Jets fail to solve problems at the deadline with big names left on board

Winnipeg jets logoGraphic by Caroline Norman

Looking back to the trade deadline two seasons ago, when the Jets made key acquisitions that landed them a playoff berth, this past deadline was the usual deal for Kevin Cheveldayoff and co. The only deal made by the Jets was to send Drew Stafford, a pending unrestricted free agent, to the Boston Bruins for a conditional sixth-round pick.

When names like Matt Duchene, Gabriel Landeskog, Ben Bishop, and Marc-Andre Fleury are available on the trade market, you would expect the Jets to try and address the multitude of issues that remain for the team. Despite this, the phone lines remained quiet at the MTS Centre.

Goaltending: is a move worth it?

The goaltending situation for the Jets this season has been, without a doubt, an absolute disaster. While the Connor Hellebuyck-Michael Hutchinson tandem was initially met with a great deal of excitement, a mixture of the group in front of them and poor play caused the recall of veteran Ondrej Pavelec.

Analysts are quick to point out that the Jets have had defensive issues this season, but you need to expect your goaltender to make “that save” when you need them. Frankly, Hutch and Buck have not done that. Pavelec has, but to this point still is not consistent to rely upon long-term.

Three great goaltenders were available at this season’s deadline that could have turned the situation around. Consider Bishop, who was shipped off to the Los Angeles Kings, while Fleury was not moved ahead of the expansion draft.

Both could have been more solid options for the Jets in net, while acting as a mentor to Hellebuyck as he develops. Bishop is the more comparable player, a six-foot-seven American goaltender, playing a similar style to Hellebuyck. However the major drawback would be the asking price, his need for a new contract, and injury history.

Another goaltender that should have gotten more calls was Scott Darling of the Chicago Blackhawks. The Illinois native is six-foot-six and owns a 15-5-2 record, 2.18 goals against average (GAA), and .929 save percentage in a backup role behind Corey Crawford. The 28-year-old is potentially the best backup in the league and a player that George McPhee will be looking at hard as the Vegas Golden Knights begin to plan their roster.

Defense: the Jets are all-right

In the modern NHL there is no greater commodity than the right-handed defenseman, a commodity the Jets have in surplus currently. Dustin Byfuglien, Jacob Trouba, Tyler Myers, and Paul Postma all shoot right. Currently Josh Morrissey and Ben Chiarot are the only lefties getting great minutes, which simply won’t last.

Trouba’s highly publicized disdain for playing the left side, if given the credence it deserves, would give the Jets an unbeatable right side on defense. However, Morrissey is still growing into the top-two role he deserves, and the success of Chiarot has always depended on the partner he has with him.

While the rest of the Jets’ young prospects develop, and Julian Melchiori is consistently being made a healthy scratch, the team let better players go to other teams. Johnny Oduya, a former Jet, was dealt back to the Blackhawks squad he won two cups with, and Jordie Benn was sent to the Montreal Canadiens to finally become more than just Jamie Benn’s brother.

Both players would’ve shored up the Jets top four on the left side, letting Trouba play his natural position and sheltering Morrissey. Benn fits the Jets mold as a six-foot-two, stay-at-home defender. Something the Jets sorely need, as they currently sit 19th in the league in shots against per game with 30.9 and 27th in team goals against at 3.19.

It’s no longer a Jets team that can’t score – they sit 10th in the league with 2.92 goals per game – so something on the back end needs to change. A change could’ve come March 1, but didn’t.

Quite simply, the 2017 trade deadline was another dud for the Jets. The draft-and-develop strategy only goes so far and with the caliber of pieces available, the hometown brass swung and missed. The Jets need to win, and soon, because fans can only be patient so long.