Gus Katsaros

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Grounded Jets

Wednesday, February 7, 2018


The 2017-18 Winnipeg jets are legit.

 

Riding high at the top the Central division, a lethal offense up front, even while missing top player in Mark Scheifele out with an upper body injury for about a month. It’s a simple testament to the talent that took over in his absence and continued producing offense, while a philosophical change from coaching staff altered their approach to forwards line deployments. The fuselage may have some pressure and in-flight stress, but the framing and wings are in perfect structural harmony.

 

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The somewhat battered, yet fully functional Jets are potentially getting a boost with the return of star, Mark Scheifele as early as this coming Friday.

 

 

And they couldn’t be any happier to receive that familiar face. Winnipeg coaches were running a distinct top and bottom six combination up until the recent spate of injury trouble.

 

Garret Hohl illustrated this point using a graphic via HockeyViz.com and I’ve touched on the staunch philosophy for the division in the forwards ranks earlier in the season.

 

 

The Jets and Nashville Predators are locked in a bitter struggle for first overall in the division, with the Predators holding a games in hand advantage and the lurking St. Louis Blues waiting for the opportunity to pounce on any downward trend. A slump can find either of those teams in third overall in the Central.

 

Unlike the Preds and Blues, the Jets have a midseason boost with an exquisitely timed 10-game homestand to lead up to the NHL trade deadline. The potential Stanley Cup contenders can put a buffer of separation between them and their divisional rivals.

 

The Jets are four games into the homestand, with three wins and an overtime loss for seven points. What? A homestand alone isn’t already enough of an advantage? Yes, of course, however, there’s an added bonus – no games on back-to-back nights. They won’t have to play any of those games without at least a one-day break between. Three games during the homestand feature a tired team that's played the night before and traveled into Winnipeg.

 

View post on imgur.com

 

Playing a tired team, while rested tips the scales into the Jets' favor. Doing it three times in the slog of the mid-season schedule leading up to the trade deadline can increase the points buffer for the final stretch run and a favorable playoff spot with home ice advantage.

 

In 2017-18, Winnipeg dresses for 13 games as a rested team versus a tired team on the second night of a back-to-back, very close to the league average of 11. The scheduling distinction here has a secondary effect that affects a divisional rival, the Minnesota Wild.

 

View post on imgur.com

 

Within the 13 games, they face a tired team while rested five times where the opponent played game one the previous night against Minnesota. The table below shows the distribution of dates where this happens. With the Wild on the cusp of a playoff spot and the Jets in a more secure position, the Wild become the Game One punching bags for Winnipeg, while Minnesota fights for their playoff lives. This scheduling issue is drawn out in a similar fashion between Toronto and Montreal that I have illustrated here at Maple Leafs Hot Stove.

 

View post on imgur.com

 

Only Nashville is the direct divisional opponent in this scenario, with the likes of Vegas, Pittsburgh, Los Angeles and Buffalo traveling to Minnesota and then hopping the border into Winnipeg. This offers the Jets the distinction of playing rested and taking advantage of the Wild playing a potentially more energetic and dangerous team in Game one of the back-to-back nights. This kind of advantage/disadvantage occurs very often in California, featuring Los Angeles and Anaheim, and just as prevalent between Edmonton and Calgary.

 

Should they both have been fighting for a playoff spot, this discrepancy would have held more relevance than it currently does, but it’s still interesting. Minny softens up an opponent to present the Jets an advantage.

 

Anecdotally the Jets have one of my favorite scheduling stories. During the 2011-12 season Winnipeg was off to a great first half when I took a little closer look at their schedule and their bid to make the playoffs looking great during their inaugural year. The result is below:

 

Last Season - 2011-12

Winnipeg with the rested advantage and Ottawa as a tired team are great 2011-12 examples.

Winnipeg iced a rested lineup versus a team playing their second game on consecutive nights an NHL high 17 games, sporting a nifty 13-3-0-1 record, for 27 points.

On December 1, the Jets sat in 13th in the East with 24 points. By New Years, and they moved up to 7th overall sporting a slippery record of 19-14-5.

Six games (5-0-1) in December featured a tired team on the back end of games on consecutive nights, with a record of 5-0-1. Five of those games featured a team flying into Winnipeg an average of 547 miles, including the first four occurrences, all wins.

In fact, the Jets did not lose their first of these 17 games until the end of January, posting a record of 10-0-2 along the way. The Jets were only 8 points out of a playoff spot by season’s end, surely aided by 27 points in these games.

Oh, and in games where Winnipeg was the tired team, they sported an eye-opening 1-10-1 record for three points

 

Schedules are a fluid entity year over year, but it just seems like the Jets get some form of scheduling breakdown that catches my eye. Very few teams have 10-game homestands – and conversely, with the location and the travel requirements of a Western Conference team, there are some rare, but monster road trips.

 

The timing of this midseason homestand couldn’t have been planned any better. 



Gus Katsaros is the Pro Scouting Coordinator with McKeen’s Hockey, publishers of industry leading scouting and fantasy guide, the McKeen’s Annual Hockey Pool Yearbook. He also contributes to popular blog MapleLeafsHotStove.com ... he can be followed on Twitter @KatsHockey
Email :Gus Katsaros



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