Friday, January 27, 2012
Since the NHL season is at it's All-Star break and just past the halfway point of the season, I thought now would be an appropriate time to evaluate and grade this years edition of the Winnipeg Jets. So far it's been an up and down season, with a promising month of December (with many games at home) and a tough, not so good January (with many games on the road). Currently, the Jets sit 10th in the Eastern Conference with 50 points in 50 games and 22nd overall. Before the trade deadline late next month, the Jets face the decision whether to be buyers or sellers as the league goes into the stretch drive of the season.
I've listed my evaluation of the individual Jets players with a grade (from F, being the lowest and A the highest), the positive (+) and negative (-) aspects of their performance so far. Please note, this is only my opinion and by no means should these comments be taken as "expert" opinion, I'm just a fan, but a critical fan.
80 Nik Antropov- I've always thought of Antropov as one of the NHL's great underachievers. He has so much going for him, size, skill, big shot, soft hands, but he has never lived up to his potential or expectations in his seasons with the Leafs, Rangers, Thrashers and now the Jets. He had a career high of 67 points in 2009-10 with Atlanta.
+ Has shown some flashes of brilliance recently, but not often enough. Has a vet presence and could be a leader. Might be possible trade bait.
- Inconsistent and non-existent many games.
8 Alexander Burmistrov- Second year player, has almost matched his points total from last year already. Oodles of talent and skill, a potential #1 centre. Fast start, but has slowed considerably point-wise for the past two months.
+ Just might be pound for pound the most skilled player on the team. Shifty and smart, has great hockey sense.
- Has played all forward positions and on all the lines (top-bottom), but needs the ice time and proper line-mates to feel confident enough to be a top player. Vulnerable to some bad decisions, but he should not be playing on the fourth line.
17 Eric Fehr - Missed the early half of the season and has yet to make a sizable contribution. Big power forward, has the physical attributes and supposed offensive skills to be an impact, but has never shown any indication. Much hoopla when he was signed, was one of the players that "unveiled" the new uniforms.
+ Not much positives, 1 goal and 2 points in 26 games!
- Very disappointing, surprised he hasn't been a healthy scratch more often. To be fair he hasn't been given much ice time, but really, he needs to earn it. Could be dealt, but I wouldn't expect much in return.
15 Tanner Glass- Free agent signing, a prototypical grinder-type winger. Useful 3rd liner.
+ Kills penalties and adds a physical presence, not afraid to fight. Every team needs a guy like this.
- Already at a career high of 12 points, so he isn't on the team for his offence.
9 Evander Kane **- Probably the only player on the team that has superstar potential and could be a big impact player in this league. Strong, physical and hard to knock off the puck.
+ Has shown his flashes of skill, and is capable of changing the pace of the game. Speedy, exciting and fun to watch. Team leader in goals with 18.
- Too many games he hasn't been a factor. Tends to lose confidence easily and more recently has lost his scoring touch. His concussion-like symptoms are very bad news for the goal-starved Jets.
16 Andrew Ladd- Captain Ladd has been the most consistent Jet this year. Has done a commendable job as leader of the team and displays a "lead by example" style of play.
+ Solid forward, too bad there weren't more like him on this team. Second in goals.
- Won't match his career high for points. He's gotta get this team going, soon!
18 Bryan Little- After a very slow start, Little is the centre on the top line and has had a handful of good games.
+ Provides much needed speed. Lots of skill and can be exciting enough to rise the fans out of their seats once in a while.
- Despite his skills, he should get more points. I'll be surprised if he ever hits over 50 points again and this doesn't cut it for your #1 centre. This team expects a lot more and is in serious trouble if Little is the best centre we have and is a reason why this team can't score.
20 Antti Miettinen- A late addition, signed as free agent from Europe. The Jets were hoping he could be a solid two way player.
+ Decent defensively, kills some penalties. Once 20 goals with Minnesota two years ago.
- Not really a grinder or a scorer, he has only 3 points so far. Not really sure what is role is with the team. Maybe we should have let Tampa have him.
19 Jim Slater- A solid third liner that provides physical play and dependable defensive skills.
+ Top penalty killer and the go-to guy for important face offs.
- Will never be mistaken for a scorer. The team doesn't expect him to contribute offensively, just help prevent goals. Is a former #1 pick...really?
14 Tim Stapleton- Despite his limited ice time mainly on the 4th line, he has proven to be a useful player. Small and skillful, will play whatever role the team needs.
+ His puck handling play-making skills are the reason he plays the point on the second powerplay.
- Has been a healthy scratch because of numbers and will probably never play on the top lines.
22 Chris Thorburn- Bruising, grinding winger that would be considered a role player.
+ Strong defensively and adds a much needed size on the wings.
- 0 goals and only 4 points. Hands of stone and just plain bad luck.
13 Kyle Wellwood- Solid free agent signing last summer has been a pleasant surprise. Has provided a much needed dose of offensive skill.
+ Some nights he's been brilliant, other nights invisible. Has scored some of the nicest goals this season and has provided veteran leadership. 6 points in his last 5 games.
- Need more good nights and consistency.
26 Blake Wheeler- Big power forward who provides size on the wingers as well as offense. A slow start and seemed like forever before he scored his first goal, but since then has been their best forward. Drives to the net almost as effectively as Kane.
+ Leading scorer and could have a career year for points. One of the few players to play to their potential. Would attract interest to playoff bound teams at the trade deadline, but could the team afford to lose him?
- Plays a physical style that is prone for injury. Has looked ragged at times, but keeps playing.
4 Zach Bogosian- Offensively gifted, big shot and carries the puck as well as anyone of the team. Has potential to be an elite defenseman in the league.
+ After an off year last year, Bogosian is now coming into his own as the top defenseman on the team. Hasn't been prone to as many mistakes as the rest of the defense on the team. Bright future.
- Must learn to convert his offensive skills into more points, perhaps on a better team?
33 Dustin Byfuglien **- Big Buff has all the tools to be a be a impact player on the team. When he plays physical, no one can mess with him. A fan favourite, he needs to get back in the lineup if the Jets hope to make a run to the playoffs.
+ Scary hard shot, moves players from in front of the goal better than anyone. If he wasn't injured he would challenge as a top scorer for a defensemen in the league.
- Sometimes a defensive liability, bad giveaways and stupid mistakes have led to questioning whether he should go back to forward. He's been on the injury list a lot longer than originally anticipated. Will he be more vulnerable when he returns? May be of interest at trade deadline, could be the piece the Hawks might be interested in re-acquiring for their Stanley Cup run.
39 Tobias Enstrom- An injury caused Enstrom to miss 20 games and his absence was sorely missed. Probably the most offensively adventurous defenseman on the Jets, he's definitely the best puck carrier on the team and the quarterback of the powerplay.
+ It's sad that if he wasn't injured he could challenge the leading scorer of the team. Reminds me of young Phil Housley.
- Can be pressured to cough up the puck and can be knocked off the puck in traffic. He's one of the better defenseman in the league for his offense, not defensive play.
36 Mark Flood- Familiar with Flood because of his time with the former hometown Moose in the AHL. Solid two-way defenseman.
+ Dependable, not offensively gifted, but isn't a liability. Has earned his way into the bigs.
- Once the injuries return, he may be the odd man out, but deserves to be a top 6.
6 Ron Hainsey- Veteran presence on the point, missed a bunch of games early in the season. Has some offensive skill and isn't afraid to lead the rush.
+ Blocks shots, gets involved and logs lots of ice time.
- Gives the puck away a lot. Has yet to score this year.
29 Johnny Oduya- Another steading influence on the point in his 6th NHL season.
+ Smooth puck carrier, should get even more involved in the rush.
- Some costly giveaways this season, will cough up the puck with pressure.
5 Mark Stuart- Tough as nails player that loves to mix it up. Will fight anyone.
+ Solid defensively, clears the front of the net as good as anyone. Every team needs a defenseman that plays his style.
- Some dumb penalties, needs to control himself sometimes, pick his spots.
50 Chris Mason- I think the back-up goalie is in a tough position, has to stay ready to go in and must show he belongs even after a long absence. He plays the role well.
+ Been solid when he's played, only a couple poor performances. Deserves more starts.
- One of the better back-ups in the league considering how crappy the team in front of him is scoring.
31 Ondrej Pavelec- Before the season, I thought goaltending might be the Jet's weakness, no problems here.
+ Has almost single-handedly won games. If the season ended now he might be the team's MVP, solid, but faltering lately.
- Now is the point in the season when he has to show he can be a top tier goalie. Must steal games to give the team a chance since he's on one of the lowest scoring teams in the league. Needs more help in front of him. Not a good start to the new year.
** = Injured Reserve
As I said, I'm no expert, but this is my opinion after watching most of the games this season. These grades are all subjective, so let me know what you think.