In the same column in which the Winnipeg Free-Press’ Ed Tait claims that some Winnipeg Jets fans and media members “actually cheer for Ondrej Pavelec to fail now,” Tait drops this bump of a prediction on those same Pavelec pessimists:
9. Over-under for starts by Michael Hutchinson might now be 10. Figured he’d start more, but he struggled against L.A. in his lone start. While he was decent in relief vs. Tampa, don’t be surprised if Pavelec appears in 70-plus games.
On one hand, it’s understandable that Tait and the Jets organization may be frustrated with negativity toward the 27-year-old netminder. Home fans can sometimes hurt a struggling player’s and/or team’s confidence as much as supportive ones can lift spirits.
That said, many might want Pavelec to flop merely to force the hand of a front office that’s been criticized for dragging its feet regarding making major changes.
Smart or not, it’s difficult to deny that the Jets’ core is largely the same as it was when the team relocated from Atlanta. While Mark Scheifele and other young players show promise, it still seems like this team will go as far as Dustin Byfuglien, Andrew Ladd, Blake Wheeler and Evander Kane will take them.
Pavelec is on that list too, actually, but plenty of people argue that he shouldn’t be.
So far, Pavelec’s numbers unfortunately still fall in the “NHL backup” range: 4-4-1 record, .908 save percentage. Tait wrote that “it seems like every goal against has become a referendum on his career,” but perhaps each tally is really a referendum on organizational malaise.
Pavelec and the Jets take on Henrik Lundqvist and the New York Rangers tonight.