The Winnipeg Jets are coming off what has to be considered a disappointing season.
After making it to the Western Conference Final in 2017-18, they finished tied for second in the Central this past season, only one point behind division leaders Nashville, but even with a team that was dead last in the league at the start of the 2019 calendar year.
That same team took care of them with relative ease in the first round, then went on to win the Stanley Cup. On the one hand it’s hard to be disappointed in a season in which you missed a number of players for big chunks of time, still finished with 99 points, and lost to the eventual champions. On the other, one has to acknowledge that 99 points is probably on the low end of what people thought the Jets would be capable of, and to lose in the first round is a disappointment regardless of circumstance.
The Jets entered the offseason, then, likely to be tight against the cap and with few positives to glean. They lost Jacob Trouba for next to nothing, arguably through no fault of their own but still not maximizing the return. They still have to re-sign a few RFAs, including Kyle Connor and Patrik Laine, who should eat up a good-sized chunk of their roughly $23 million in cap space.
But what’s interesting is that the team has otherwise done nothing with their NHL roster this summer. Unless you count Mark Letestu, who only played two games in the NHL last year but had 80 in 2017-18. But even then, that’s not much more than a 13th forward.
So as with a lot of other playoffs last season that haven’t changed much, the question is where they think they’re going with this roster. They’ll probably have a few spots to fill up front, and a bit of money to spend on free agent help, but a lot of the choices available to them in the near future aren’t going to be the kind of guys who make a huge difference.
Again, the Jets suffered some notable injuries last season, most critically the one that held Dustin Byfuglien (now 34) to half a season. Nik Ehlers missed 20 games, Josh Morrissey 23. Plus Patrik Laine was pretty bad for a big chunk of the year, and that’s the kind of guy you count on to score 35-plus goals. But even still, this was an offense that was 20th in expected goals per 60 last year, and they lost one of the better puck-moving defenders in the league. They also conceded the eighth-worst expected-goals per 60 against.
So the clear downgrade they suffered on the back end (even accounting for freeing up Tyler Myers’ and roster spot for someone more likely to help) might be enough to offset the expected growth for guys like Connor, Laine, Roslovic, and Ehlers. And that’s if they receive continued strong performance from Blake Wheeler (who will be 33 when the new season begins). Mark Scheifele, one expects, will continue to be Mark Scheifele.
There’s also no real need in net: Both Connor Hellebuyck and Laurent Brossoit were above-average again last season and even if the defense takes a step back, that’s a solid tandem.
But this is all against the background of a changing division. A full year of St. Louis under Craig Berube portends a lot more points for them. Nashville upgraded the offense and, even in acknowledging their struggles last season, you have to remember they won the Central. Chicago improved, though by how much remains to be seen. Same goes for Dallas. Colorado got significantly better. Minnesota, who knows.
Point is, only Winnipeg pretty much stood pat, and while it might have been out of necessity, that’s still a weird gamble considering how last year ended and what everyone else in the division did.
Are they even the third-best team in this division now? Not sure I’d take that bet.
Anaheim Ducks: Not sure what the Ducks are planning for this season but they’re probably still gonna be real bad.
Arizona Coyotes: In my opinion it should be possible to both Try To Win and Try To Get A New Arena That People Will Actually Go To. But here’s the thing: If you’re winning and well-run, people will go to whatever middle-of-nowhere rink you’ve got. Ask the Senators.
Boston Bruins: What do you figure McAvoy and Carlo cost, combined? Like $12-13.5 million? That feels right. Wonder how they make that work.
Buffalo Sabres: Don’t hold your breath for this one, gang.
Calgary Flames: Not the future many envisioned for Jon Gillies, but here we are.
Carolina Hurricanes: They really do need Justin Williams back next season. The article says it’s more for what he does off the ice, but he was SECOND on the team in WAR last season. At 37! What a player.
Chicago: Hooooooooooooo boy.
Colorado Avalanche: This potential D corps ignores the fact that Bowen Byram might be NHL-ready and, if so, would give them an elite puck-mover on every pairing. Wowie zowie!
Columbus Blue Jackets: Gotta love the idea of Columbus giving up five straight years of first-round picks behind that Marner offer sheet and all the trades last season. Why not, right?
Dallas Stars: Man, you forget Tyler Seguin, who’s been in Dallas for only six seasons, has had three different coaches already. God, the Stars have had six coaches in the past 10 seasons. Few will discuss this.
Detroit Red Wings: Gotta say, I think a C+ is a little generous but okay.
Edmonton Oilers: This is bleak.
Florida Panthers: If there’s something to keep an eye on in the entire Eastern Conference next season, how Joel Quenneville tightens up that defense is Nos. 1-7, at least.
Los Angeles Kings: Anyone have any clue what the Kings are doing out here? No? Okay me neither but just checking.
Minnesota Wild: lmao c’mon man.
Montreal Canadiens: Looking like a long season in Montreal already, eh?
Nashville Predators: David Poile got roasted for this decision at the time, and especially after Neal had a big first season in Vegas, but giving him up was 1000000 percent the right call.
New Jersey Devils: Jack Hughes honestly seems like a swell kid. Hope he does great!
New York Islanders: Yeah, well, I got some news for ya about low-talent teams that overachieve and don’t improve in the summer...
New York Rangers: How are they gonna let Jacob Trouba get to arbitration? Just give him the money. Who cares?
Ottawa Senators: Honestly, it couldn’t possibly be.
Philadelphia Flyers: *doing the finger thing that means money*
Pittsburgh Penguins: Why does it feel like we’re just going to be re-litigating every Phil Kessel-related transaction in NHL history for the rest of time?
San Jose Sharks: I really do wonder how much they miss Pavelski next year. They need someone — I don’t know, say, Kevin Labanc — to step up big-time.
St. Louis Blues: Jordan Binnington getting $4.4 million is, uh, steep. About a million more than I expected. It’s only two years and he won you a Cup and you’re not gonna sign anyone else anyway so I guess who cares. But also: lmao.
Tampa Bay Lightning: Imagine doing a Q&A and feeling like you have to explain why you think a team that finished with 62 wins last season will still be good.
Toronto Maple Leafs: Know who else wanted to be a Leaf more than anything next year? Nazem Kadri. Just something to think about.
Vancouver Canucks: Simply very good news for the Canucks.
Vegas Golden Knights: Yup, this is a very good way to build your prospect base. Hm interesting.
Washington Capitals: If ever anyone could give good advice about the importance of keeping your head up...
Winnipeg Jets: I know I just said they need to do something here but this ain’t it.
Gold Star Award
Vince Dunn’s day with the Cup seems pretty chill but Cheerios is not the correct cereal to eat out of it. You’re gonna want to go with Froot Loops or Corn Pops. Come on, bro.
Minus of the Weekend
I saw a lot of pictures of the Burger King taco this weekend and I wish I hadn’t.
Perfect HFBoards Trade Proposal of the Week
User “93oilerfan93” made me say “HELL yes” out loud.
Milan Lucic $6.0 AAV 4 years, (MO $16 Million)
Brandon Manning $2.25 AAV 1 year (MO $2 Million)
3rd round pick 2020
James Neal $5.75 AAV 4 years, (MO $23 million)
Michael Stone $3.5 AAV 1 year (MO $3.5 Million)
Okay. Back you go to waits for a woman of less discriminating tastes.
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