Largely unchanged Jets will have tough time in reloaded Central

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Winnipeg is a city with passionate hockey fans who were naturally thrilled when they found out the NHL was returning to town.

When they got the then Atlanta Thrashers in 2011, roughly 15 years after the original Jets left, the question of whether or not an NHL team could be sustained in the relatively small city was raised. So far the Jets have consistently filled their arena, per ESPN.com’s attendance figures, but you only have to look at a city like Toronto to know that fan support doesn’t always equal fan happiness. Since moving to Winnipeg, the Jets have been unable to make the playoffs and the troubling part is that it’s not clear when that will change.

The Jets do have some promising prospects in their system as well as young players, like defenseman Jacob Trouba, that are starting to make an impact. They’re also coming off of a quiet summer though and that silence is deafening in the midst of the upgrades that the rest of the Central Division has gotten. St. Louis has added Paul Stastny, Chicago got Brad Richards, Dallas acquired Jason Spezza, Nashville now has James Neal, and Minnesota will start the season with Thomas Vanek. To make matters worse, the teams that upgraded all finished ahead of Winnipeg last season. Factor in the Avalanche — who lost Stastny, but added Jarome Iginla — and it quickly becomes apparent that the Jets might end up in the Central Division basement again.

Without any major upgrades, the Jets will have to hope that head coach Paul Maurice will be the difference in Winnipeg, who replaced Claude Noel during the 2013-14 campaign. There’s also a chance that their rebuilding efforts will start to pay dividends. If not though, then criticism of GM Kevin Cheveldayoff and his seemingly conservative approach to the trade and free agent markets might intensify.

Jets fans have waited a long time to get an NHL team. How much longer will they need to wait before they get a winner?

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