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Game #79 – Jets vs. Hawks Q&A: Gametime Art

Gametime Art has been our friend for too long for his sake, and a Jets observer for an even unhealthier longer time. Follow him @GametimeArt.

While the Jets sit atop the Central, at the time of writing, all is not well in Manitoba. What has Jets fans so angsty?

They had such a strong season last year that I think many expected them to be even better or at the very least as good and it’s been actually worse and it’s pretty easy to spot the issues this team has. The team has struggled all season on defense. Most nights they are out-shot, the offense has been inconsistent, and up until a few weeks ago Connor Hellebuyck was a very average goalie with a save percentage hovering around .907 … If this season happened in 2015, Jets fans would overlook all of that and be happy anyway. Now in 2019? Not so much. We expected another 50 win, 100+ point year and instead got what we got now which is still a good team, but one not playing up to the level they should be at.

Patrik Laine, 50 points?
Seems strange right? Back in November when he went all super-nova goal scoring sniper on us we thought he’d have 50 goals by February. Part of it is Laine himself has struggled at times with his play and the whole “body language” thing of being overly frustrated has been well noted, but there are also nights that it feels like Paul Maurice is expecting him to carry a line and be a play-maker more than a finisher which doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. There’s even the odd conspiracy theory that suggests the coaching staff may have submarined his season with questionable lineup decisions and not giving him chances to succeed, just so his RFA deal this summer won’t be as high as it sure was looking like it would be back in November. That’s how odd and crazy this season has been. In a strange way I get this feeling a season like this may end up making him a better, more complete overall player which is kind of what Maurice has wanted anyway. He has demonstrated a knack for slick passing lately, so who knows.
How has Kevin Hayes, aka Captain Stairwell, fit in?
He’s fit in ok and has been better than Bryan Little has been which is a relief since this is now the second season in a row the Jets have spent assets to pick up an actual decent second line center since Little isn’t really working out in that role. I’d argue he’s looked as good as Paul Stastny did when he joined the Jets last season which bodes well for the playoffs, but the difference here may be that Jets fans don’t want to get too attached since there probably will be very little chance the team can keep him beyond this summer.
Whatever the problems may be, this is a team that’s Cup-or-bust. So what’s it gonna be?
Unless this team pulls off something remarkable (like the Caps last season, so ya know, it’s possible) it’s going to be bust and I fear it may be in fact a one round and done type situation this season. That said, for as disappointing as it will be to miss out on a Cup, I don’t think the window is closing already. The Jets are still one of the youngest teams in the league, the core is still there beyond this season and there are still kids like Sami Niku and Kristian Vesalainen on the way.


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