2014-2015 Winnipeg Jets Season Preview
Last season the Winnipeg Jets finished in a mediocre eleventh place in the final Western Conference standings, yet another disappointment for a hockey crazed Canadian city who wants to see NHL playoff hockey. This Manitoban city was given an NHL team back in 2011 after over a decade without one, selling out their arena for many years to come. Since the team has been back, they have consistently been a bubble team, getting close and underperforming with a roster that should be good enough to at least place 8th. Management decided that their needed to be a change and fired their head coach Claude Noel, the players just weren't buying into his system. Paul Maurice replaced Claude and had instant success, the team became hard to play against and the change looked refreshing. With Stars like Evander Kane, Andrew Ladd, and Dustin Byfuglien, and upcoming players such as Jacob Trouba, and Mark Scheifele, the Jets should be on the right track.
-Does Evander Kane want to be in Winnipeg?
Evander is still young, he is 23 years old, but this guy was supposed to be a 40 goal, 70+ point type of scorer, however the most goals he has scored in a season is 30 and that was 3 years ago, he has also never scored more than 57 total points. With the lack of playoff appearances, several rumors float around each year whether Kane really wants to be in Winnipeg. Evander Kane has also been at the center of controversy, posing with stacks of cash and holding it up to his ear as if to use it like a phone. Kane is flamboyant, flashy, and is a 23 year old kid, but if this kid wants out of Winnipeg, he needs to flat out say it or play like a superstar if he wants to stay.
-Will Mark Scheifele put up over 50 points and over 20 goals?
Scheifes was picked questionably by management in 2011 at the 7th slot, many experts think he could have slid to ATLEAST 13, he was a fast riser who not many people had heard of. Mark kept surprising when he put up a point per game in pre season which earned him a spot on the regular season opening roster. Ultimately Scheifele did not do enough to stay with the big club and it took him two years to finally stick, when he played 63 games and put up a respectable 34 points in his rookie campaign last year. Mark is a big body who can put the puck in the net and I think he is a future 40 goal scorer if he stays healthy, but how long will that take?
-Is Andrew Ladd going to be leading celebrations of a playoff clincher this year?
Ladd has had plenty of playoff experience, as well as 2 Stanley Cups, 1 with Chicago in 2010 and 1 with Carolina in 2006, but has yet to play in May and June since being traded to Atlanta/Winnipeg in July of 2010. Ladd is a 50+ point scoring forward who leads by example, he comes up with valuable goals and lays it out on the line for his teammates. Andrew Ladd is the type of player who you want on your team and personally one of my favorite captains in the league. Maybe this will be the year Ladd can put his experience and advice to good use. Sadly I don't think this will happen because of the stacked division this team is in, including Chicago, Dallas, St. Louis, Minnesota, and Colorado (Wow the Central is loaded!) who all made the playoffs last year and should look to do the same this season.
-Paul Maurice, is he a good long term coach in Winnipeg?
Saying a guy will last a while with one team as a head coach in the NHL is tough, especially for one in a hockey market such as Winnipeg. I think the Jets take a step this season and make a run, Maurice got to his players at the end of last season and they should pick up with the confidence they had then. If the Jets are atrocious this year then Maurice will be on a short leash, this city and team management is getting impatient and needs to start seeing results, we will see what happens.
-How will Goaltending hold up??
Ondrej Pavelec is a top goaltender, he can stand on his head and steal games for his team, that being said, Pavelec needs to avoid the injury bug, he does start a a majority of the teams games so the team needs to play well in front of him. The team needs to get more defense out of Byfuglien and an often injured, Tobias Enstrom, these two guys provide a ton of offense from the back end but need more of a shut down mentality when facing other teams' top lines. Pavelec is 27 years old so he is hitting the peak of his playing career, Jets fans hope that will show up on the score card.
Ultimately I don't think the Jets are going to make the playoffs this season, the best player they picked up in the off season was Mathieu Perrault who has only had one good season in his career but he was surrounded by superstars in Anaheim who got him the puck, all in all he is a very good 3rd line player at best, The Jets are probably hoping i'm wrong and he can build off of last years outburst. Winnipeg drafted Nik Ehlers this past year who has been compared to Drouin in terms of skill but he is only 18 so his chances of making the team and sticking are slim, though they sure could use that talent. I think a few years down the road when Ehlers, Scheifele, Trouba, and hopefully Kane have blossomed, Winnipeg can compete with the Chicagos, Dallas', St.Louis', and Colorados, and Minnesota's of the Central, but for now I don't see it happening.