Our western conference preview continues with a focus on the Winnipeg Jets. This is the Jets’ fourth season in Winnipeg after relocating from Atlanta, and they’ve missed the playoffs all three seasons. They finished with 84 points in 2012 and 2014, and 51 during the shortened 2013 season.
They missed the playoffs by eight points in 2012 and four points in 2013 while skating in the eastern conference. They moved to the west last year and ended up in 11th spot, seven points out of the playoffs.
They Jets don’t need a massive improvement to make the postseason, but there is one glaring reason why they will could struggle to make the playoffs; Goaltending.
than every goalie except Antti Niemi and Henrik Lundqvist. He’s done so with a gaudy 0.904 SV%, which is tied for the lowest with Martin Brodeur of any goalie who has played 100 NHL games.
Pavelec’s SV% is going the wrong way.
2012: .906 SV% and 2.91 GAA
2013: .905 SV% and 2.80 GAA
2014: .901 SV% and 3.01 GAA
I’ve read some believe that Pavelec’s horrible numbers can be attributed to the Jets shoddy defensive zone play. I don’t agree with that, because the back up goalies numbers were much better.
Al Montoya had a respectable 0.922 SV% and 2.30 GAA in 1, 541 minutes played.
Michael Hutchinson was even better with a .943 SV% and 1.64 GAA in three games.
The backups played 1,723 minutes while Pavelec played 3,247. In just over half as many minutes the Jets were were 15-9-3 with Montoya/Hutchinson, but with Pavelec in goal they were only 22-26-7.
Hutchinson will push Pavelec for playing time, but if head coach Paul Maurice and GM Kevin Cheveldayoff want to make the playoffs, and keep their jobs, they need to recognize that Pavelec is not that good.
The Jets have solid mix of skill, size and defensive awareness amongst their top forwards, but they also have consistency issues.
Evander Kane has all the tools to be a great player, but we’ve yet to see that on a consistent basis. Blake Wheeler is the same, as is Dustin Byfuglien, who prefers to play defence, but will play right wing to start the season.
Their top two lines will likely look like this, although Wheeler and Frolik split time on the first line last year, so they could switch spots.
Andrew Ladd-Brian Little-Blake Wheeler
Kane-Mark Scheifele-Michael Frolik
The Jets need Scheifele to have a break out season. He had 16 points in his final 23 games last year, after scoring 18 in his first 40. If he gets off to a good start, I think Kane will as well. Those two will feed off one another, and if they produce the Jets should be in the playoff hunt.
The Jets best off-season move was signing Mathieu Perrault from Anaheim to replace Olli Jokinen. He will centre the 3rd line, with Byfuglien, or Frolik if they want to use them as a checking line, but the left wing spot is up for grabs.
Carl Klingberg, 2nd round pick in 2009, should compete for that spot after playing three seasons in the AHL. Eric Tangradi, Matt Halischuk and TJ Galiardi will also be in the mix.
Jim Slater will be the 4th line centre with two of the wingers who don’t grab the 3rd line vacancy.
The Jets will ice the same D corps as last year.
Tobias Enstrom-Zach Bogosian
Mark Stuart-Jacob Trouba
Grant Clitsome-Paul Postma
Postma only played 20 games last year due to injury, but he’ll see more icetime than Pardy this season. The Jets signed Keaton Ellerby as a depth defender, and they also have young Josh Morrissey in camp. Morrissey will get a long look, but I think he’ll spend one more year in junior.
Trouba was very good last season, and he should be even better this year. He played 22:26, and if he can stay healthy, he likely plays closer to 24 minutes this year.
The Jets need to be better defensively, but if they can get steady goaltending they will make a strong push for the playoffs.
The Jets will be in the hunt, and if they realize that Pavelec isn’t the answer, or he shocks us and suddenly gets close to a .920 SV% (doubtful), then they will compete with Colorado for 4th in the Central.
- Training camps open in less than ten days and there are many young players still not signed.
Torrey Krug and Reilly Smith in Boston. Smith had 20 goals and 51 points, while Krug had 40 from the blueline.
Jaden Schwartz had 25 goals and 56 points with the Blues.
Danny DeKeyser averaged the 2nd most minutes for Detroit last year and was 10th in team scoring.
Ryan Johansen had a career-high 33 goals and 63 points for Columbus.
Brendon Dillon played the 2nd most minutes for Dallas, while Cody Eakins was 4th in Stars’ scoring with 35 points.
Darcy Kuemper played the 2nd most minutes for the Wild in goal during the regular season and he was their starting goalie in the playoffs until he got hurt in game 7 vs. Colorado. Nino Niederreiter was 3rd in goals and 6th in points for the Wild last year.
These teams all have one thing in common; they were playoff teams last year. They don’t panic and feel the need to give in on salary demands of young players who have had one very good season.
These players don’t have much leverage, and the teams are wisely taking advantage of that. I’ll be curious to see if any of them get a big payday before the season starts. The last thing these young players should do is hold out, then sign a deal late in training camp and enter the season without a full training camp. In a full season, rarely to players who hold out for an extended period have a great season.
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