Let’s get to know our rivals from the All-Canadian Division. Today, we have the Winnipeg Jets.
The Winnipeg Jets flew under the radar and had a better-than-expected performance in 2019-20.
They’re a top-heavy team with a very strong top-six and arguably the best goaltender in the Canadian division, but the Jets are devoid of quality depth and have a glaring weakness on the blueline. In order for Winnipeg to again crack through an ultra-competitive division, they’re going to need their stars — Connor Hellbuyck, most importantly — to shine.

The 2019-20 season…

37-28-6 (80 points), 4th in Central Division
Goals For: 216 (16th of 31), Goals Against: 203 (12th of 31)
9-3-0 vs Canadian opponents
1-0-0 vs CGY, 2-1-0 vs EDM, 1-1-0 vs MTL, 2-0-0 vs OTT, 1-1-0 vs TOR, 2-0-0 vs VAN
The Jets came into the 2019-20 season after a brutal off-season in which they lost half of their blueline. Dustin Byfuglien decided he didn’t want to play anymore, Tyler Myers joined the Vancouver Canucks in free agency, and Jacob Trouba was finally traded to the New York Rangers after years of talk about how he wanted to play elsewhere.
Despite that, the Jets had a good year. They had a 37-28-6 record at the time the league was paused in March, right in the thick of a tight race in the very competitive Central Division. Winnipeg would end up losing in four games to the Calgary Flames in the play-in round when things started up in the summer, but simply being the mix was a win for this team after getting gutted in the off-season.
The key behind the Jets’ success was Connor Hellebuyck, who ended up winning the Vezina Trophy after posting a sparkling .922 save percentage over a league-leading 58 games played. The Jets and their paper-thin blueline allowed the fifth-most shots against in the league last season, so there’s no denying how important Hellebuyck was to their success.
Of course, it wasn’t the just Hellebuyck show completely carrying the load. The Jets were a middle-of-the-pack team offensively last season thanks to the play of a very strong top-six group. All of Mark Scheifele, Blake Wheeler, Kyle Connor, Patrik Laine, and Nik Ehlers scored at least 20 goals and Ehlers was the only one of the group that didn’t eclipse the 60-point plateau.

2021 season outlook…

Notable Additions: Paul Stastny, Dylan DeMelo, Derek Forbort, Nate Thompson. 
Notable Subtractions: Dmitri Kulikov, Cody Eakin, Mark Letestu, Bryan Little, Gabriel Bourque. 
Winnipeg came into the off-season with a couple of glaring needs, one of which they filled and one that they didn’t.
The first need was a second-line centre to round out that aforementioned top-six. As I said above, they have five really good forwards, but neither Jack Roslovic nor Andrew Copp could effectively fill the role as the team’s second pivot behind Scheifele.
In order to fill that need, Winnipeg acquired a familiar face in Paul Stastny from Vegas. Stastny was a trade deadline acquisition of the Jets back in 2018 and he played a key role in the team’s run to the Western Conference Final that spring. Having him back in the mix makes an already-good top-six even better.
But then there’s the other area of weakness, the blueline, that the Jets weren’t able to fill. They re-signed trade deadline acquisition Dylan DeMelo and added shutdown defenceman Derek Forbort in free agency to off-set the departure of veteran Dmitri Kulikov, but this is still a well below average NHL blueline.
It sort of seemed inevitable that Patrik Laine would get moved this off-season for a defenceman, given Winnipeg’s obvious need on the blueline and the fact there have been rumours surrounding the former No. 2 overall pick for years now, but, as of right now, Laine is still a Jet. That’ll be something to keep an eye on, though executing in-season trades won’t be easy this year.
So, ultimately, the 2021 season will be much like the 2019-20 season was for the Jets. They’ll need their top-six to carry the load offensively and they’ll need Hellebuyck to be a monster in net in order to be successful.

Other rival previews…