New name, new location, same game plan? Winnipeg Jets staying quiet in free agency

1 Comment

Last season when then Thrashers GM Rick Dudley helped pick apart the Chicago Blackhawks in their great salary sell-off, the additions made to the team helped turn things around in Atlanta for at least a little while. Character additions and talent like Andrew Ladd, Brent Sopel, and Dustin Byfuglien proved to be great ones as Ladd eventually became team captain and Byfuglien was an All-Star while scoring 21 goals as a defenseman.

With the Thrashers being sold and moved to Winnipeg and a new staff in charge of things in Manitoba with GM Kevin Cheveldayoff and team VP Craig Heisinger, things are taking more of a quiet turn for the Jets. It’s the kind of turn that makes you think back on Thrashers offseasons of the past while Don Waddell was in charge of things.

Taking a look at who the Jets have signed this summer, there’s not a single name that jumps out at you for being a difference maker kind of player. Derek Meech, Tanner Glass, Rick Rypien, and Randy Jones highlight the Jets offseason. Meanwhile, they’re still trying to get a deal worked out with Ladd and have seen improving talent Anthony Stewart bolt to Carolina.

If that sounds unimpressive, it makes us think back to the summer of 2009 that saw the Thrashers sign luminaries like Stewart, Noah Welch, Josh Gratton, and Mike Vernace while retaining Colby Armstrong and Kari Lehtonen. For one of this year’s Jets signings, Randy Jones thinks that his new team is going to have to be more blue collar than anything to win as he told the Winnipeg Sun’s Paul Friesen.

“Last year for a good part of the season they were only a point or two behind us and Washington,” Jones said on a media conference call from his home in New Brunswick, Monday. “They work extremely hard, and that’s the main thing you need in this league, is hard work and determination. That’s one thing that stood out, they never give up, they always battled and were always in your face. We’re going to give a good push this season.”

All the hard work in the world can get you only so far though and the Jets are going to need goals. With Byfuglien, Tobias Enstrom, and Evander Kane already in the fold and young centerman Alexander Burmistrov growing up on the job, there’s a handful of point producers there. Overall, however, they’re going to need to find offense from somewhere. Ed Tait of the Winnipeg Free Press highlights a few free agent targets Cheveldayoff could and should be looking at to help the Jets get on the board.

Tait points out guys like Antti Miettinen, Jason Arnott, Alex Kovalev, and Cory Stillman could be sought out to help produce goals. There’s also some major nostalgia available in Teemu Selanne. Of course, Selanne leaving Anaheim for one last run in Winnipeg is more of a pipe dream than a possibility. Regardless, unless the Jets start getting active they’re going to be fighting for goals and hoping that new head coach Claude Noel has the strategies to help the Jets win with minimal offense. Sure Ondrej Pavelec is a very solid goalie, but asking him to be Vezina-level night in and night out is asking a lot of him.

The Jets have been all about surprises since True North bought the team, but they’re going to need to do things differently from how the Thrashers did them in the past if they hope to conquer the Southeast Division and make the playoffs next season.

Rangers punch playoff ticket to wrap up night of clinched spots

Getty
Leave a comment

The New York Rangers weren’t ecstatic that Chris Tierney‘s 4-4 goal sent their game to overtime against the San Jose Sharks, but either way, getting beyond regulation punched their ticket to the playoffs on Tuesday night.

For the seventh season in a row, the Rangers are in the NHL’s postseason. They fell to the Sharks 5-4 in overtime, so they haven’t locked down the first wild-card spot in the East … yet. It seems like a matter of time, however.

The Rangers have now made the playoffs in 11 of their last 12 tries, a far cry from the barren stretch where the Rangers failed to make the playoffs from 1997-98 through 2003-04 (with the lockout season punctuating the end of that incompetent era).

New York has pivoted from the John Tortorella days to the Vigneault era, and this season has been especially interesting as they reacted to a 2016 first-round loss to the Penguins by instituting a more attacking style. The Metropolitan Division’s greatness has overshadowed, to some extent, how dramatic the improvement has been.

This result seems like a tidy way to discuss Tuesday’s other events.

The drama ends up being low for the Rangers going forward, and while there might be a shortage of life-or-death playoff struggles, the battles for seeding look to be fierce.

Oilers end NHL’s longest playoff drought; Sharks, Ducks also clinch

Getty
Leave a comment

There’s something beautiful about the symmetry on Tuesday … unless you’re a Detroit Red Wings fans, maybe.

On the same night that the longest active NHL playoff streak ended at 25 for Detroit, the longest playoff drought concluded when the Edmonton Oilers clinched a postseason spot by beating the Los Angeles Kings 2-1.

The Oilers haven’t reached the playoffs since 2005-06, when Chris Pronger lifted them to Game 7 of the 2006 Stanley Cup Final.

In doing so, other dominoes fell. Both the Anaheim Ducks and San Jose Sharks also punched their tickets to the postseason.

The Sharks, of course, hope to exceed last season’s surprising run to the 2016 Stanley Cup Final.

Meanwhile, the Anaheim Ducks continue their run of strong postseasons, even as their Cup win fades to the background ever so slightly. All three teams are currently vying for the Pacific Division title.

The Western Conference’s eight teams are dangerously close to being locked into place, as the Nashville Predators, Calgary Flames and St. Louis Blues are all close to looking down their spots as well.

Want the East perspective? Check out this summary of Tuesday’s events from the perspective of the other conference.

Craig Anderson took his blunder hard – probably too hard – in Sens loss

Leave a comment

Members of the Ottawa Senators were quick to come to Craig Anderson‘s blunder (see above) in Tuesday’s 3-2 shootout loss to the Philadelphia Flyers, and it’s easy to see why.

It’s not just about his personal struggles, either. When Anderson’s managed to play, he’s been flat-out phenomenal, generating a .927 save percentage that ranks near a Vezina-type level (if he managed to play more than 35 games).

Goaltending has been a huge reason why Ottawa has at least a shot of winning the Atlantic or at least grabbing a round of home-ice advantage, so unlike certain instances where teams shield a goalie’s failures, the defenses are absolutely justified.

Anderson, on the other hand, was very hard on himself.

You have to admire Anderson for taking the blame, even if in very much “hockey player” fashion, he’s not exactly demanding the same sort of credit for his great work this season.

It’s official: Red Wings’ playoff streak ends at 25 seasons

Getty
8 Comments

When we look back at the 2016-17 season for the Detroit Red Wings, it will be remembered for some said endings.

It began without Pavel Datsyuk. We knew that their last game at Joe Louis Arena this season would be their last ever. And now we know that Joe Louis Arena won’t be home to another playoff run.

After 25 straight seasons of making the playoffs – quite often managing deep runs – the Red Wings were officially eliminated on Tuesday night. In getting this far, they enjoyed one of the greatest runs of longevity in NHL history:

Tonight revolves largely around East teams winning and teams clinching bids – the Edmonton Oilers could very well end the league’s longest playoff drought this evening – but this story is more solemn.

EA Sports tweeted out a great infographic:

“Right now it’s hard to talk about it, because you’re a big reason why it’s not continuing,” Henrik Zetterberg said in an NHL.com report absolutely worth your time.

Mike “Doc” Emrick narrated a great look back at Joe Louis Arena here: