While there are some mitigating factors to their struggles, some of the blame for the struggles of the Winnipeg Jets this season has to fall at the feet of head coach Paul Maurice, argues Ted Wyman of the Winnipeg Sun. After missing the playoffs last season, the Jets have only shown marginal improvements in offense (despite the presence of Patrik Laine whose 17 goals sit third league-wide) while their special teams play is largely the same; the power play is slightly better and the penalty kill is a little bit worse.
The Jets have had a tough schedule so far, leading the league in games played with 32. As a result, they’re facing some lighter weeks ahead which Wyman suggests will be critical for Maurice’s future. If they pick up their play and get back into the postseason hunt, that might be enough to demonstrate that he remains the right coach for the job. If they don’t do that and some of the concerns continue (such as being one of the least discipline teams in the league), then questions about his future will certainly start to swirl. Improved goaltending would certainly help as well as the Jets have a team save percentage of just .901, ranking them tied for 26th overall.
Other notes from the Central Division:
- The Avalanche are looking to be active on the trade market, reports Bruce Garrioch of the Ottawa Sun. While it’s believed that GM Joe Sakic is not willing to move center Nathan MacKinnon, all other Colorado players could be open for discussion. Garrioch suggests that the pressure is off of Sakic to win this season with the departure of Patrick Roy which could make them a team to watch between now and the trade deadline.
- Chicago left winger Artemi Panarin is in some rare company, writes CSN Chicago’s Charlie Roumeliotis. With his goal against Dallas on Sunday, Panarin hit 100 points for his career, doing so in just 110 games. Panarin is only the 27th player in league history to reach 100 points in that few of games. Coincidentally, the last player to do so was teammate Patrick Kane.
- The Blackhawks will have center Jonathan Toews return to the lineup tonight, reports Mark Lazerus of the Chicago Sun-Times (Twitter link). The captain has missed the last nine games with a back injury but despite the layoff, he doesn’t anticipate having to play reduced minutes.
- The Blues are shifting Jaden Schwartz to center tonight against the Predators, notes Jeremy Rutherford of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. He has played primarily on the left wing this season but the swap allows St. Louis to load up their three top scorers on one line in Schwartz, Vladimir Tarasenko, and Robby Fabbri. The move also allows Alex Steen to return to his natural left wing position, a spot he hasn’t played in more than a month.