It pains me to write this as a big fan of Connor Hellebuyck. However, it needs to be done. After a run to the conference finals, the Jets disappointed last season culminating in a first round loss to the Blues. They had only 19 wins in the second half of the season, mostly because of a weak blue line. But what makes Hellboy a schmohawk for the upcoming season?
Plain and simple, the Winnipeg blue line, which was already thin, got even thinner. After the top pair of Morrissey and Byfuglien, here’s what they have to work with: Kulikov, Beaulieu, Niku, Pionk, Poolman, Bitetto. That is among the worst in the entire NHL. Now imagine that Byfuglien, who has become injury prone as he gets older, or Morrissey, who missed time last year, goes down. The Jets are completely screwed. Sure, they can outscore some teams because of their offensive talent, but that certainly doesn’t help Hellebuyck. A once-rock solid bottom six now has a bunch of question marks in terms of how Roslovic and Vesalainen perform. There’s a lot of pressure on Little on the second line due to the lack of alternatives.
Possession wise, this team was already quite bad. They can somewhat overcome that due to having some elite shooters e.g. Laine, but it’s not a way to success long term. Two years ago, the Jets were 9th in terms of possession. Last season, they were 19th. Given the loss of Trouba (and to a lesser extent Myers, who was solid on the third pair), are we sure that they avoid the bottom 10 this year? I’m not. Their over-under for points is 95.5, which shaves two wins off their total from last season. In other words, they’re not even a lock for the playoffs.
Last season, Hellebuyck had a 2.90 GAA and .913 save percentage. The save percentage isn’t devastating, but that’s a big negative in GAA. He was the 21st goalie overall last season, although you would take his season over a few guys ahead of him due to volume. As much as I loved the Jets two years ago, I don’t like where they are at the moment as evidenced above. As good as he is, I think Hellebuyck’s numbers are closer to last year’s than his big breakout two seasons ago. Now, there’s no denying the upside. Maybe Hellebuyck gives a Vezina-like performance. He also gets excellent volume, and perhaps he’s pushed a little more if they’re fighting for a playoff spot. However, the floor is much lower than we would like. I haven’t done a thorough breakdown of each NHL team yet, but I think I’ll be picking the Jets to miss the playoffs this season. For all of these reasons, I will have Hellebuyck ranked as a #2 goalie somewhere around 15th overall for netminders, perhaps a few spots lower. I expect him to be drafted as a #1 like last season (his early rank on ESPN is 7). That’s far too rich for my blood. I never thought I’d be writing this post 12 months ago, but Hellboy looks like a schmohawk for 2019-20.