Chicago, IL — Mediocrity is probably the worse position to be in sports. If you are really bad you get the bonus of getting high draft picks and the tolerance of your fan base with the promise that one day your team will be good. If your team is good there is always the promise of championships. The Winnipeg Jets are stuck in no man’s land on the island of mediocrity and in the tough Western Conference they look to be stuck there for not only the time being but for a while.
It would be no surprise if this team ended up in last place in the central as they were last year. Every team in the central got better so it will be very tough to envision this team not ending up in the cellar of the central again not because of lack of talent but because of inconsistency and focus.
While the team was last in the central they ended the year being 22nd overall in the league.
The Jets have one of the better, most loyal fan bases and their arena is tough to play in which you would think would make the Jets tougher to play at home but that is not the case. Last year they were pretty average both at home and on the road.
The Jets have good leadership in place with former Blackhawk Andrew Ladd as their captain. It just seems for whatever reason they have not been able to consistently put everything together.
The big change this year is the moving of Dustin Byfuglien (remember him) back to the wing from the defensive position which will an already suspect defense even weaker. Then again Byfuglien was a pls/minus of -20 which is atrocious for a defenseman and probably explains the switch to forward.
The Jets are one of the worse defensive teams in the league. The Jets have no defensive prospects outside of Jacob Trouba who will be a beast one day, waiting in the wings that will help turn this team around. Trouba alone can’t do this and for that reason alone it will keep them in the bottom of the pack.
The offense is better but middle of the pack even with a boost getting Byfuglien up front is probably not enough to compete with the teams in the west. The Jets did not change a whole lot up front so there really is nothing to demonstrate significant improvements on this team other than the further development of center Mark Scheifele. Scheifele like Trouba could be a force on this team but again even if they do develop as projected I’m not sure it is enough in the powerhouse western conference.
The other big change on this team was the head coaching change. Can Paul Maurice change the culture of locker room and get buy in from the team and change a talented yet inconsistent team to compete with assassins like the Kings and Blackhawks? That is probably the biggest hurtle facing this team.
The Jets also face the challenges of bringing out the best of their enigmatic yet very talented winger Evander Kane and finding a way for him to really thrive. Having Kane on the wing with Scheifele could make that line really fly and scary for opponents. Winnipeg is hoping these two can click. Oh and by the way Winnipeg if you don’t want Evander Kane, the Chicago Blackhawks fan base would love bookends of Kanes on the wings.
The special teams were so so between an awful power play and a very good 9th overall in the league penalty kill. Let’s not forget the Jets have Michael Frolik and we all know what a PK monster he is.
The goaltending on this team is like the rest of the team inconsistent and on a team where the defense is poor it puts a tremendous amount of pressure on the goalie.
The good news for the Jets is they have plenty of cap room to make moves and get some defensive help or improve in the nets. The bad news is there are not exactly that many top four impact defenseman or goalie sensations just laying around for the picking.
Unfortunately GM and former Blackhawks front office man Kevin Cheveldayoff has his work cut out for him ahead as it is imperative that the amateur scouting really can’t afford to make any mistakes or take flyers on projects right now. The Jets need to address their deficiencies through the draft and developing young talents and that will be the test of this organization going forward. The fan base needs to exercise patience.
For Hawks fans last year the Hawks won this series three games to one. This was one of the few teams in the central that the Hawks actually had a winning record against and this probably will not change in the upcoming season as well.