When the Winnipeg Jets handed Ondrej Pavelec a shiny new contract last summer, there were questions. Those questions are to be expected when you sign a guy with limited experience and even less success to a five-year contract that carries a cap hit of almost $4 million.
Nonetheless, Pavelec actually turned in a pretty decent 2013 season for the Jets. It certainly didn’t live up to the status that that type of contract creates, but he was one of the main reasons that this Jets team was able to stick around in playoff contention as long as they were.
Pavelec played in more games than any goaltender this season, appearing in 44 contests for Winnipeg. His 43 starts were only matched by Antti Niemi and Henrik Lundqvist. So he certainly showed that he’s capable of being a workhorse and logging a ton of minutes between the pipes.
Next year, his performance will have to follow. Pavelec’s numbers weren’t awful, but they weren’t exactly anything to write home about, either. His final numbers on the year included a 2.80 goals-against average and a .905 save percentage. He didn’t record a shutout this year, but both of those figures were improved from 2011-2012.
One particularly disappointing aspect of Pavelec’s season was the fact that he didn’t step up down the stretch, when the Jets were needing wins virtually every single night. He allowed at least four goals in three of his last four starts, each of which were losses for the Jets.
Of course, the team in front of him didn’t always help so much. Pavelec faced the second most shots in the league this season, trailing only Ryan Miller. Then again, allowing more goals than any other netminder in the league isn’t exactly a category you’d like to lead, regardless of the defense in front of you.
Next season is going to be an interesting one for Pavelec and the Jets. This should be an improved team heading into next season. Life should be a little bit easier for Pavelec. If he’s unable to come out and show a pretty serious improvement in his overall performance, this contract that he signed last summer is going to begin to look very bad.
Pavelec showed some signs of being a quality starter between the pipes for Winnipeg. But he’ll have to do it with much more consistency in 2013-2014.