© Geoff Brookes
The Winnipeg Jets missed a turn on the runway. The wheels are stuck in a rut. The thin layer of soft topsoil has given way to the thick prairie gumbo, and they ain’t moving nowhere, nohow. The service vehicles are on their way over the apron, with the flashing yellow lights, and their horns blowing.
Jets fans are “on board”, but they’re worried. Their mood is getting surly. They’re confused. They’re wondering if the captain is in full control of the plane. They’re wondering if coach Paul Maurice is getting through to the players.
Well, is he? And how exactly is he doing that? Is he just spinning wheels, or does he have a plan to fix the situation?
In this modern age, with no-trade clauses and guaranteed contracts, we’ve seen some fairly clear indications that, if it isn’t a contract year, the players are shockingly hard of hearing. “What’s that, coach”?
Just about the only leverage that an NHL coach has, these days, is playing time.
Dustin Byfuglien is a conundrum. He is a very good hockey player, overall. He generates lots of offense when he is on the ice. But he often takes chances that result in high-quality scoring opportunities for the opposition.
His contribution to the team is still positive, but it could be better. The number of risky plays – often at strategically bad moments in a game – is greater than it was for the past two years. The Winnipeg Jets are among the better scoring teams in the NHL, but among the very worst for goals allowed.
If the Jets are going to win enough hockey games to make the playoffs, Dustin Byfuglien has to play more cautiously, electing to make the safe plays far more often than he has this year.
Does Paul Maurice know this? Of course he does. Every hockey commentator says it. So why is PoMo having trouble getting Big Buff to put this into effect?
Dustin Byfuglien leads all Jets defensemen in ice time – by a lot. He even has 10% more minutes (at even strength) than the guy that plays on his left, Josh Morrissey. Think about that for a moment.
So, let’s recap this. The guy that you apparently want to modify the way he is playing the game, gets way more ice time than anyone else. And playing time is your main way to motivate the players….
Meanwhile, the guy that has been the killer stud on defense, Jacob Trouba, has publicly said that he wants more ice time. Is there room for some tactical coaching moves?
The Jets have been criticized by many for overplaying their young goalies this year, without a veteran presence. And yet they are apparently underplaying their young defenseman, Jacob Trouba.
I’m not a fan of radical solutions. I’m not saying that Paul Maurice should cut Buff’s minutes by 30%. But the statistics don’t support any assertion that Paul Maurice is using Byfuglien’s ice time to make any coaching points. And he should be.
As for the argument that the Jets are just young, and we need to allow for that, it has been pointed out by some smart sports people that the youngest team in the league is actually the Columbus Blue Jackets, and we all know what kind of a season they are having. And how good they are at keeping the puck out of their own net.
The time for excuses is over. Sorry. Done. Time’s up.
It’s go time.
There is a reason why they call the guy behind the bench “coach”. It’s time for Paul Maurice to show that he is indeed a winning coach in the NHL.