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ANALYSIS: Stastny showing he’s more than just a strong voice for Jets

Click to play video: 'Weekly Jets recap w/John Shannon: April 20'
Weekly Jets recap w/John Shannon: April 20
With fans already looking ahead to the off-season, what needs to change for the Winnipeg Jets? Why 680 CJOB hockey analyst John Shannon says current interim coach Dave Lowry is the guy to lead the way next season – Apr 20, 2022

Go ahead and call it an example of turning back the clock for Paul Stastny.

There’s certainly a tangible element of that for the Winnipeg Jets veteran forward, especially when it comes to his goal-scoring prowess.

That Stastny has eclipsed the 20-goal plateau for the first time since 2013-14 when he was a member of the Colorado Avalanche only accentuates how impactful he’s been in terms of his overall production.

With 21 goals, he’s fifth on the Jets in that category, while his 42 points in 67 games leave him sixth.

Of those 21 goals, all but four came at even strength and for a guy who has been known throughout his career for his vision and passing ability, that’s impressive stuff.

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As is the fact he hit that number for the seventh time in his illustrious career, bumping his grand total to 284 in 1,068 NHL games.

With four home games left to go in the regular season after Thursday’s 4-2 loss to the Carolina Hurricanes in the road finale, the Jets officially find themselves in next-year country.

Given how things have gone during the past month, missing the Stanley Cup playoffs was more a matter of when and not if.

With various struggles including offensive production, defensive woes and special teams challenges, it was natural that some frustration crept into the commentary during some recent post-game conversations between Jets players and reporters.

It was no surprise that Stastny was among those to offer another dose of reality for a team that was unable to meet lofty expectations, bringing to light that the Jets have left goalie Connor Hellebuyck out to dry on far too many occasions while also discussing the importance of simplifying the game and not overcomplicating things.

Over the years, Stastny has proven to be comfortable in the role of the conscience — a job previously held by Bryan Little before he suffered a career-ending injury.

Stastny takes a thoughtful approach to discussing his craft and isn’t afraid to identify an issue, while also going to great lengths not to throw his teammates under the bus as he speaks.

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Read more: Comrie’s stellar performance not enough as Jets blow two-goal lead in 4-2 loss to Carolina

Getting outscored 20-7 during this recent four-game swing against Eastern Conference powerhouses was a stark reminder the Jets are going to require a significant off-season renovation.

What that looks like and how deep those changes go remains to be seen, but rolling with the status quo isn’t going to be a viable option.

Whether it’s through trades, free agency or graduation from the Manitoba Moose of the American Hockey League, roster construction is among the biggest areas of inspection for the Jets franchise going into what will be the 12th season since the Atlanta Thrashers relocated to Winnipeg in 2011.

One of the pending unrestricted free agents with the ability to go to market this summer who should be offered another contract is Stastny.

Never mind the risk associated with signing a 36-year-old with more than 1,000 NHL games on his resume, Stastny has proven to be incredibly durable during his career.

He takes care of himself and his body and will be ready to go for what will be his 17th NHL season.

In short, he’s shown that he’s got something left in the tank.

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A return to the Jets is far from a foregone conclusion, as there will be competition for Stastny’s services and there could be a temptation for him to ink a deal with a team that’s considered to be closer to contender status.

That shouldn’t prevent the Jets from finding a way to make it work, though they’d be happy to sign him for less than the $3.75 million he made this season.

Winnipeg Jets’ Paul Stastny (25) scores on Chicago Blackhawks goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury (29) during first-period NHL action in Winnipeg on Friday, Nov. 5, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/John Woods

Stastny knows the areas the Jets need to attack in order to get things turned around and retaining his services can help them on many of those fronts.

And while his articulate quotes are appreciated by members of the media, Stastny’s standing as an important member of the Jets leadership group is another reason he should be offered a contract extension.

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But he’s far more than just a good quote and a smooth orator.

His chemistry with Nikolaj Ehlers and the versatility to provide quality minutes at either centre or wing on any other of the top three lines, while also contributing to both the power play and penalty kill, make him a guy the Jets should be interested in.

Especially after the departure of Andrew Copp, who scored his second career hat trick on Thursday night for the New York Rangers against the New York Islanders before departing with a lower-body injury, Stastny’s willingness to pay attention to the details and to dig in defensively will be even more valuable for a team that must improve its proficiency in that critical area.

Click to play video: 'RAW: Winnipeg Jets Dave Lowry Interview – Apr. 21'
RAW: Winnipeg Jets Dave Lowry Interview – Apr. 21

Ken Wiebe covers the Winnipeg Jets for Sportsnet.ca and is a regular contributor to CJOB.

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