With New York Islanders defenseman Travis Hamonic’s trade request dominating the rumor mill of late, several other recent rumors went overlooked. Here’s a look at some you may have missed.
The Winnipeg Jets remain a team of interest in this season’s NHL rumor mill. The status of pending UFAs Dustin Byfuglien and Andrew Ladd has many observers wondering if they’ll move or re-sign them. They’re also considered a destination of choice for Hamonic, a Manitoba native.
The Winnipeg Jets have been an above average team this season in just about every regard. They out possess the opposition on a near nightly basis, have a favorable shooting percentage and are getting a good chunk of their starts in the attacking zone. One area the Jets have struggled, though, is between the pipes and things aren’t about to get any easier.
The Jets announced Monday that goaltender Ondrej Pavelec, who was hit by Arizona Coyotes captain Shane Doan Saturday night, has been placed on the injured reserve and, according to TSN’s Sara Orlesky, the diagnosis, a knee sprain, isn’t good. Pavelec is expected to miss all of December’s action, Orlesky reported, and there’s a possibility he won’t return until February.
Normally, this would be where Jets fans — or at least those who have been more on the side of netminder Michael Hutchinson than they have Pavelec — would be excited about the potential for Hutchinson to shine. However, Hutchinson has been statistically worse than Pavelec this season. Of the 42 goaltenders who have played at least 300 minutes at 5-on-5, Pavelec ranks 18th with a .931 save percentage. Hutchinson? He’s closer to the bottom with a 34th-best .912 SP.
To say the Jets can’t afford a run of poor goaltending in the incredibly competitive Central Division would be an understatement. But there may not be reason for the Winnipeg faithful to worry, because with Pavelec’s injury came the call up of Manitoba Moose netminder Connor Hellebuyck, and the future could very well be now for the Jets. Read more
At the 2007 AHL All-Star Skills Competition, defenseman Dustin Byfuglien, then with the AHL’s Norfolk Admirals, won the hardest shot competition with a blast that was clocked at 98.7 miles per hour. So it’s obvious that Byfuglien can fire a puck, which makes it even more frightening that the Jets defenseman put a blast on goal that caught winger Blake Wheeler in the head.
Wheeler, 29, was forced to leave practice early after taking the puck to the head. Wheeler was able to skate off under his own power, but could be seen holding a towel to the side of his head. The footage, via Sportsnet, can be seen below: Read more
Travis Hamonic is 25 years old. He’s a mobile, physical defensemen who can munch minutes and has a reasonable amount of offensive potential. He’s a steal against the salary cap, currently leads all defensemen in hits, is a right-shot defenseman and has favorable numbers when it comes to analytics. And his best years as an NHL player could very well be in front of him.
So from the standpoint of New York Islanders GM Garth Snow, there could never be a better time to trade him. But when the player not only asks for a trade, but limits his destination to one of four teams, any leverage Snow had over his possible trade partners is wiped out. There’s nothing the drops a player’s trade market value more dramatically than a desperate need to move him and a limited number of destinations.
The 2014-15 campaign was a huge step forward for the Winnipeg Jets, regardless of being swept in the first round of the post-season by the Anaheim Ducks. Thought to be an also-ran in the Central Division heading into the season, the Jets rode speed, size and timely scoring to a playoff berth, the first since the team arrived in Winnipeg.
One of the bigger surprises of the Jets’ season, though, was the play of their goaltending duo of Ondrej Pavelec and Michael Hutchinson. Though goaltending was thought to be a potential problem area for the Jets, Winnipeg finished the season with a .927 save percentage at 5-on-5, which was top-10 in the entire league.
Pavelec, one of the most maligned starting netminders in the league, had a resurgence, and was given all four starts in the first-round series. He finished the season with a 2.28 goals-against average, .920 SP at all strengths and five shutouts — far and away the best numbers of his professional career. At 5-on-5, Pavelec was above average for goaltenders who played at least 1,500 minutes in 2014-15, finishing 13th in the NHL with a .929 SP. Meanwhile, Hutchinson was stellar and posted a 21-10-5 record, 2.38 GAA and .914 SP in his rookie year.
But for much of the 2015-16 campaign, the Jets’ previously strong goaltending has been nowhere to be found. And that has been especially concerning since late October. In their past five outings, the Jets have surrendered 24 goals and haven’t allowed fewer than one goal against in any game in the month of November, a streak which has lasted eight games. And after a 7-0 drubbing at the hands of the division-rival Nashville Predators Saturday night, it seems like Winnipeg would do just about anything to get a timely save or two. Read more
The Halifax Mooseheads turned every game into their own episode of The Flash the past couple years. Nathan MacKinnon had unbelievable wheels and insane hype following Sidney Crosby’s footsteps out of Cole Harbour, N.S. But the man who succeeded MacKinnon and Jonathan Drouin as Halifax’s go-to scoring machine, Nikolaj Ehlers, was arguably even fleeter of foot.
No one could catch Ehlers, a kid so athletic he once suited up for Denmark’s national junior soccer team. He ripped it up for 49 goals and 104 points in 63 games in 2013-14. Last year, he was even better, notching 37 goals and 101 points in just 51 games, with 31 points in 14 playoff games to boot. Representing Denmark at the 2015 World Junior Championship, Ehlers appeared to be in fast-forward at all times, skating circles around many of the planet’s top under-20 players.
But we easily could’ve chalked all the superlatives up to typical elite prospect hype, right? Of course Ehlers lit up the QMJHL. Of course he was the fastest player, right up there with Connor McDavid, at the 2015 WJC. The Winnipeg Jets took Ehlers ninth overall in 2014. He better be lighting up his fellow kids.
All the excited chatter feels more legitimate this year, however, seeing Ehlers skating in NHL rinks as a top-six forward on a playoff-caliber team. His six-foot, 172-pound listing is extremely generous – I’m 5-foot-9 and stand virtually eye to eye with him – but the size deficiency hasn’t hindered his ability to blow away opponents with his speed at the NHL level. Not one bit. He’s as blindingly fast as ever. Even during the rare moments when he coasts, waiting for an outlet pass, he still seems to be zooming past people. Ehlers, 19, might well be the fastest player in the game today.
I decided to tell him this last week – “Nik, I’m pretty sure you’re the fastest player in the world now” – and see how he took it. Is he aware of the physical advantage he has over most of his competition?
The way the Winnipeg Jets play the game is not supposed to be a winning formula. Just ask the analytics community. What has developed into conventional wisdom states that in order to have success, teams have to enter the offensive zone with possession of the puck. Chip and chase is supposed to be dead.
Except it’s not entirely and the Jets are a good example of that. You watch the Montreal Canadiens play and they are now entering the zone with the puck because they’re a team that’s built for success playing that way. But sometimes you watch the Jets and you’d swear it was throwback night to the early 2000s.
The Dustin Byfuglien hit on Brendan Gallagher creates a nice opportunity for some education on player safety and how suspensions happen.
The social media assumption after Winnipeg’s Byfuglien appeared to club Montreal’s Gallagher with a high hit Sunday night was that Byfuglien had a lengthy ban from the NHL headed his way. After all, he’d been suspended four games late last season for a crosscheck to the head of New York Rangers center J.T. Miller. Another illegal check to the head would easily place Byfuglien under the repeat offender category according to the collective bargaining agreement and the Department of Player Safety.
The catch here, though, is that none of that history was relevant if Byfuglien’s hit on Gallagher was deemed unworthy of supplemental discipline. And that’s exactly what happened Tuesday after the league’s hearing with Byfuglien. No one can explain the rationale better than the DOPS itself, so here’s the video with player safety director Patrick Burke narrating: