5 points to ponder as Jets hit quarter-mark of season

By: Adam Wazny | Wednesday, February 13

Boston Bruins' Patrice Bergeron scores on Winnipeg Jets' Ondrej Pavelec during a shootout on Jan. 21, 2013. Pavelec's play has been less than stellar this season so far. (Michael Dwyer/Associated Press)

1. The Winnipeg Jets sit at the quarter mark in this short 48-game sprint of a season with a 5-6-1 record. In a related story, the offence from the forward group has been downright offensive. Following Tuesday's 3-2 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers, no Winnipeg forward was in the Top 30 in NHL scoring; Andrew Ladd and Blake Wheeler (11 points each) were tied with 13 other players for 34th. Meanwhile, Evander Kane, who scored 30 goals in 2011-12, has three goals and hasn't scored in seven games. On top of that, the wait on Alexander Burmistrov continues: two points in 12 games is not good enough for a player with his skill set. Veteran seat-fillers Kyle Wellwood, Alexei Ponikarovsky and Olli Jokinen have also been disappointments. Winnipeg is averaging 2.67 goals per game, which is towards the bottom of the Eastern Conference (tied for 11th). How the Jets have managed to stay near the .500 mark with this production up front is an achievement; how this deficiency should be addressed by the organization is up for debate.

2. Defenceman Toby Enstrom leads the team with 13 points. His plus-minus number (-3) remains a point of contention for detractors, but the coaches are seemingly willing to eat the negatives in his game for the positives he brings in the offensive zone. With the lack of production up front, who can blame them? Call it the 'Dustin Byfuglien Principle,' where the best defence is a good offence. Get used to it, folks. There will always be chances at both ends of the ice with these guys as the lead defence pairing.

3. The other back-end lightning rod, Ron Hainsey, deserves a gold star during the absences of Byfuglien and Zach Bogosian. Say what you want about Hainsey's game -- judging from the vitriol out there plenty of fans have plenty to say, none of it good -- he was asked to play more minutes and take on more responsibility when Byfuglien was out with injury. Hainsey's time in Winnipeg is all but certainly over when the Apr. 3 trade deadline rolls around but the club would be wise to wait until the very last minute to flip him to another team. The same goes for the other interchangeable parts on the blue-line: Grant Clitsome, Paul Postma, and Zach Redmond. None of the so-called expendables will fetch the Jets a player that can help now, so why not wait it out? Depth as a current player carries more value for Winnipeg than it does as a future late-round draft pick, anyway.

4. It's not that Ondrej Pavelec's signed a five-year, $19.5-million extension and failed to tell the club that he was involved in a DUI/accident during the negotiation. It's how he's failed to evolve as a goaltender -- a franchise goaltender. His 3.28 goals against average and troubling .886 save percentage in 10 appearances are among the worst in the NHL, and one guesses the trade market for an expensive goaltender that has yet to reach his projected potential is thin. Is Pavelec mentally tough enough? Questions are mounting. The optimist says the season will play out and who knows, maybe Pavelec can pull himself out of this latest funk. The pessimist says maybe he won't. This is the part that keeps Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff up at night.

5. Winnipeg left a few points on the table in the first quarter of the season. Nothing can be done about that now. The degree of difficulty in the schedule shifts to downright dreadful, though, with Pittsburgh (Friday) and Boston (Sunday) visiting downtown Winnipeg this week. After that, the heat intensifies further, with nine of the next 11 games away from home. It's a stretch that could define the season. This is the part that keeps Jets fans up at night.

Opinion

Adam Wazny is a Winnipeg-based freelance writer who has covered sports in the city for over a decade. He has worked as a reporter for both the Winnipeg Free Press and the Winnipeg Sun, and now spends most of his time checking his Twitter. Did someone say Twitter? Find him here: @wazoowazny.

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