2014/15 Season Preview – Winnipeg Jets
2013/14 Season Record – 11th in Western Conference, 7th in Central Division
2013/14 Season Recap
It was the first year in the Central Division for Winnipeg, their third since their relocation from Atlanta, but it was very much a case of “Same old story”: once again playoff hockey proved elusive. The Jets finished at the bottom of the Central, 11th in the West.
In January, with the team 19-23-5, on a five-game losing streak and regularly getting booed of the ice by their own fans, GM Kevin Cheveldayoff fired Coach Claude Noel, replacing him with Paul Maurice. Under Maurice they saw something of a bounce back (going 10-3-1 in his first 14 games) but it wasn’t enough to get them back into contention. There were controversies around star player Evander Kane, including Maurice scratching him, and Ondrej Pavelec continued to be terrible.
Not a great season, then.
|Evander Kane||Bryan Little||Blake Wheeler|
|Andrew Ladd||Matthieu Perrault||Dustin Byfuglien|
|TJ Galiardi||Matt Scheifele||Michael Frolik|
|Eric Tangradi||Jim Slater||Chris Thorburn|
|Tobias Enstrom||Zach Bogosian|
|Mark Stuart||Jacob Trouba|
|Grant Clitsome||Adam Pardy|
Top Call-Up Options
- Mathieu Perrault
- TJ Galiardi
- Olli Jokinen
- Devin Setoguchi
- Al Montoya
The core of the Jets are still all ex-Thrashers. Andrew Ladd is Captain and continues to be the engine room, Evander Kane is the only genuine superstar in the team. Bryan Little is still one of the most under-rated players in the NHL. I’m assuming that Dustin Byfuglien will be back on the wing this season, as ever he’ll be a big, physical presence up front.
Blake Wheeler led the team in goals & points and was a surprise addition to Team USA for Sochi. Departures include Devin Setoguchi and Olli Jokinen. Mathieu Perreault, formerly of Anaheim, seems a low-key but useful addition. There’s a lack of a killer edge to the Jets forward corps so one suspect they’ll struggle for Offense again this year.
On the Blueline, it remains to be seen if the back injury that caused Zach Bogosian to miss the final 11 games of the season has healed (and, indeed, he was restricted to just 55 games last year.. he hasn’t been near 82 games since 2010). Tobias Enstrom had a difficult year at the start of his new $28.75/5 deal. Grant Clitsome and Mark Stuart are just guys. The good news is that Jacob Trouba, after an eventful rookie season, looks like the real deal.
I’ll discuss Ondrej Pavelec in the next section. He’ll have a new backup this year, Michael Hutchinson, who has a grand total of three NHL games under his belt, but comes with a good AHL reputation.
Ondrej Pavelec has, to put it plainly, been the worst starting goalie in the NHL over the last three seasons. His .904 Sv% is rock bottom of the list of 29 goalies who started 100 games or more in that span. This is killing Winnipeg. In a league where margins between victory and defeat are often razor-thin, just having Pavelec at the .914 NHL Average would make a difference.
You feel that this is his last chance: even though it’s reputedly difficult to attract Free Agents to Winnipeg, there are plenty of goalies out of contract right now who would be an upgrade. If Pavelec doesn’t improve his game, then he may find himself out of a job, and fast.
The problem for Winnipeg is that, while they’ve been content to play in front of a packed house, night after night, with what is, essentially, the Atlanta Thrashers, everywhere else an arms war rages. All the other teams in the Central have improved over the postseason, some significantly (hello, Dallas). The Jets have stood still. Perreault is an upgrade over Jokinen, but not by all that much.
Their reluctance to invest in some bigger names (and yes, I know, no parks etc, etc: money still talks) and to have no apparent ambition other than selling out the WTS Centre every night, means that they’re likely to end up at the bottom of the Central this year. It’ll be interesting to see how the fans react: while the honeymoon probably isn’t over, yet, we saw some anger at the team’s inertia last year, which cost Noel his job. A similar outpouring might create some heat under the seat of Cheveldayoff.
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