Hot or not
What has gone wrong for the Winnipeg Jets?
@Real_ESPNLeBrun: What in the Wide, Wide World of Sports is wrong with the Winnipeg Jets? Paul Maurice's men wrapped up October with a 7-3-1 record, which put them pretty much where most of the hockey world thought they'd be: a solid, playoff-bound contender who might win a round or two this postseason. Alas, November has seen them go 1-6-1 during a brutal stretch that included seven games on the road. Still, every team has tough stretches in its schedule. The good teams find a way to pick up points. The Jets played well last night in St. Louis, fighting hard in a 3-2 loss to the St. Louis Blues, just two nights after an embarrassing 7-0 defeat in Nashville. However, a team that seemingly has four-line depth, a good blue line and decent goaltending is looking nothing like itself right now. What gives?
@ESPN_Burnside: Well, Pierre, you could start with the goals allowed in your search for the cause of the Jets' woes. A year ago, they bucked a trend that had plagued the franchise for its entire existence by finishing tied for 10th in goals allowed per game (2.49). When Ondrej Pavelec hit a rough patch last, season rookie Michael Hutchinson came to the rescue. Who's rescuing the Jets this year? No one, apparently, as they rank a dismal 27th in goals allowed per game (3.21). It's not all on Pavelec and Hutchinson, although the team's SAT numbers are a respectable 10th so maybe it is on the goaltending. Perhaps the bigger issues facing GM Kevin Cheveldayoff and his wobbling squad is what to do with big-name potential free agents Dustin Byfuglien and captain Andrew Ladd, both of whom can become unrestricted free agents next summer. My gut would say Ladd stays, but what is Byfuglien's value and can they afford him? If the answer is no, Cheveldayoff cannot afford to see him walk next July without getting something in return, so stay tuned on that front.
@ESPNJoeMac: First off, Pierre, love the "Blazing Saddles" reference. It's fitting, because the Jets' season is looking more like Mel Brooks comedy of errors right now as they carry a six-game losing skid, but in reality it's not funny at all. The Jets have the ability and talent to be a much better team, as their play late last season and in the first month of this season indicated. A would-be solid goaltending tandem of Hutchinson and Pavelec would round out the Jets' overall game, but that simply hasn't been the case. Maurice is a good coach and there's too much talent on this team for this skid to continue. Pierre is probably right that it's a typical bad stretch team go through during the course of a season. Maybe, just maybe, the Jets will turn things around and have their top hats on and canes in hand at season's end, singing "Putting on the Ritz."
@CraigCustance: As the previously-proud owner of Hutchinson in Pierre's fantasy pool, I feel the Jets pain as much as anybody. In three out of his four October starts Hutchinson allowed just one goal. In three of his five November starts, he's allowed three or more goals. He has a November save percentage of .857 (not that I'm bitter). There are people around the league who thought this might be the year he seized the starting job from Pavelec and earned the majority of the starts, but that clearly isn't happening right now. The Jets have a team even-strength save percentage of .917, which puts them at No. 25 in the NHL. Like you guys, I think it's just a bad stretch that the Jets will emerge from at some point, but there's very little margin for error in the loaded Central Division.
@DownGoesBrown: Under normal circumstances, I wouldn't be overly worried if I was a Jets fan. Slumps happen, and when the talent is there and underlying numbers still look solid, it's best to ride them out with overreacting. But then you remember the Jets are in the Central, and you start to get a little nervous. That division doesn't figure to provide much wiggle room, and that's especially true now that the Colorado Avalanche finally look like a competitive team again. The top four all look strong, and we're all just waiting for the Chicago Blackhawks to gun their engines and move up the standings. The Jets are plenty good enough to be a playoff team, but in this division that may not be enough. (And while it's still early, can you imagine the uproar if the Central's sixth-place team finishes with a better record than the Pacific's third-best, but loses out on a playoff spot due to the NHL's seeding rules?)
AROUND THE LEAGUE
• Blues coach Ken Hitchcock scrambled his lines Monday night, and the team got more balanced scoring in that win over the Jets.