The Winnipeg Jets’ 2022-23 season hit a low point late in January after a 4-0 home loss to the Philadelphia Flyers. They are by no means a perfect team, but they have managed to exceed expectations through the first 52 games of the season with a stellar 32-19-1 record.
Despite being one of the best teams in the Western Conference, there are still plenty of things they need to improve upon before the playoffs begin.
The Power Play Needs to Improve
The Jets’ power play is in the middle of a cold streak. They have converted on just one of their last 20 opportunities with the man-advantage. Their power play is currently slightly above average at 22.29 percent, but this will need to improve if they want to win the Central Division.
A hot power play can singlehandedly win you a game, and the Jets’ biggest competitors within the Central Division, the Dallas Stars, have their power play clicking at 25 percent, which is second-best in the West. Talent is not an issue, as the Jets have more than enough high-end forwards to have a top-10 power play.
In a 4-2 win over the St. Louis Blues on Jan. 30, the Jets’ power play went scoreless on six attempts. A good power play would have made this game a blowout and that’s just another way that great teams can separate themselves from good ones.
Depth Offensive Scoring Must Return
The Jets may make a move for a big-name forward at the 2023 Trade Deadline, but until then, they need more scoring from the bottom parts of their lineup. It seems as though Mason Appleton will return to the lineup after an injury kept him out of the lineup for three months, which will help a depleted group.
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The forward depth stepped up when Nikolaj Ehlers and Blake Wheeler missed significant time with injuries, but over the past two weeks, they have struggled to generate offence. Players such as Saku Maenalanen, Kevin Stenlund, and Karson Kuhlman bring value to the penalty kill, where the Jets own one of the best penalty-killing units in the NHL.
While penalty killing has been one of the biggest reasons for a great first half, the Jets need more from this group to be considered a contender. Teams that have had playoff success like the Colorado Avalanche and Tampa Bay Lightning have some of the deepest forward groups in the NHL. It’s a must if you want to be the last team standing, and the organization will be hoping for an upswing in production out of the break.
Ideal Forward & Defensive Lines Need to Be Established
Going into the final game before the break, head coach Rick Bowness brought out the blender regarding the forward lines. Ehlers started on the fourth line, and Kuhlman and Maenalanen began in the top six. These lines did not finish the game, but coming out of the extended break, the Jets need to establish their ideal lineup.
Once the team is healthy and these can be established, players can start to build chemistry with one another and get into a rhythm before the playoffs. In years past, such as 2018-19, the Jets stumbled into the playoffs and then lost in the first round to the Blues. They cannot afford to be on a losing streak going into the playoffs this year, as a team like the Avalanche or Minnesota Wild are their likely first-round opponents.
If they clean up some miscues on the power play, inject some offensive life into the bottom six, and establish what their ideal lines are at even strength, this group will be well-suited to win the number one seed in the Central Division. It begins on Feb. 11 against the Chicago Blackhawks, a game in which the Jets should have no problems coming away with a win.