By Scott Billeck – @scottbilleck
It is time for the Winnipeg Jets to throw everything — and the kitchen sink — at Ondrej Pavelec.
Wednesday’s statement from Jets general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff that the Jets No. 1 goaltender would remain just that sparked the fury and ire of fans across the city of Winnipeg. How could the Jets stick with such an underwhelming netminder if the goal is to make the playoffs and ultimately play well into May and June?
It is certainly a legitimate question. Pavelec ranked and embarrassing 46th in terms of save percentage and an even worse, 69th, in goals-against average. Remember the NHL is a 30-team league and Pavelec is a No. 1 netminder.
In 57 games, Pavelec saw 1,644 shots come his way during the 2013-14 season and finished with a 3.01 goals-against average and a .901 save percentage. For comparison’s sake, Boston Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask saw just three fewer shots at 1,641 and played in one more game (58). Rask’s year-end stats included an impressive 2.04 goals-against average to go with an equally impressive .930 save percentage.
But this isn’t rocket science. Pavelec’s NHL numbers have always been poor. His first season with the Jets was perhaps his only “average” season in the NHL and even that didn’t propel the Jets into the playoffs. The advanced stats suggest Pavelec is unremarkable at best and horrible at worst, but you don’t need those numbers to figure that one out. You can see it.
However, if the Jets have decided to move forward with the Czech netminder next season something has to change. If the Jets had decided to write off Pavelec, they would have simply bought him out. I get the feeling that Maurice would like to work with him and I don’t have any doubts that Maurice expressed that to Cheveldayoff at some point.
Chevy and Maurice both made it clear Wednesday that they need to see their player do everything that a consummate professional in the NHL should be doing during the offseason. They want to see Pavelec come back in top shape for training camp and there is no doubt they would like him to work on being a better all-around goaltender.
But that last statement is a loaded one. Pavelec has been working with the same goaltender coach now for three years in Winnipeg. I have the upmost respect for Wade Flaherty and I am not suggesting he is doing a bad job. What I am suggesting is that he may not be doing the right job. Pavelec is not getting better. Fact is, the stats suggest he’s getting worse.
If Flaherty is not getting the most out of Pavelec the Jets would be well-served to find someone who can. If the Jets are going to ride Pavelec, and his $3.9 million price tag, it is time to invest a little more into him than they already have.
Think of it this way:
You buy a house, it is far from perfect, but you like the bones of it. The upfront cost of that house is always the most, and you know over the years you are going to have to put more money into it to fix it up; to personalize it. You’ve made the investment knowing things might need to change, but you’ve also made the investment knowing you will be the one making those changes.
Pavelec needs some changes, fundamentally and otherwise. If a change in scenery isn’t in the cards for him then the Jets need to freshen up their No. 1 the best they can. Lipstick on a pig isn’t going to work here, they need a lot more than that. Think frog to prince.
Sure, bring in some competition. Bring in another No. 1-calibre goalie to compete for the spot. But that near-$4 million price tag isn’t going anywhere.
As a result, it’s up to the Jets to make Ondrej Pavelec a better goaltender.