A three-day break couldn't have come at a better time for the Winnipeg Jets. The Jets are coming off a rough loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning on Friday night and now endure a three-game losing streak.
It's been an up and down start to the 2012-13 season. The Jets sit in second place in the Southeast division, but own a 3-4-1 record. It's the previous three games that have everyone worrying and asking where they go from here.
For the Jets to get back on track, some necessary changes will have to be made. Whether it be a physical change or a mental change, a major change or a minor change, it'll have to start with Jets head coach Claude Noel.
Let's take a look at some of the problems that the Jets have been facing.
First and foremost, it starts with the penalty kill. The Jets penalty kill has been absolutely abysmal throughout the first eight games. They sit last in the league with a 59.3 penalty kill percentage.
One of the main focal points for the Jets going into the season was how well their special teams would perform. It was sort of the make-or-break aspect of their game. They were a mediocre bunch on the penalty kill last season, so expectations were low to begin with.
And so far, the Jets penalty kill is beyond abysmal. It's a complete failure. The penalty kill is the number one reason the Jets lost each of their previous three games. It single-handedly cost them potential wins in all three.
Noel has some time to work with the penalty kill and come up with solutions, but this is becoming a major problem and it has to be fixed. The Jets' style seems a bit lackluster and they don't have the best personnel to put on the penalty kill, but to be that awful is completely unacceptable.
Granted, you have to stay out of the box, too—something the Jets are becoming a little too familiar with. Which leaves us with another problem: the undisciplined, untimely, and at times, boneheaded penalties.
It doesn't matter how bad a penalty kill is, teams will score when they're getting all-you-can-eat trips to the power play. Whether it's 5-on-3 man advantages, four-minute double minors, or five-minute majors, the Jets seem to be giving them all away.
Most of the penalties the Jets take occur during crucial times of the game. And most are easily avoidable or are taken out of sheer stupidity. Regardless, it's unacceptable to take penalties like it's their job.
Noel has to find ways to discipline his team because obviously whatever he’s doing isn’t working. The players have to play smarter and leaders have to step up. This is when Jets' captain Andrew Ladd has to step up and have a few words with his teammates.
The penalties and the penalty kill are the two biggest problems facing this team going forward, but there are other issues surrounding them as well.
Another concern that could spark change is the Jets lineup. It's concerning in a couple of ways. You can't really change this, but you have to be undoubtedly worried about it.
Dustin Byfuglien, arguably their best defenseman, has missed the past two games and is considered day-to-day. Zach Bogosian is still recovering from offseason surgery and doesn't have an accurate timetable for return. Both players contribute a great deal and are needed in the lineup.
In lieu of these two injured defensemen are younger, inexperienced defensemen trying to assume roles that they're unable to. As a result, the Jets lineup has become weaker.
Speaking of the lineup, maybe there are indeed changes that have to be made. Either that, or Noel still needs time to figure out who fits and who doesn't. It's been eight games. Decisions have to be made. The Jets have forwards that aren't seeing time.
Kyle Wellwood, who had his best season of his career with the Jets last year, has been a consistent scratch. What happens when injured-reserved forward Antti Miettinen is healthy? And then there's the Mark Scheifele factor.
An inevitable decision will be made. Scheifele is on the brink of his fifth NHL game this season and the decision whether to send him back to the OHL or keep him on the roster has to be made. It's not a decision to take lightly as Scheifele will be a big part of this franchise someday. The question is when.
A lot of factors have to be considered, but the most important to consider is his ice time. It's not a difficult decision to make. If Scheifele stays, he has to be in the lineup every night. Period. Otherwise, it's best to send him back to Barrie to finish out the year because being scratched isn't the best thing for him.
I don't suspect a trade in the near future, but the Jets have a stockpile at forward. I don't see how Scheifele fits unless the Jets move an expendable forward. Forwards like Wellwood might be scratched every other night.
Remember, through all of this, the Jets are still a young, rebuilding team. They're going through a slight bump in the road and will probably go through it a few more times this season. It's expected.
Noel has to find a way to fix some of these problems if the Jets are going to get back on track. Otherwise, it's going to be the longest shortest season of all time.
Don't hit the panic button yet. The Jets can fix this.