No Rotten Core Here

The Winnipeg Jets core is just fine –

A couple of seasons ago, under Claude Noel, some suggested the Winnipeg Jets had a rotten core.  I was not one of them.

I would tell anyone that would listen that five of our top six forwards were as strong as any team in the Western Conference.  I also was a huge fan of our defence.  My issue was (and still kind of is) our number one goalie but I will save the goalie talk for another time.

The number one issue facing the club was the bottom six.  In the first year, it was actually the lack of a true third line (7-9 holes) that were the problem.  The GST line was a decent fourth line if memory serves but weren’t they actually the third line?  Now, a few years later, we see the importance of depth.  The core isn’t and wasn’t ever the problem.  

As the team is being built, we see “draft and develop” with “assets in for assets out”.  If you look at the core of Andrew Ladd, Blake Wheeler, Bryan Little, Evander Kane, Alex Burmistrov, Zach Bogosian, Dustin Byfuglien and Toby Enstrom, where were the problems?  There really wasn’t any.  Some of the development issues were an Atlanta Thrashers issue.  

The “Evander Kane incident” in Vancouver lead to a trade (that included Zach Bogosian) so these assets were used and were moved for established players, draft picks, and prospects.  Assets out for assets in.  The current players as well as the “net result” from the traded players of the “Atalanta core” got us into the playoffs last year (save Burmistrov).

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Having all of that talent, which most said wasn’t that great, has set the team up for another great season in 2015-16.  We see how Drew Stafford has added depth.  We see how Blake Wheeler has grown into one of the best leaders in the whole league.  We see Alex Burmistrov playing the same way he played in his first stint but in a structured NHL caliber system.

In the Winnipeg Jets second off-season, they had key RFAs to deal with; Bogo, Wheeler and Little.  Does anyone remember the feeling in Winnipeg?  Some people said if the Jets could afford to lose one of those guys, it was Bryan Little. Really?

Kevin Cheveldayoff and his staff have done a great job drafting.  Chevy has made some good trades and made good use of the waiver wire.  Give the players credit though, the core was never rotten and in fact it was and still is the heart of this team.

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Paul Maurice knew what he had in his core!

Paul Maurice is another huge reason for the teams emergence.  I’m going to say it.  Claude Noel was in over his head in the NHL.  I will never claim to be an expert on anything, especially professional coaching but, the eye test said it all to me.  The Jets had no attack, they had no structure but to stay in their lanes, and most importantly, I never saw him COACH.  Every coach I’ve ever seen, in every sport, coached during the game, just not him.  Claude Noel had an uphill battle with poor depth, lack of defense and suspect goaltending to be sure.  

PoMo on the other hand was coaching from the word go.  Look at the team’s record after he took over!  Same players!  He implemented a system that was obvious to the casual fan and the naked eye.  Attack, pressure the puck, play big, and use their team speed.  Here is a man who knew the players strengths, how to talk to them and how to make them succeed.  Paul Maurice isn’t a magician and he had some help with an improved roster in his second year but he is a pro.  He is an established coach and it shows.

The team as it is now, has talent, depth, a proven system, a top flight defence and improved goaltending.  We are only five games in and the signs look positive.  The team, in my opinion, has picked up where it left off last season. This year’s crop with the four new players and the experience of having made the playoffs last year is by far the best Winnipeg Jets 2.0 team we have seen.  

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