After an offseason of improvements in many different aspects of their game, the Winnipeg Jets are bound to enter 2013 with newly acquired strengths, as well as continued growth of existing assets. However, the Jets still have weaknesses that could haunt them in the new season.
Last season, you could've argued that it was a 50/50 split of strengths and weaknesses, but heading into 2013 after an offseason of many improvements, the Jets are in a much better position now than they were last year.
Let’s take an in-depth look and break down the Jets' strengths and weaknesses as they set to take flight in a little over two months from now.
When you take a look at the Jets' roster, it’s hard to think of goal scoring as a strength just by basing it off of names. And last season, it seemed goal scoring fluctuated every other month which frequently led the Jets to go on scoring droughts.
However, can we consider it a weakness? No.
The Jets have goal scorers. They’ve had them last season and will continue to have them in 2013. The difference from other teams is that their goal scorers are under-the-radar players who go unnoticed even in the hockey-craved city of Winnipeg.
The Jets have players who can score goals, and most of them are capable of additional improvement. Evander Kane, Andrew Ladd, Blake Wheeler, Bryan Little, Alex Burmistrov, and even guys like Kyle Wellwood and Nik Antropov cancontribute. If that’s not enough, I’ll throw in Dustin Byfuglien and the rest of the defense who chip in on a daily basis.
With the new additions of Olli Jokinen, a playermaker with great passing ability, and Alexei Ponikarovsky, a power-forward who can help generate secondary scoring, the Jets will have even more talent going into 2013.
With that being said, will the Jets light the lamp with five goals per game and be one of the best goal-scoring teams in the league? Probably not. But I don’t foresee goal scoring as a weakness nor an issue.
Though he isn’t recognized with mind-blowing, league-leading statistics like other top goalies, the Jets' top netminder, Ondrej Pavelec, is one of the best up-and-coming goalies this league has to offer.
Pavelec doesn’t get the defensive support that he deserves to be the best, but when called upon to step to the plate, he becomes the team anchor and savior.
Last season, the Jets relied on Pavelec countless times to be the hero in situations, and he was able to step up to the plate.
As far as the backup goes, newly-acquired Al Montoya has a lot to prove. The former sixth-overall pick always had the potential to be a starter in this league but has yet to find a permanent home. Montoya will be up to the task whenever called upon.
Montoya might not be called upon often, however. Pavelec was rarely the problem last season nor will he be this season.
The Jets were hounds on the puck last season and often impressed me with the way they kept plays alive in the offensive-zone.
Look for forechecking to be one of the Jets' strongest suits going into 2013.
A top power play can do wonders for a team, and for the better part of last season, the Jets had just that, finishing in the top 12 in power play percentage.
The skill and puck movement that lies on the power play from both the forwards and defensemen will lead the Jets to another highly productive season in this category.
When Dustin Byfuglien is your top offensive-defenseman, how can this not be a strength?
Byfuglien is capable of putting home 20 or more goals a season while adding a ton of assists. But it’s not just Byfuglien who makes this a strength, it’s also Tobias Enstrom and Zach Bogosian.
Oh, and the bottom-pairing defensemen chip in once in a while. And did I mention Paul Postma could be in the lineup often?
Defensive-zone / Defense
When it comes to the defense, the Jets aren’t quite there. Last season, the Jets frequently struggled in the defensive zone, failing to give their netminder crucial support among other important lapses.
There are some games when the defense gets walked around, waltzed around, danced around and have no response or adjustment. They have to do a much better job at adjusting to their opponents’ in-game, which never seemed to occur.
With their current defensemen, the Jets should be better than how they actually are. Regardless, it stills seems as if defensive zone play will be a weakness in 2013.
An unfortunate weakness that has always haunted this franchise is their penalty kill.
Last season, the Jets were the seventh worst-ranked team in penalty kill percentage. It seems to be a trend every season, so I have no expectations for a successful penalty kill now.
Faceoffs are a big part of being a successful team. How can you ever control the game if you never have control of the puck? Unfortunately, the Jets' centers are average at best when it comes to faceoffs.
As a team, the Jets ranked closer to the bottom of the pack in faceoffs won and faceoff percentage. Unless they improve here, this could be a weakness that stings.