By: Adam Wazny | Saturday, March 9
Winnipeg Jets' Dustin Byfuglien (33) scores the winning goal on Florida Panthers goalie Jacob Markstrom, right, as Panthers' Filip Kuba (17), of the Czech Republic, defends during overtime of an NHL hockey game, Friday, March 8, 2013, in Sunrise, Fla. The Jets won 3-2 in overtime. (AP Photo/Luis M. Alvarez)
Through 24 games, Andrew Ladd and Evander Kane have been the two best players for the Winnipeg Jets. They account for over a third of the scoring (36 per cent) and share the team-lead with three game winning goals apiece. Following Friday's 3-2 overtime win in Florida, Ladd leads the club in goals (13) and points (24), and his 22.8 per cent shooting percentage ranks near the top of NHL leaders for players with more than 10 goals. One wonders where this team would be if Ladd wasn't around. Kane, meanwhile, has nine goals (eight at even strength) and 18 points. He's been physical and engaged most nights. Please note Kane's grade remains under review: no points in his last five games (he also suffered through an eight-game goalless drought earlier this year). That's far too streaky for a player with his talent.
For whatever reason, Ron Hainsey continues to draw the ire of the fan base night in and night out. He's too slow, some say. Others insist he turns the puck over too much. His public role during the lockout didn't help his image, either. Heck, even this grade will get people upset about the defenceman. The constant hostility directed at No. 6 is a little misguided, though. Hainsey is one of two rearguards (Mark Stuart is the other) to appear in all 24 games and is playing 23:46 a night (nearly three minutes more than last season). He's been on the top defensive pairing, the second pairing, and on both special teams units, doing everything the club has asked of him. Answer this: If head coach Claude Noel didn't like Hainsey's in-game contributions, do you think he'd be playing as much as he is?
Credit where credit is due: Ondrej Pavelec stopped 38 of 40 shots in Friday's win and was the best player on the ice. Coming into Friday's NHL action, though, his 2.93 goals against average was ranked 21st among goaltenders who have played over 800 minutes this season (his .897 save percentage was 20th). That's probably not what management had in mind when they signed him to a long-term deal in the off-season. Like many on the Jets -- and it would be easy to slot the majority of the team into this middling rating given its 12-11-1 record -- he's been woefully inconsistent. That said, gauging Pavelec's up and down play comes through various shades of grey. Do the numbers come from the struggling goaltender or the influences around the net? Or both?
A lot more was expected out of Olli Jokinen when he signed a two-year, $9-million contract last summer. The veteran centre was to give the Jets some offensive punch up front, but after 24 games Jokinen has just seven points and still can't find a set spot among the Top 9 forwards. Not a good sign. In one stretch, the 34-year-old went nine games without a point. He's also a team-worst -12 in the plus/minus department. Yeesh. When he signed in Winnipeg, some figured it to be the sleeper free agent grab of the summer. With Jokinen still in hibernation, no one is saying that right now.
Special teams, oh boy. The power play is clicking at 13.7 per cent (27th) and is currently in a 1-for-35 slump. It's been missing Tobias Enstrom since the middle of February (upper body injury), but that's an easy excuse. Meanwhile, the penalty kill is finally treading upwards after a miserable start to the year, currently sitting at 76.6 per cent (29th). The good news on that front is that the Jets have killed off all penalties against in seven straight games (21-for-21), suggesting they've figured things out. Special teams is a huge part of the NHL game now. The coaches' inability to cobble together average units for both the power play and penalty kill is unacceptable and will eventually hurt this team.