As crucial as it was to make the playoffs for the first time since returning to Winnipeg, the 2015-16 season is even bigger for the Jets.
After years of frustration, management’s slow-and-steady approach showed serious returns, but the franchise is heading toward multiple forks in the road.
Let’s consider some of the big factors ahead.
Contract years for key players – Hockey fans can debate whether Dustin Byfuglien’s the biggest name on the Jets or not, but he’s the earth-shaking wild card. Andrew Ladd is the gritty, stable winger who might just be the polar opposite. They’ve been immensely important players in Winnipeg, but what does the future hold?
Aging core – It’s easy to look at 21-year-old Jacob Trouba and 22-year-old Mark Scheifele and picture a bright future, especially with a generally well-regarded farm system.
For all the future talk, it’s a make-or-break season for the current crop of key players. Byfuglien is 30, Ladd is 29, Blake Wheeler is 28 and Bryan Little is 27.
Those core players aren’t ancient, but management probably needs to see them win some playoff games (or even series) to justify keeping the band together.
Goalie question – To especially weary Winnipegers, Ondrej Pavelec’s contract probably feels endless, and it does still have two years remaining. Management is sticking with Pavelec and Michael Hutchinson, which is a short-term gamble. Are they any closer to making a decision that reaches a little further?
The Jets have some big questions to answer next season, yet let’s not forget: Winnipeg hasn’t been home to an NHL team with this sort of potential for a long, long time.
The Winnipeg Jets got good news on one of their numerous injured players on Friday, as the club announced d-man Jacob Trouba underwent successful surgery on his broken right hand, and would be ready for training camp this fall.
Trouba, who broke his hand in Game 2 of the Ducks series, will be out the next 6-8 weeks while recovering.
The busted hand was a rough ending to an otherwise successful campaign for the 21-year-old sophomore. Trouba scored 22 points in 65 games while averaging over 23 minutes a night, helping the Jets advance to the postseason for the first time since moving from Atlanta.
As for the other ailing Jets, d-men Tobias Enstrom and Adam Pardy both underwent shoulder surgeries while Captain Andrew Ladd was playing with a sports hernia, Bryan Little and Dustin Byfuglien had dislocated ribs and Mathieu Perreault had an ankle sprain and tore ligaments in his right hand during the Ducks series.
After getting eliminated by Anaheim, Jets head coach Paul Maurice said as many as eight of his players were dealing with “significant injuries” and on Tuesday, we found out two of ’em.
Defensemen Adam Pardy and Tobias Enstrom have both undergone successful shoulder surgery, per the club. Both will rehab throughout the summer and are expected to make a full recovery in time for training camp.
Prior to the Pardy and Enstrom news, it was learned defenseman Jacob Trouba suffered a broken hand late in the regular season, which will also require surgery and sideline him for 6-8 weeks. Captain Andrew Ladd was playing with a sports hernia, Bryan Little and Dustin Byfuglien had dislocated ribs and Mathieu Perreault had an ankle sprain and tore ligaments in his right hand during the Ducks series.
As the Winnipeg Sun points out, that’s seven of the eight injuries Maurice alluded to.
From the opening faceoff, the series between the Anaheim Ducks and Winnipeg Jets has been physical and bruising.
The list of examples is already massive, and growing. But here’s one of the latest: Matt Beleskey absolutely running over Jets defenseman Adam Pardy in the second period of Game 3. Shortly after, the Ducks were able to score, with Pardy, caught on the ice, unable to defend on the play. That goal tied the game at 3-3, but the Jets responded just over two minutes later on a blast from Bryan Little.
The Winnipeg Jets were so close to getting into overtime, but felt the crush of defeat in the dying seconds of the third period, and now trail the Anaheim Ducks 2-0 in this best-of-seven first-round series.
Jakob Silfverberg scored the winner for Anaheim with 21 seconds remaining in the third period. He got tangled up with Bryan Little then beat Little off the boards a few seconds later and ripped a shot past Ondrej Pavelec to give the Ducks a 2-1 victory.
The winner isn’t without controversy, either. While both Little and Silfverberg were tangled up with each other, it appeared the Ducks forward had a hold of Little’s stick while they were on the ice toward the side of the net.
The series now shifts back to Winnipeg for Games 3 and 4.
The Ducks trailed the Jets once again going into the third period, but got a power play goal on a deflection from Patrick Maroon and then Silfverberg provided the heroics.
For a while, it looked like a goal from the unlikeliest source in Adam Pardy may turn out to be the winner for Winnipeg.
Pardy hadn’t scored since Jan. 26, 2011 prior to Saturday, but he buried a wrap-around late in the second period to give the Jets the lead.
Officials talked it over, due to the fact Lee Stempniak was pushed into the crease by Ryan Kesler, but the goal stood.
From the NHL Public Relations department, citing Rule 69.1.
If an attacking player has been pushed, shoved, or fouled by a defending player so as to cause him to come into contact with the goalkeeper, such contact will not be deemed contact initiated by the attacking player for purposes of this rule, provided the attacking player has made a reasonable effort to avoid such contact.