Will The Winnipeg Jets Succeed In The Western Conference?

Winnipeg Jets Are Heading Into The Men’s Division

For those of you that have read my tweets on Twitter relentlessly commenting on the physical style of play in the Western Conference, you are getting a great preview in the St. Louis / Los Angeles playoff series.  I am constantly questioning if this team, the Winnipeg Jets, is built to play with the big-boys.  I sarcastically call the Western Conference the “Mens” division of the NHL. As most of you know, I split my time between Winnipeg MB and San Tan Valley AZ so I have two teams I follow full-time and I’m quite familiar with the style of play in both conferences.  The Jets competed pretty well in the “Tippy Toe” conference where all the pretty boys like Crosby, Malkin, Stamkos play.  That’s not to say that there aren’t tough teams and players in the east but overall I think the west is bigger and tougher.

Winnipeg Jets Blue-line

I look at the Jets current defence corp and coach Claude Noel will need a different level of commitment from this group if they want to succeed in their new conference.  In almost every post-game report I wrote this season, I commented that this group was too soft in their own end.  Zach Bogosian (RFA) will be fine along with Jacob Trouba when he becomes a full-time Jet. Dustin Byfuglien has the size and strength to excel in the Western Conference but it can’t be on a part-time basis like it has been the past two seasons.  Let’s say this is our top three and now we have to fill out the bottom four or five. Toby Enstrom inherits the four spot based on his wonderful new five year $5,750,000 per year contract with a “No Movement Clause” (NMC).  I am giving the five spot to Zack Redmond (RFA) and the six spot to Mark Stuart.  That leaves the very serviceable Grant Clitsome (UFA) along with Paul Postma (RFA) and maybe Derek Meech (UFA) and/or Arturs Kulda (RFA)to fill out the bottom end.  Let’s just say, barring trades or a surprise (UFA) signing, this is how the Winnipeg blue-line will look in a year or two.   Byfuglien would be better suited to an offence role on the second pair not playing the ridiculous minutes he plays now.  Redmond will have to grab the number five role and become a full-time NHL defenceman while Stuart will be okay in the six slot.  This configuration gives the Jets their best chance to succeed in my opinion but this is contingent on Trouba taking the next step adding his physical presence to this line-up and Buff stepping up his physical game (which he hasn’t shown in two years).  Enstrom’s minutes will have to be used wisely as a PP specialist and nowhere near the PK.

Alexander_Burmistrov_Jets2_2012-02-11

by Michael Miller

Winnipeg Jets Forwards

I don’t have as much concern about the physical presence of the Jets forwards.  Captain Andrew Ladd and budding star Evander Kane bring a consistent physical game every night.  The challenge coach Noel will have with this foward group is consistent physical grinding play from ALL his forwards.  There has been sightings of physical play from the likes of Tangradi, Peluso, Wright, Slater, Thorburn and even Jokinen but it needs to be every night.  If this team wants to compete as early as next season it will take a TOTAL team commitment to TEAM DEFENCE.  The beauty of team defence is you don’t need any special skills just a good work ethic and an understanding that it’s not a shift to shift thing, it’s an every shift thing.  I have shook my head some nights wondering why a Jet checking line would ever have two men caught deep leading to an odd man rush.  This tells me one of two things; bad coaching or a real low hockey IQ.  No team is ever going to be perfect and that’s just the nature of the game but the good teams just do a better job of limiting their break-downs.  This should be the #1 focus of this team going forward.

The Future

 

If you look at some of G.M. Kevin Cheveldayoff’s draft picks from the last couple of entry drafts, the Jets won’t be lacking for size.  I’m quite sure Chevy knows first hand what this team needs to compete in the Western Conference from his experiences with Chicago.

The Final Word

In my opinion, this team is set-up better for the transition to the Western Conference than I originally thought.  The Jets have good size but they just don’t always play to their size.  A hockey team can go a long way with modest talent and a big-time work ethic.  The Winnipeg Jets already have the modest talent so all they need is a solid plan from the coaching staff and a commitment from ALL players to team defence.  If they can make this adjustment, they may be pleasantly surprised at the results.  If they continue to think they are a run and gun team, it will be a long season that will probably lead to jobs being lost on the ice and behind the bench.

Comments

  1. Frédéric J. says

    I don’t think that Claude Noel is the coach to take this team to the next level. I’d like to see Winnipeg hire Dale Hawerchuk.

  2. Hi Frédéric. I heard something about Dale’s house being for sale in Barrie. I don’t know if that’s true or just a Twitter rumor.

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