In looking at the year in fantasy hockey, two Winnipeg Jets forwards ranked among the highest scorers for the calendar year of 2017: Blake Wheeler and Mark Scheifele, who both managed 87 points. Maybe they aren’t household hockey names, but those two scorers are tied for third in points since Jan. 1.
Now we’ll see how effective Wheeler can be without Scheifele, for quite a bit of time.
The Jets announced that Scheifele was placed on injured reserve today, with head coach Paul Maurice estimating his time missed at six-to-eight weeks.
No doubt about it, that’s brutal. PHT’s Scott Billeck reports that Wheeler described Scheifele as “irreplaceable” last night, following that scary spill into the boards (see the video above this headline).
Early on, it seems like Wheeler will need to step into Scheifele’s shoes in more ways than one, as the Jets will tinker with him being the team’s new top center. It will be interesting to see how much of the burden Kyle Connor can carry, while Patrik Laine rounds out the top trio. Mathieu Perreault also gets bumped up to the second line alongside Nikolaj Ehlers and Bryan Little.
Perreault allows the Jets to, at least possibly, maintain a standout strength: having two strong scoring lines. Depth remains a question.
The Jets are currently battling it out with the Predators and Blues for positioning in the Central Division, so this could deal a blow that might cost them to lose their grip on a round of home-ice advantage, something that’s not frequently discussed regarding this franchise. The Predators already had a decent cushion for the top spot, though it’s far from unassailable:
Predators: 49 points in 36 games played
Jets: 48 points in 38 games
Blues: 48 points in 39 games
Looking forward, the Jets face an erratic schedule where they’d likely lean on Scheifele to get through tough road runs in January and then try to stock up on points during a home-heavy February.
From Jan. 9-25, the Jets play six of seven on the road. They follow that up with a massive 10-game homestand from Jan. 30 – Feb. 20. If Scheifele were to miss two months or more, he’d be out for all of that time, so some of this comes down to how he heals.
A lot of this is tough to stomach, but consider what happened to Scheifele’s opponent last night, as Connor McDavid missed the rest of his rookie season after falling into the boards. It’s an unfortunate break, yet this could also be worse, especially if he recovers as expected (or better than expected).
And, let’s face it. The Jets haven’t navigated bumps in the road very often as a franchise stretching back to the Atlanta Thrashers days. You need to roll with the punches come playoff time, so perhaps this will give them some of that experience early?
James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.