After an unbelievably hectic day in Jetsland we’ve settled into the news now that #1 centre, and self-professed hockey maniac, Mark Scheifele has been placed on IR with an upper-body injury that will see him sit out the next 6-8 weeks. Once news broke last night that the injury to Scheifele was expected to be serious, fans across social media began discussing who would get the call from Winnipeg’s farm team, The AHL’s Manitoba Moose.
The Moose, who have been leading the American Hockey League, had two realistic candidates for recall. Jack Roslovic and Nick Petan were assumed to be “the next man up” if players in the top 6 got hurt and that was for good reason. Roslovic currently sits second in AHL scoring with 35 points in 31 games and Nick Petan has quietly amassed 16 points in his last 10 games and has generally been Manitoba’s best forward for the last month or so. Both players would have been a fine choice and you could have structured the lines to help insulate their minutes. It was a horrific situation to be in, but the next steps at least made sense.
So where do we sit now?
Coach Maurice had some interesting thoughts after the Jets first practice without their stud centreman and these are the ones I found most telling:
1) Maurice on who is filling in for Scheifele:
“Wheeler was always the first option to replace Mark at centre; Perreault was the second if Blake couldn’t.”
2) Maurice on a call up right now:
“We have two NHL forwards who have been patient and waiting their turn (Matthias and Dano). They’ll get in and play.”
3) Maurice when asked specifically if he had any plans to recall Petan or Roslovic eventually:
“No. Not at this time”
4) Maurice on why Matthias over Dano:
“I haven’t decided yet”
5) Maurice on Perreault:
“He’s the first “call up” into a top 6 role. He’s replacing Scheif in the top 6 and someone else will have to replace him in the bottom 6. He (Perreault) likes playing with Hendo and hasn’t complained once about usage or minutes however, he’s excited to be playing more minutes now. Everyone plays better with Matty so we know he’ll be good on that second line”
The line rushes at practice today looked like this:
After going through head coach Paul Maurice’s comments and the new lineup, here is what I’ve gleaned:
1) The kids on the Moose who are playing on the top line are staying put. Petan-Appleton-Roslovic are going nowhere unless a huge rash of injuries happen at the Jets level. This is sure to make a lot of fans disappointed and generally confused. Shouldn’t you replace skill with skill? Hasn’t that been the new philosophy preached all year from the GM right down to the coaches?
2) I personally expect to see Wheeler at centre for the duration of the Scheifele injury. If Wheeler really was always the first option there, I don’t see them going away from that unless he also gets hurt or, for some reason the team falls into a huge 0-for streak. I’ve seen some fans and media posit that this is just temporary but that’s not the feeling I’m getting from Maurice. The only way I see Wheeler moving back to the wing is if Kevin Cheveldayoff finds a top 9 centreman to bring in via trade.
3) Maurice doesn’t see Petan or Roslovic as “NHL forwards” yet. I’m not really sure what else they can do in the AHL to change his mind. One has lead the AHL in scoring for most of the year, and the other has 16 points in his last 10 games and both are playing lights out hockey in all situations (5 on 5, Power Play and Penalty Kill). They’re two-way, top 6 players, and in my humble opinion, ready to see if they’re “NHL forwards” too. People have thrown out the “experience” word for why they aren’t ready, but how else do you get NHL experience if you don’t play in the NHL?
4) If he hasn’t decided on Matthias over Dano why was Matthias given first crack at line rushes? Tomorrow’s morning skate before the Islander game will be very telling but I’m assuming he just didn’t want to answer the question so he deflected it. I just can’t see Marko Dano going in cold after letting Matthias take line rushes in practice. It just doesn’t add up. To quote the great “Judge Judy” Sheindlin “Don’t pee on my leg and tell me it’s raining” (I know, I know, it’s not originally her quote but she does it so well)
5) While having the option to move Perreault up is great for the second line (and for Perreault), wouldn’t it have made sense to bring skill into the bottom 6 to help curb losing Perreault? No one can duplicate what he was bringing to that line but I think you could have minimized the impact of him moving up if you had added some skill to his spot as opposed to Matthias, whose offensive game has completely fallen off a cliff and may actually be a negative to that line. Let’s remember, before Perreault was added to it, the Jets production from the bottom 6 forwards was dead last in the league.
Before you burn me at the stake, I’m not ready to write off the season, or the playoffs or any of that. I’m not saying the Jets are terrible and we’ll never recover. This team has SO MUCH good offensive talent in the system that you should be able to still mix and match nicely and find some intriguing matchups to target. If managed properly, losing Scheifele shouldn’t tank this season, as much as it will hurt in the short run.
What I am saying is “Why?”
Why would an older, lower upside, offensively challenged forward slot in over players who could provide an actual spark to the bottom 6?
Why aren’t the Moose players’ even options at this time? We’ve seen the organizational depth be at its all-time best, yet they refuse to use it?
Why wouldn’t the coaches want an influx of skill and speed to the bottom six? We’ve seen what having that on the fourth line can do; shouldn’t they want more of that?
While I don’t know the answers to any of those questions, I do know this is going to be a wild ride. Buckle up folks, this Jet is possibly headed for turbulence.