is Winnipeg already considering other options? The Jets are clearly the best or second-best place with a head coaching vacancy. That has to count for something.

The New Coach Can Inject Youth and Fix the Special Teams

A vibrant youth injection. Cole Perfetti is not a sure thing to become a star but when given consistent ice time he’s been a solid second-liner. Why was he frantically pushed out of the lineup for inferior players? The Jets have young players on rookie deals like Brad Lambert or Ville Heinola who can be solid role players and not break the bank.

The Jets also need a coach who can adapt on the fly. Why did Winnipeg wait until game five in round one of the playoffs to finally switch their breakout? As they finally decided to use a different type and more stretch passes to help counter Colorado’s intense forecheck. That should have been after game one or two. Furthermore, the Jets special teams were atrocious all year and it really seemed like no adjustments were made all year. For example, the Jets penalty kill was built on being passive so that when they trusted Connor Hellebuyck to make the first save they could use their passive positioning to clear the puck. Yet for the whole regular season and playoffs, the penalty kill routinely could not clear the puck after the other team shot it and gave up a ton of zone time.

Kevin Cheveldayoff Can Fix the Defensive Core

Cheveldayoff also needs to do his part and make the roster better. The Jets need to get faster this off-season and figure out a way to get Neal Pionk off their roster. I love the contributions of Sean Monahan, Tyler Toffoli and Brenden Dillon this season. But, all of these players at their cap hit are just not worth it. Monahan and Toffoli were so slow and out of place against the Avalanche it makes no sense to bring them back. Yes, Monahan helped the power-play but even then it was middling and Brad Lauer should not be on the coaching staff next season. This might be controversial but Cole Perfetti and Vladislav Namestnikov could produce the same way Monahan and Toffoli did for a fraction of the cost.

The Jets do not have the star power to win the Stanley Cup and that is okay. The Vegas Golden Knights did this with four “second lines”. The Jets have the depth to do this and an elite goaltender. What they do not have is stability on the back end. Their defensive core is in need of a top-four right-handed defenceman who can win his minutes. Neal Pionk is not that guy and if he is on this roster next season it will be another huge missed opportunity to chase a Stanley Cup. The Jets lack of trust and ice time for Nikolaj Ehlers means now is the time to trade him for an upgrade over Pionk. Plus Samberg has crushed sheltered minutes to the point where Brenden Dillon is not needed. The Winnipeg Jets have the cap space and assets to move on from Neal Pionk to make the team better.

Fixing the Winnipeg Jets Problems is Possible

Simply put the Jets need to get faster, get younger, fix the special teams and get rid of Neal Pionk. The proper head coach with new assistants can help accomplish the first three items on this list. Winnipeg’s general manager will have to do his part to complete the last one. In a vacuum going from good to great is achievable. That is why I did not release this piece until multiple weeks after Winnipeg’s season ended. Once the negative emotions of watching your favourite team get eliminated have passed, it is a lot easier to have hope about next season.

Main Photo Credit: James Carey Lauder-USA TODAY Sports


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