School’s out for the Winnipeg Jets. That means the report card is in.
Sure, the Jets overachieved this spring, getting more out of the roster than most thought they would. Great.
But let’s break that down a bit. Did the depth guys deliver? What if Bryan Little and Mathieu Perreault had scored more than once? What if Jacob Trouba had been better in the O-zone? Would that have changed things?
What happened to Paul Stastny in Round 3? Was Connor Hellebuyck really better than the other guy, all spring long?
Here are some final grades. Have a great summer!
Blake Wheeler: A+
The Jets captain was exactly that: An unselfish, productive, tone-setting veteran who gave his younger teammates a template they could follow from Game 1 of Round 1 through to the final game of Round 3. His 18 assists are a playoff-high this spring, after Wheeler tied atop the NHL with 68 regular-season assists. You simply could not ask for more from Wheeler than what he gave the Jets during this run.
Mark Scheifele: A+
The next Jets captain was Wheeler’s right hand this spring, and he too leads the playoffs with 14 goals through three rounds. That 11 of those goals came on the road — a record-setting seven in the Nashville series — tells you something about what a gamer Scheifele is. He is to Winnipeg what Auston Matthews is to Toronto, Connor McDavid is to Edmonton, and Sidney Crosby is to Pittsburgh. Scheifele is the Jets’ best player, and he played like it this spring.
The Jets goalie just turned 25 this past weekend, and had never played an NHL playoff game before this spring. He was the better goalie in series against veterans Devan Dubnyk and Pekka Rinne, and we’re not going to cast any stones about him being out-duelled by Marc-Andre Fleury, whose game is out of this world right now. Hellebuyck’s other-worldly confidence level is what you want in a goalie, and he’ll learn how to express it more prudently as time passes. He misplayed two crucial pucks in the Vegas series that cost his team. That is something else he’ll have to eliminate.
Patrik Laine: B+
For a 20-year-old on his first playoff run, I don’t see how you could ask for more from Laine. Is he a bit of a one-trick pony? For now, sure, even though that ‘trick’ accounted for 44 goals and five more in the playoffs. He was firing all spring long, and just because it’s harder to score, the big Finn wasn’t deterred. He’ll mature and be every bit as good as Winnipeg hopes he’ll be. Don’t worry for a second.
Dustin Byfuglien: B+
Same old story with Byfuglien: When he’s on, he’s great. When he’s not, he can really have you scratching your head. In these playoffs Byfuglien was on 90 per cent of the time. He led the Jets in ice time by nearly five minutes, averaging 26:30 per night, and his game wandered far less than at points in the regular season. Big Buff was locked in, and there’s an excellent player there when that is the case.
Josh Morrissey and Tyler Myers: B
As a pair of 20-minute defencemen charged with defending more than creating, both players allowed the Jets offensive-minded players room to roam. Myers was far more mobile than we recollect, adding 4-3-7 during the run, and defended physically and responsibly. Morrissey never met a shot he wouldn’t block, and skates the puck out of trouble better than we thought. Two pillars of a winning team here.
Paul Stastny: C+
Stastny was on his way to an A+ until the third round came and went, and he went pointless in the last four games — all Jets losses — against Vegas. Certain players get to certain levels, and then the tap turns off, and Stastny’s rap in St. Louis was that he would level off at times like these. That’s what happened in Round 3, and the absence of a second line was the biggest reason they lost four straight for the only time all season.
Jacob Trouba: C
He played 21:39 per night and was plus-three, but Trouba is supposed to add some offence. He had points in two of 17 games (2-1-3), and went pointless in the final nine outings. He didn’t hurt the Jets, but a player with Trouba’s size and talent should help more in big games. He had three goals this season. We don’t get how Trouba is in for a big pay day this summer.
Bryan Little, Mathieu Perreault, and Adam Lowry: C–
These depth forwards aren’t going to score much. But scoring some is the difference, when a guy like Ryan Reaves scores the series winner for Vegas. I put Lowry (0 goals) in with Connor and Ehlers as inexperienced. He’ll be a hell of a third-line centre one day. But Little’s $5.3-million salary kicks in next season, and he had one goal in 17 playoff games. Perreault (one goal, $4.125 million) had grade-A chances that he couldn’t finish, and could have made a huge difference had he cashed in against Fleury.
Kyle Connor and Nikolaj Ehlers: D
Connor, 21, and Ehlers, 22, looked very much like two skilled players figuring out how the playoffs work. Or rather, trying to figure it out. Both were perimeter players all spring long — particularly Connor — and in 32 games Connor scored the pair’s measly three goals. They’ll get better. It was just a lesson that the playoffs are for older players, and these two had never seen a level like this before.
Toby Enstrom: N/A
He missed too much time this season and never really caught up. It was an unfair ask and Enstrom did just okay.