The 2013-14 NHL season will begin this week with much anticipation after a long offseason. The Winnipeg Jets will begin their season on Tuesday night against the Oilers in Edmonton. It’ll be the start of a lengthy season, but one that every fan is looking forward to.
Time to rejoice for hockey is back. The NHL is back.
But before then, here’s a chance to preview the Winnipeg Jets season. From roster changes to projections to my final predictions, it will all be detailed as much as possible to get you underway for the season.
The upcoming year for the Jets can be categorized as a new beginning—a fresh start. And for the first time since returning to Winnipeg, the Jets will feel comfortable with a travel schedule to their accommodation.
The Southeast Division is in the past. The realignment is in effect as the Jets go from East to West. It’s the start of a new beginning in the Central division—a division that should be one of the most competitive divisions in all of hockey.
It’s year three in the return to Winnipeg. How much will be different from the first year? Or from last year? Is this the year that the Jets finally make it to the playoffs? There are a lot of questions surrounding the Jets future, but we’re sure to get the answers in no time.
To start it off, let’s take a look back at what changes the Jets made in the offseason.
Before we get into the arrivals and departures, let’s take a look back at what the Jets did within’ the organization.
The Jets re-signed key parts of their core starting with the big cogs on their top line. Blake Wheeler and Bryan Little both received long-term deals through 2019 and 2018 respectively. Shortly after, Zach Bogosian was re-signed to a long-term deal through 2020.
Other key re-signings were Al Montoya, Paul Postma, Grant Clitsome and Eric Tangradi.
Now let’s take a look at what the Jets added in the offseason as well as what they lost.
The Jets made two key trades in the offseason. First they acquired Michael Frolik from the Chicago Blackhawks in exchange for a couple of draft picks. Then they acquired Devin Setoguchi from the Minnesota Wild for a second-round draft pick.
After making two trades to help bolster the roster, the Jets were quiet during free agency.
The Jets added defenseman Adam Pardy on a one-year deal. They also signed forward Matt Halischuk on a one-year deal. Both additions figure to be solid depth players.
The Jets lost some notable players in the offseason such as Ron Hainsey, Nik Antropov, Kyle Wellwood, Antti Miettinen and Alex Burmistrov.
The key loss here figures to be the young Burmistrov to which the Jets lost to the KHL. As for the other departures, it was just a matter of the Jets needing to move on.
|Andrew Ladd||Bryan Little||Blake Wheeler|
|Evander Kane||Mark Scheifele||Devin Setoguchi|
|Michael Frolik||Olli Jokinen||James Wright|
|Eric Tangradi||Jim Slater||Chris Thorburn|
Reserves: Matt Halischuk, Anthony Peluso
|Dustin Byfuglien||Tobias Enstrom|
|Zach Bogosian||Grant Clitsome|
|Mark Stuart||Jacob Trouba|
Reserves: Adam Pardy, Paul Postma, Zach Redmond
Expect the projection to be similar to the opening day depth chart. The first line is set in stone, but there could be changes at center on the second and third lines.
Mark Scheifele should get the chance to play on the second line at the start of the year, especially with Olli Jokinen’s lack of production in preseason. However, we could see those two bounce around if Scheifele fails to produce. Scheifele definitely has the upside and should start the year there.
On the defensive side of things, the chart looks similar to last year with the exception of Jacob Trouba. The young defenseman should see an expanded role as the season progresses.
The familiar pair of Dustin Byfuglien and Tobias Enstrom will log the big minutes. Zach Bogosian and Grant Clitsome will often be utilized against other team's top lines.
Obviously, my projections surpass the 23-man roster limitation. However, you should expect Zach Redmond and Matt Halischuk to begin the year in the AHL.
The Jets have a mixture of youth and veterans on their roster. While I expect a lot of these players to step up, I don’t think any of them are true x-factors. However, the Jets do have a couple of them on their roster.
I already made my case for Devin Setoguchi being the Jets’ biggest x-factor, but I’ll go a different route here. How about the most important player on the Jets roster?
If there’s one player that could truly make or break the season, it’s starting goaltender Ondrej Pavelec.
Plenty of teams around the NHL could probably say what I’m about to. But for the Jets, it’s truer than ever. The Jets season could solely ride on Pavelec’s performance in net.
If Pavelec puts up solid numbers, the Jets odds at making the playoffs increase. If he does poorly, the Jets odds at being a lottery team increase. There’s a lot of pressure on the young netminder, but it’s up to him to handle it properly.
Pavelec’s statistics have been mediocre to date. He has a career 2.95 goals against average with a .907 save percentage. Clearly, Pavelec has to do a better job if he wants to remain a starter in this league. He has to do a better job not only for the Jets fate, but for his own.
Pavelec's problem is consistency. For every good game he has it usually means he'll have two bad ones. Sure, he makes the flashy saves, but he also lets in the weak ones.
The concerns for Pavelec can be fixed, but the clock is winding down. If he isn't already on the hot seat, he will be after this season if nothing changes.
Pavelec is the most important player on the roster that could single-handedly determine the Jets fate.
Best Case: Jets make the playoffs
How is this not the best case scenario? It would be unrealistic to take it a step further and talk Stanley Cup or even winning a playoff round. Just making the playoffs is the best case scenario. It gives the city of Winnipeg hope.
Realistically, the Jets aren’t winning the division. Squeaking in as a low seed would be the easiest route. And who knows, once you make the playoffs anything can happen.
The city of Winnipeg wants to see their Jets get into the playoffs soon. Even outsiders want to see them in just to hear how loud the MTS Center would get. Maybe, just maybe this is the year.
Of course, anything is possible. A trip to the playoffs isn’t out of reach even though most of the critics project the Jets to finish next to last.
Until the Jets finally make the playoffs, the monkey will be attached to their backs.
Worst Case: Jets just barely miss the playoffs
Hopefully their season doesn't end like last year.
Some people may ask how this is a bad thing. It might not be bad for other teams, but for the Jets it is.
I always say, if you’re going to miss the playoffs then do so as a lottery team. Instead of a “we almost made it” moral victory, you get the chance at the number one draft pick. And for a rebuilding team like Winnipeg, there’s nothing better than that.
Too bad Connor McDavid isn’t eligible until the 2015 draft. That would be the year to tank. Even so, if the Jets want to miss out on the playoffs, they have to do so in terrible fashion. Meaning, if you're going to be bad then be bad.
There's no moral victories.
Evander Kane eclipses 40 goals
The young sniper has hit the 30 goal mark once in his four-year career, but he’s more than capable of reaching 40 in this league if not more. Evander Kane has all the tools that make an elite player.
Expect Kane to score a lot. He'll reach the 40 goal mark this season.
Blake Wheeler tops 70 points
Blake Wheeler is the best point producer on the Jets roster.
Two years ago in an 80 game season, Wheeler finished with 64 points. He slumped at the beginning of the year or 70 would have been in reach. This year he’ll finally reach the 70-point plateau.
Jacob Trouba scores 15 goals
A defenseman scoring 15 goals in the NHL is a huge accomplishment. Even 10 is something to take note of. But a rookie accomplishing that feat? If there’s someone that can do it, it’s Jacob Trouba.
Fellow defenseman Zach Bogosian scored nine goals as a rookie in only 47 games. Trouba’s rookie year will top Bogosian’s.
Ondrej Pavelec impresses
Ondrej Pavelec will finish the year with a .915 save percentage and a 2.40 goals against average or better. Pavelec has been on the brink of taking his game to the next level. This will be the year he finds consistency.
The Winnipeg Jets will make the playoffs.
In a tough division, the Jets will find a way to get it done. Remember, they don't need to win the division to get in. The eighth seed would be perfect.
It's going to be a great year of hockey regardless of what happens. We're ready to watch the Jets take flight on Tuesday!