Winnipeg Year One


The Jets are back in Winnipeg (image via jetsowner.com)

With the Jets joining the NHL once again, the NHL will have a fresh look in the next few years as divisional lines will have to be redrawn and a western conference club to join the eastern conference. That said, it’s known that the Jets will remain in the southeastern conference in their first season.

This will affect the Jets and other teams in the southeast travel wise and could cause for some major fatigue later on in the season and can affect playoff pushes in that division. For the Jets however, travel for them is going to be killers most of the season. Being a eastern conference team that resides in the middle of the western conference, their chances at making the post season could be affected because of the fatigue of travel alone.

But there is a lot more to look at in their first season back in Winnipeg.

Obviously, this isn’t the same club coming back to Winnipeg as the Jets first moved to Phoenix and this is the now defunct ‘Thrashers’ headed to Winnipeg.

This is a club that has made the playoffs only one time in their existence and has been a perennial bottom-feeder in the National Hockey League, that said however, this club has the makings of a playoff team.

 

We’ll start by looking at what they have in between the pipes.

Ondrej Pavelec, 23, is a native of Kladno, Czech Republic and is will be entering his third full NHL season this year as the starter for the Winnipeg Jets. His NHL numbers aren’t exactly outstanding, but this is one of the cases where the numbers don’t tell the entire truth.

Pavelec has yet to post a season above the .500 mark, but his stats that season improved rapidly from his previous three seasons. His 2.73GAA and his .914SV% are very solid numbers, especially for a starting goaltender who finished outside of the post season.

As he develops, his numbers will improve and help push the Jets to become a much better team as the team grows.

 

If Pavelec struggles, the Jets can lean on NHL veteran goaltender Chris Mason. Mason, 35, is a native of Red Deer, Alberta and a veteran of over 275 NHL games.

Mason struggled last season, holding a record of 13-13-3 with a poor goals against average and a lower save percentage. That said, however, Mason’s career numbers are nearly 30 games above .500 and he is only one season removed of a 30 game win campaign with the St. Louis Blues. He’s capable and can stand in as a starter if needed during the season.

 

Their defense is a strong point in their organization as they have a deep defensive core. Starting with guys like Tobias Enstrom, Dustin Byfuglien, and Zach Bogosian the Jets defense core, they have good stability and a good mix of toughness. Add on supporting guys like Mark Stuart, Ron Hainsey, and Randy Jones, the Jets secure a very solid top seven on the back side of the puck.

Now we’ve seen in the past that high scoring offensive players wont always make you a playoff team, see Ilya Kovalchuk for example. Yet I believe that if fatigue doesn’t bear down to hard on these players, the Jets forward core can help push the post season in year on for Winnipeg.

Starting with their more offensive stars, like Andrew Ladd, Bryan Little, Nikolai Antropov and potentially Alexander Burmistrov as well.

They have a good high end offensive core. Yet we’ve seen in the past years that it’s not always the stars that come up big. They have effective role players who can chip in offensively while playing a defensive role, including guys like Blake Wheeler, Patrice Cormier, and we can’t forget Evander Kane.

Then you have those muckers and grinders who serve the fourth line energy role who wont burn you on the defensive side of the puck. Mainly guys like Jimmy Slater, Chris Thorburn, and newly signed forwards, Tanner Glass and Rick Rypien.

Lastly, they have some forwards who  really don’t fit in to any of those roles and who are fillers when needed and guys who shift up and down the line up. Timmy Stapleton, Carl Klingberg, and Ben Maxwell slide into those open roles that have been vacated by injuries, trades, or demotions.

Now there are some players in their system who could potentially move up this season and make the Jets roster if they battle hard enough in training camp. My top two forward candidates to make the roster out of camp are Spencer Machacek, who played 10 games with the Thrashers last season, and Aaron Gagnon who played two games with the Dallas Stars last season.

Defensively, I could see an Arturs Kulda squeeze into the Jets line up. Kulda played in only two games for the Thrashers last season. Derek Meech, the Winnipeg native could bump someone out of the line up, or slot in as the seventh defensemen.

 

Overall, they have a well built roster, and I do believe they will battle hard for a potential playoff spot. That said however, I peg them (no pun intended) in the 9th-10th spot in the eastern conference. They could surprise and push for the post season, but I wouldn’t bet on it. They’ll battle hard in their first season ‘back’ in Winnipeg, but I believe it’ll be the year after, when divisional lines are re-drawn and their travel schedule becomes easier, that they’ll start to battle and become a playoff bound club.

Needless to say, I can’t wait for the season to arrive as hockey in the ‘Peg will be loud and rocking!

Tags: Aaron Gagnon Alexander Burmistrov Andrew Ladd Arturs Kulda Atlanta Thrashers Ben Maxwell Blake Wheller Bryan Little Carl Klingberg Chris Mason Chris Thorburn Derek Meech Dustin Byfuglien Evander Kane Jimmy Slater Mark Stuart Nikolai Antropov Ondrej Pavelec Patrice Cormier Phoenix Coyotes Randy Jones Rick Rypien Ron Hainsey Spencer Machacek Tanner Glass Tim Stapleton Tobias Enstrom Winnipeg Jets Zach Bogosian