Preventing goals has been a major issue for the Winnipeg Jets.
In five of the past six seasons they have finished in the bottom-10 in the league in goals against, bottoming out this past season by giving up 3.11 goals per game, the fourth-worst mark in the entire league. That has been the biggest obstacle they have been unable to scale when attempting to become a playoff team. One of the biggest issues has been in net where the likes of Ondrej Pavelec, Michael Hutchinson and Connor Hellebuyck have been unable to nail down the position with any consistency in recent years.
This offseason the team finally addressed the position in what could be a meaningful way by adding Steve Mason to take over as the primary goaltender.
Along with the addition of Mason, they also attempted to bolster their blue line by bringing in free agent defenseman Dmitry Kulikov.
Kulikov might add some depth to their defense, but Mason is going to be the player that probably makes or breaks the Jets’ season. Even though the Jets have consistently been among the league’s worst teams when it comes to allowing goals, they have always been, at worst, a middle of the pack team when it comes to giving up shots only to have sub-par goaltending sabotage their seasons. They have finished with a team save percentage over .910 just once in the past six years.
It is not a coincidence that was the one season over that stretch where they actually qualified for the playoffs.
Given the Jets’ ability to score (they were sixth in the league in goals scored this past season) and the fact they are at least an OK shot suppression team they don’t need Mason to be a superstar in net. They just need some consistency. They just need somebody to give them league average to better than league average play, and Mason has been able to do that in four of the past five seasons. Look at it this way, if he gets the bulk of the playing time (the 56 starts Hellebuyck received this past season) and faces the same number of shots with a league average save percentage the Jets would shave 12-15 goals off of their goals against total right there alone without any other improvements anywhere else. Probably not enough to make up seven points in the standings, but enough to at least maybe put them in closer contention.