Since moving from Atlanta, the Winnipeg Jets have been one of the more patient teams in the NHL. The roster taking the ice this year at the MTS Centre does not look that dissimilar from the one that was playing in Atlanta three years ago. That is why it came as somewhat of a shock when the Jets fired head coach Claude Noel halfway through the month of January. Not because Noel had the team in the right place (it was quite obvious a change was needed), but because up until this point, the team had strayed away from making big decisions during the season.
Every NHL team is working the phone lines this week in preparation for the Olympic trade freeze, and then a few weeks later, the official NHL trade deadline. Right now the Jets are in a three way tie for 5th in the Central Division with 59 points. Playoffs are still a long shot, but since hiring Paul Maurice, Winnipeg has gone 8-2-0.
Since it appears that for the near term that the move behind the bench has been a success, I have to wonder if this means the Jets front office will be open to making more moves this season. Once you get that first taste of change, it is difficult to go back to being the ultra conservative team.
Winnipeg is located in a powerhouse Western Conference, so I find it unlikely that the Jets will have a playoff run in mind in the upcoming deadlines. Instead, every move will have the future of the team in mind. Draft picks will help build a future, but some new faces in the locker room could help change the culture for the near term.
I see the Jets as being where the Columbus Blue Jackets were 2 years ago. Face of the franchise Rick Nash was on his way out, and the team no longer had an identity. The locker room was described as having a country club atmosphere. By shipping out Nash in exchange for new faces like Brandon Dubinsky, Artem Anisimov, as well as later adding Marian Gaborik (by getting rid of fan favorite Derek Dorsett, as well as Derick Brassard), the Jackets changed the culture in Columbus.
Winnipeg isn’t going to have a fire sale. Instead, they will keep the pieces that they can build a future around, and trade the excess for assets that will further help to reshape the team’s identity. The Jets will not change overnight, but I think we have only seen the beginning of this team looking more like Winnipeg 2.0, and less like the ghosts of the Atlanta Thrashers.