Back to the West. Back to the Playoffs?
Michael Frolik, Devin Setoguchi.
Nik Antropov, Alex Burmistrov, Ron Hainsey, Antti Miettinen.
Last year: In Year 2 of the Jets return to Winnipeg, the joy of once again having a team still resided at each and every game at the MTS Centre, but this year fans were expecting some results.
The Jets almost delivered for them.
The team improved upon their inaugural 37-35-10 record and 11th place finish in the Eastern Conference, but still couldn’t squeeze into the post-season, finishing ninth last year with a 24-21-3 record.
It was a lot of the same in Winnipeg their second year back. Packed houses and inspired play, just not good enough to extend their season come playoff time.
The offence was middle of the pack with Andrew Ladd, Blake Wheeler, and Evander Kane continuing their growth into team leaders and reliable point producers. Had the Jets not sported the worst power play in the league - a target for improvement for the coming season - they could have very well been a top 10 offensive unit.
Defence and goaltending took a step back last year. Fresh off signing a five-year, $19.5 million contract, promising goalie Ondrej Pavelec turned in a disappointing season last year, finishing with a .905 save percentage and 2.80 goals against average.
The 2012-13 season saw slight improvements for the Jets on the whole, but not enough to escape from the cluster of non-playoff teams that don’t bottom out and receive high draft picks.
This Year: Last year was a lot of the same as the year before, and this year looks to be shaping up to be a lot of the same as last year.
From The Insider
Check out TSN Hockey Insider Bob McKenzie's take on the Winnipeg Jets.
If the Jets continue their trend of slight improvements, they could find themselves in a playoff spot come April, but it’s hard to see them veering too much either way off their “at-or-around .500” performances of the last two years.
A large portion of Winnipeg’s off-season game plan was based on re-signing their own talent. Chevaldayoff locked up young contributors Bryan Little, Zach Bogosian, and Blake Wheeler to long-term contracts in July, but decided not to wade into the free agent market for any other additions save for a few minor signings.
The team did make two prudent additions via trade however, scooping up young forwards Devin Setoguchi from the Minnesota Wild and Michael Frolik from the Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks.
Setoguchi can add a little extra scoring punch for the offence while Frolik was praised for his penalty killing throughout the Blackhawks’ run to the Stanley Cup last year.
The team collected more talent than they lost this off-season, but it’s clear the plan in Winnipeg remains to stick with their developing youngsters.
The Long and the Short – How will a full 82-game slate affect the Jets' performance after a shortened season?
Pavelec’s struggles last season were one of the reasons the Jets ultimately fell short of the playoffs. The upcoming season will be longer, but that means the schedule won’t be as condensed and Pavelec can return to his normal routine as a goalie.
The 25-year-old should be able to play most nights and will have a chance to regain his form without the same amount of back-to-backs as the team faced last season.
As for the rest of the roster, the relatively young squad should do just fine navigating the rigors of a full schedule once again. The one question could be the conditioning of All-Star defenceman Dustin Byfuglien and whether he can keep up for the entire seven-month schedule.
On the Books – What off-season moves did the Jets make to get themselves back in cap shape?
Winnipeg enters the year with relatively the same roster as a year before player wise, but not salary cap wise.
Three players, Wheeler, Little, and Bogosian all received long-term deals paying them more money which ultimately ate up a chunk of the Jets’ salary cap space.
Now the highest paid player on the team, Wheeler went from a cap hit of $2.5 million to $5.6 million per year. Little made a similar jump, going from a cap hit of $2.3 million to $4.7 million, and Bogosian jumped from $2.5 million to $5.1 million.
That’s a combined extra spending of more than $8 million for three players.
Long Division – A look at the intriguing possibilities ahead for the Jets after realignment.
Everything is brand new for the Jets this season. They went from the Southeast Division, playing the Washington Capitals, Carolina Hurricanes, Tampa Bay Lightning, and Florida Panthers to a division that makes a lot more sense geographically.
Winnipeg can now call the Chicago Blackhawks, St. Louis Blues, Nashville Predators, Minnesota Wild, Colorado Avalanche, and Dallas Stars division rivals.
The defending Stanley Cup champion Blackhawks will prove a great test for the Jets while away games against the Predators and Stars could prove closer to the competition they faced in the Southeast Division.
Fantasy - Scott Cullen's Player to Watch
Evander Kane, LW - A rising offensive star, the fourth pick in the 2009 Draft played a career-high 20:27 per game last season and his 47 goals over the last two seasons is tied for 19th with Jeff Carter, Patrick Marleau, Joe Pavelski and Radim Vrbata. More impressively, Kane keep creating chances, with his 477 shots on goal in that time behind only Alex Ovechkin and Rick Nash, despite being saddled with less-than-ideal playmakers in the middle.
Last season, Olli Jokinen was Kane's primary pivot and Jokinen endured a miserable season. This year, either an improved Jokinen or perhaps rising prospect Mark Scheifele will have the opportunity to play alongside Kane, a speedster who can be one of the game's elite goal scorers if he manages to improve his shooting percentage even a little from his modest career rate of 9.5%.
Click here for the latest Fantasy News!
Pressing Question: Will staying the course with their young corps finally lead to a playoff berth for the Winnipeg Jets?
Not a lot has changed for the Jets in their now three seasons in Winnipeg. Certainly the corps of their team remains the same as it did two seasons ago, and the only changes in the foreseeable future are top prospects like Scheifele and Trouba getting leaned on more.
The team has twice come close to making the playoffs but they’ve yet to kick the door down to extend their season.
With the only major additions to this year’s roster being Setoguchi and Frolik, who to be fair each hold value, Chevaldayoff is banking on his team already assembled to take that next step more or less by themselves and proper the Jets into the post-season.
Should the Jets have looked for more help in the off-season, or can the corps develop into a playoff team?
- Winnipeg Jets Preview by Ben Fisher, TSN.ca