Winnipeg Jets Make Playoffs But What About Next Year?

Scott’s Thoughts – Winnipeg Jets made the playoffs this season but what about next year?

The Winnipeg Jets are grounded for the summer although being put to bed by a superior Anaheim Ducks team is not a disgrace in any way.  That club is now facing the Chicago Blackhawks in the Western Conference Finals.  Some will point out, they got a second round pass but whatevah eh Calgary.  😛

In fact, this group of Winnipeg Jets overcame some incredibly tough obstacles to get into the playoffs.  Everyone remembers their “top four” defensemen being out for a substantial number of games along with variations of lesser but significant combos being out as well.  End of year accounts had a number of Jets having surgery after the season which may have meant a different outcome if healthy but I’m not there.

I do think that individual efforts are affected though.

Guys like Mark Scheifele seemed to be playing with every forward on the roster at one point.  This is actually true for a few forwards but for the most part I leave the graphs to my favourite #underlyingstats guys.  It surely didn’t make it easy for anyone, other than Little and Ladd, and Stafford for bit of time.  The ones I miss, feel free to tell me, this is all about discussion.

The list goes on but if you’ve read here before you know I’m not one for excuses as I believe they even out.  I feel the same way about referee calls much to the chagrin of referee baiters and conspiracy theorists.  🙂

I also remember thinking on a number of occasions that the Jets had got a timely break which resulted in a win.  The last one that sticks out was when the Montreal Canadiens started backup goalie Dustin Tokarski in the second last week of the season without a back-to-back situation and the Habs still needing wins.  So many things even out.

What didn’t even out was the Winnipeg Jets outstanding progress in the all-important possession game.  For most of the year, they were easily in the top third of the league.  I think more than a few people commented how hard the Jets have to work to score goals but they scored enough to get in the playoffs.

After all, St. Louis Blues coach Ken Hitchcock compared the Jets to the Los Angeles Kings when asked if the Jets reminded him of his own team.  Mighty praise indeed but LA has been buying players to win the Cup for years; the Marion Gaborik trade immensely helped their Cup win last year.  Some year, the Jets may be in position to do that.

So let’s look at next year and oh oh maybe this summer addressing Winnipeg Jets “holes”.

Connor Hellebuyck excelled at the 2015 WHC.

Goaltending:  With great respect, I’m pushing Eric Comrie back a couple more years before he has a chance to make the Jets.  He’s still looking great as a prospect though.

On the other hand, Connor McHellebuyck had a terrific year in the AHL with St. John’s but was “supposedly” not as good in the last part of the year.  This could be because he was so super-human that it was next to impossible to keep up his stats and play all year-long or maybe he’s a goalie.  Either way, Jets fans salivate at his future especially after he shut out the Czechs in the “Bronze Medal Game” at the World Championships with a scintillating 39 save, shutout performance. The media awarded him BEST GOALIE AT THE WORLDS.

Helle’s competition on the Jets this coming year is a guy he outplayed at the Worlds, but has Chevy’s love from the past, and a short but awesome run that saw the Jets get to the playoffs for the first time give him the edge?

I’m hoping Hellebuyck is ready for regular NHL duty but I’m careful on young goalies and I know the Jets are too.  If he stones the opposition in pre-season I may be calling for him staying with the big boys.  For the record, Connor’s save percentage had dropped to .921 by the end of the year in the AHL.

The guy up next had a 9.20 at the NHL level though.

Is Ondrej Pavelec the undisputed #1 ???

“ONDREJ PAVELEC!!”

Sorry, I am trying to bring Dennis Beyak’s voice to digital text every time Pavs touches the puck and it doesn’t go in. 😆

This year is different from others as the constantly pumped “new world” advanced stats tell us his SV% of .920 is pretty damn good in 50 games.  It’s by far the best of his career as was his 2.28 GAA.  That was regular season of course.

You know why I’m not bringing up playoff numbers. 🙁

Is Hutch already the forgotten man?

What about Hutch?

I’ve not forgotten Michael Hutchinson who actually had earned the number one job at one point this year.  The fact that Hutch couldn’t maintain his high-end numbers from early in the year doesn’t mean he can’t come back with a big, more consistent year.  Without his play when “bad Pavs” appeared it’s unlikely the Jets get close to the playoffs this year.  I look forward to a big year from the rookie.

Defencemen:  With great respect, I haven’t slotted in Josh Morrissey as the Jets new savior yet.  He’s a kid with a ton of talent and Jets need a good left shot defencemen so badly that I want to be the voice of reason.  Most tools are there at last sighting but a top-4 defenseman needs to be complete.

Some more strengthening this summer, probably on the lower body this time, may see him ready but he won’t be rushed.

Right now:

Left Defence:  Toby Enstrom, Mark Stuart, Ben Chiarot, with maybe Adam Pardy. That’s it at the NHL level and the “Pardy dangle” is a fun thing but he’s an “I don’t care” UFA.  If Grant Clitsome comes back from back surgery and makes the team better, it will only amplify my point.  I wish the best for Clitty obviously.

Right Defence:  Byfuglien, Myers, Trouba in alphabetical order.  Nobody else matters with those three.

I asked some terrific people which NHL team had a better trio on RD and Twitter’s @Mirtle and @garrethohl agreed on Nashville’s threesome of Weber, Jones, and Ellis.  Mirtle also mentioned the great top two of Blues Kevin Shattenkirk and Alex Pietrangelo so my only comeback was on Zbynek Michalek drawing the top two down.  The Jets are still in some heady company here.

This kinda points out the Jets problem on D.

Forwards:  A solid group of three lines after the trade deadline when all were healthy but the UFA’s may change that.

Keep the UFA’s and Jets still need depth to be great.  A Michael Frolik signing would appear to be crucial.  Personally I would rather overpay Frolik than overpay Stafford who seems to be the MSM boy-toy take right now. 

While the numbers complete my eyesight on Stafford in Buffalo which included lackluster D and an inconsistent performance over a long period, I like the guy “as a pro”.  Just make sure we get him at half price.

How Winnipeg Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff deals with all the possible holes as well as Andrew Ladd and Dustin Byfuglien being a year away from free agency is going to have a huge impact on where this team is heading.

What about Burmi?

Of course when I think Jets might lose Frolik I look around and its tough to see replacing his “play-anywhere” goodness.  There IS one guy who a couple of years ago I thought was a poor-man’s version of him, but young and moving up.  But I haven’t watched Alexander Burmistrov in a long time.  

Has he continued to develop in the KHL?  Is he willing to come back and battle for a spot on the Jets?  I would hope so.  I had the benefit of watching him in Barrie and really liked the kid.  I thought a nice career was ahead and I’d hate to be wrong for the first time. 🙂

Full disclosure:  I have said many times after the trade deadline acquisitions that THIS year’s edition might be the best Winnipeg Jets team we’d see in the next few years … I’m obviously hoping not.

I hope Kevin Cheveldayoff has the summer of his life as do all Winnipeg Jets fans.  With the right moves, there’s no reason to see the Jets drop out of a playoff position next year. 

But in the oh-so-tough Central Division, there is no room for error.

Please feel free to leave your comments or questions below.

Editors Note:

“Scott’s Thoughts” is written by Scott Campbell.  Scott played in the WHA for the Houston Aeros and won an Avco Cup with the 1978-79 Winnipeg Jets.  Scott was also one of the three original 1979-80 NHL Winnipeg Jets.  Scott was drafted in the 1977 NHL Entry Draft, ninth overall in the first round by the St. Louis Blues and was selected first overall in the 1977 WHA Entry Draft by the Houston Aeros. Scott retired early in his career due to health problems but his Winnipeg Jets ties still remain very strong.  Winnipeg Hockey Talk is proud to have Scott as a contributor to this web-site.  He has been in the pro-hockey trenches and he brings a perspective to the average fan that is honest and real.

You can follow Scott on Twitter at:


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Scott Campbell (26 Posts)


Comments

  1. Greg Polinchuk says:

    I totally agree about re-signing Frolik, even at a premium. Over the past two years Fro has been a consistent game-to-game performer who can be plugged into many positions and situations. His work ethic would set a perfect example as Jets add more and more younger players who need to see the effort NHLers make to keep their jobs. Plus his versatility would be very welcome as Winnipeg figures out where all their young puzzle pieces need to go.

    My personal summer wish is that the Jets shave a few years off of their defensive corps. Buff, Toby, Stu, Pardy, Clitsome will all be on the downside as Ehlers, Petan, Scheif, Lowry, Copp et all start to hit their peak. The Jets need to reduce that age spread between the forwards and defensemen if they are all going to peak together in two or three years.

    • Mitch Kasprick says:

      I’m not on board with over-paying Frolik by a lot … my fear is if our prospects are as good as we think they are we might have hugely over-paid 3 liner … I guess it also depends on term. What do you think Scott?

      • Scott Campbell says:

        I was more pointing out how I think both Staff and Fro will be “overpaid”, and much prefer Fro in those cases. But Frolik is the perfect player to have the young guns follow as Greg said.. I guess the question is “what is “overpaying” by the numbers?

  2. Todd Leroux says:

    Of course, playoffs are the immediate-term goal, but that has to be achieved concurrently with other longer-term goals (as opposed to being the only goal).

    Hence, free up some cap for free agency and other UFAs (bye Buff), and sacrifice some production/relative benefit (Slater.Tlusty, Frolik, etc.) for youth and experience gained (of course, in a trade-off with development in the minors or Junior).

    Anaheim showed (clearly) how far off the Jets are.

    So, playoffs…great…but in step with deep playoff run goals in the years to come.

    IMO.

    • I see what you’re saying. In fact i was all for a youth movement last couple years as I was nervous about the age gap between the older core and the young guns.

      This year made me start to think this team isn’t that far away from a long playoff run. Yes Anaheim much better but we found out that was a petty banged up squad in the playoffs. I’m thinking we can integrate a young gun or two and continue to hold on to key older players. Rushing youngsters is just not going to happen.

      Just an opinion too. 🙂 Thanks for reading and commenting Todd.

  3. George Bain says:

    Great article Scott! Chevy’s has his work cut out for him going forward. I would like to Burmistrov back, but will he want to? Rushing youngsters is tricky but having Maurice and Cheveldayoff monitoring them I have full confidence in their decisions. I must say I was really surprised to see how well Gaudreau played for Calgary. It will be interesting to see who is on this team come October.

    • Scott Campbell says:

      Thanks for reading and your comments George.
      You make some good points and yep, Johnny Hockey fooled me too. 🙂

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