After nearly making the Eastern Conference playoffs that last two seasons, the Winnipeg Jets get their first chance at cracking the top eight in the Western Conference this year. Former Blackhawks assistant GM, and current Jets GM, Kevin Cheveldayoff made a few tweaks to his roster over the summer. He acquired Michael Frolik from the Hawks on draft day. He also brought in Devin Setoguchi, Andrew Gordon, Matt Halischuk, and Adam Pardy to try and get his team over that playoff hump. I think the Jets could compete for the 3rd playoff spot out out the Central this year if they can get better play out of their defense and goaltenders.
This morning we talk to Truck from Arctic Ice Hockey to give us a more in depth look at the Jets.
Now that the "newness" of the Jets has worn off a bit, is their building pressure for results on the ice in Winnipeg yet?
There is no doubt that pressure is mounting in Winnipeg. The Winnipeg Jets have landed on the playoff bubble in each of their first two seasons. Fans want to see playoffs - some want to see it now.
The pressure may be building within the organization as well. Coach Claude Noel was set to enter this season with one year remaining on his contract - GM Kevin Cheveldayoff chose to extend him by one year. An extension is an extension, but one year isn't exactly a ringing endorsment.
Many round these parts have began to wondering if Noel can survive another just miss. Pressure exists.
Ondrej Pavelec's 2.80 GAA and .905 save % last season left much to be desired. How much of that is on him and how much is on the players in front of him?
This depends who you ask. Some people suggest Ondrej is Rask with a different team - others in the media have suggest Pavelec is better than Corey Scheneider - I generally refer to these people as... Wrong.
Pavelec has long been plagued with inconsistencies. This shouldn't be news - conditioning and consistency have been part of Pav's scouting reports since junior. The middling numbers aren't new either. Pav won a Calder Cup despite never a save percentage that ranked ranked higher than 30th in the AHL. Would it be fair to blame those teams for the middling numbers? Me thinks no.
This isn't to say the Jets are a strong defensive team. D zone coverage can be a bit of a mess and forwards generally do a poor job of supporting on breakouts, but the talent on the backend is strong. They need to figure things out. Team D needs to improve as shot suppression will be the key to overcoming subpar goaltending numbers - if they persists.
What has been done to improve the overall team defense?
As mentioned above, the forwards need to do a better job of supporting the D. This is a big issue. I can't tell you of this is a.problem with the system or the players, but it plainly hasn't happened enough.
Another issue appears to be player selection. Coach Noel has made habit of giving big ice time to players that he "trusts" despite very little in the way of measuable results. I understand that players must play according to the coaches system, but one has to wonder why the players he trusts consistently perform worse than those he doesn't.
Is this year Evander Kane becomes a star or officially wears out his welcome in the ‘Peg?
Kane is on the cusp of stardom and he got there without line mates, this year MAY be different. I am not sure if this will be his breakout year, but I can assure you that you and your fans will hate him.
As for the other:
There is a vocal minority that hates him for whatever reason (perhaps one that I don't care to speculate on), but there aren't many players that can draw a bigger crowd and now that he has turned a new leaf with the media they will likely lay off too.
The Jets might be the team who have benefited most from realignment. With less travel this season, is this the year the Jets make it to the playoffs in a very tough Western Conference?
In my personal opinion too much has been made of the East/West thing. Hockey is hockey, they will make it or they won't. The Jets will actually be travelling more under the new schedule and fans will have to stay up later to watch games.
Playoffs are a big wild card. Who knows how things will look after realignment. Truthfully can't get a good read on the team I nerd on - let alone how it will impact the other 29.
Talent wise I think the Jets are darn similar to last year's squad. That should put them in the playoff bubble mix, but there is a huge unknown in the rookies. Jacob Trouba and Mark Scheifele will have a lot to do with how far this team goes. If there is a Calder candidate on the team (not impossible) then the Jets probably get in.
I will say this though, I am unsure about the Jets - I feel the division is wide open after Chicago and St. Louis.
What can we expect to see out of prospects Jacob Trouba and Mark Scheifele at the NHL level this season?
Expectations are a funny thing, mine are generally low and hopeful for a pleasant surprise.
I suspect he will have an up and down year. I suspect he will spend a couple stints in the coaches dog house. I also suspect he be the 2nd best centre on the roster as Olli Jokinen has been terrible. I am hopeful he will put up 40 some points IF he sustains spot on the 2nd line.
The sky is the limit with this kid. At first I wasn't sure he'd make the team (depth issues more than Jacob issues), but he was very good in the preseason and he has made the team on merit. There is no doubt he is a top 6 D man here.
That said, college players often struggle with the transition to a pro schedule. Can he sustain his play? I don't know, but I expect him to smash a few people this year.
Finally, can you send us back Andrew Ladd? I am sure we can find another fat defenseman to exchange for him!
F right off!!!!! You had him once already.
Thanks again to Truck for taking some time out to help us out, it is much appreciated. The Hawks and Jets will meet four times this year. The Hawks travel to Jonathan Toews' hometown twice in November, on the 2nd and the 23rd. Chicago fans can get a look at former Hawks Frolik, Ladd and Dustin Byfuglien on November 6th and January 26th.