Throughout the month of August, PHT will be dedicating a day to all 30 NHL clubs. Today’s team? The Winnipeg Jets.
Ahh, the Jets.
It’s been three seasons since they’ve moved from Atlanta to Winnipeg and each of them has ended without a playoff appearance. As the lack of success rolls on, the frustration with the organization is growing in Manitoba. After all, the excitement of having the NHL return to the city has calmed down but the team is treading water.
Their first season in the Western Conference saw the Jets finish with 84 points going 37-35-10 and finishing last in the Central Division and 11th in the West. Their disappointing play cost Claude Noel his job as head coach after going 19-23-5 under him and resulted in Paul Maurice taking over and doing a bit better going 18-12-5. Of course, it wasn’t all hunky-dory for Maurice either.
Blake Wheeler and Bryan Little had solid seasons leading the team in scoring, but Maurice had his issues with star forward Evander Kane and kept former defenseman Dustin Byfuglien at forward, a move Noel made in an effort to keep his job.
Despite changing positions, Byfuglien still had 20 goals and 56 points. Kane slumped all season though and finished with 19 goals and 41 points. Captain Andrew Ladd was a bright spot as well with 23 goals and 54 points. Mark Scheifele did well in his first full season in the NHL with 13 goals and 34 points in 63 games. Olli Jokinen had a solid season, but will play in Nashville next season.
While the offense was encouraging, goaltending was a major sore spot.
Ondrej Pavelec struggled all season and finished with a .901 save percentage and a goals-against average of 3.01. Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff has already declared him his No. 1 goalie next season and he could benefit next season from a defensive corps that gains another year together and has a lot of upside.
Rookie Jacob Trouba had an impressive first season in Winnipeg even in spite of suffering a scary injury. If Zach Bogosian can avoid the injury bug, those two along with Tobias Enstrom can team up with Mark Stuart and a hopefully recovered from back surgery Grant Clitsome to make up a solid group on the blue line.
If they keep it together, it’ll put the onus on Pavelec to play to the best of his ability – something he’s struggled to do in Winnipeg after having success in Atlanta.
While the rest of the Central Division underwent an arms race to commence beating each other’s heads in all season, the Jets essentially stayed out of the fray.
They replaced Olli Jokinen with Mathieu Perreault from the Anaheim Ducks, re-signed Michael Frolik to avoid arbitration, and added T.J. Galiardi. They also re-signed Chris Thorburn to a three-year, $3.6 million contract which was… odd.
The Jets also parted ways with Al Montoya (who signed with Florida) and will go with Michael Hutchinson as the backup goalie to/guy to potentially unseat Pavelec.
The highlight of the Jets’ summer may have come at the NHL Draft in Philadelphia when they selected Halifax winger Nikolaj Ehlers with the ninth overall pick.