“I haven’t loved Nik Ehlers game recently” was an interesting comment that coach Maurice made in his post-game press conference last night following the 6-3 Jets win over the Coyotes. Now he quickly added “…he’s only got 15 goals as a 20 year old so don’t take that as a major. It’s a minor in-game (adjustment)…didn’t love the way he was playing”.
The Dynamic Dane has already surpassed his points total from his rookie season when he had 38 points (15 goals & 23 assists) in 72 games. In his sophomore season with the Jets, in the first 48 games, he has 40 points (15 goals & 25 assists). While we are often talking about the sophomore slump for players in their second season as NHL teams learn how to defend them, Ehlers has bucked this trend continuing to electrify the crowd with his creativity, skill and vision.
Last night in the 3rd period he was switched to the 4th line with Chris Thorburn and Nic Petan and he still managed to score a nice goal for the home side after this move. Despite playing just over 14 minutes (about 4-5 less than his original linemates in Scheifele and Stafford) he still ended up taking the most shots (6) last night of any Winnipeg player.
Clearly it isn’t when the talented winger has the puck that is the problem for the Jets bench boss and coach Maurice clarified his comments later in the scrum suggesting “It’s not so much what you would see with the puck. He’s a real good player. I’d like to see him driving a little bit harder without it.” And to underscore or perhaps quash the panic his comments could cause in a fragile fan base coach Maurice added “this is a really minor one, I just made the change, I thought Nicky could play a little better”.
Often times we are watching the player with the puck and those away from the play are lost in the shuffle. The coaching staff has the luxury of watching back tape to break down the play of players to make these types of in game assessments.
The key comment from the coach was his final one about the subject “I want to make sure we are trying to get better” which one can assume speaks to the long term vision of the franchise as they attempt to develop players in all aspects of their game.