It seems strange at this point in time that we at the Nation would go out of our way to cast a villain for the upcoming season. As I described to a fellow “Nationite” last weekend, everything has been all flowers and cupcakes in the Peg this summer and it has to end! Well actually I don’t expect it to end for a while yet, at least not until the first losing streak of the season…
A tradition of the Nation for the past couple of years has been to single out one person on the team who will be the hero, and one who will be the goat. This year we are proud to add the Jets to club!
Without further ado, here are the nominees for the goats from the Jetsnation staff:
Dean Belanger – Ron Hainsey
I was going to pick Nik Antropov for this but I changed my mind at the last moment. Since day one I had it in my head that we would do this profile and I felt he fit perfectly. He’s the second highest paid forward and there is a chance his career is in decline. With two years left on the deal it could get ugly if he puts up 30 points. That being said he was hurt last year so he has a chance to salvage things. My pick is Ron Hainsey. Like Antropov he is on a big ticket and with that people expect offence. He is so far back on the depth chart I see no chance of his putting up decent points.
In his Nation Network Fantasy Primer Jonathan Willis predicted Hainsey would put up 25 points, 6 more than last year.
Matt Eichel – Dustin Byfuglien
Why am I picking on Dustin Byfuglien? He's already endured enough with his charges earlier when he was arrested, that's enough! With all the hype of Byfuglien and his scoring prowess, has his defensive play improved over last season? Though he was a leading candidate for the James Norris Trophy early last season, Byfuglien did slowly slip down the list of Norris candidates because he wasn't a well-rounded defenseman last season.
I like to call it the Mike Green Syndrome - a great offensive defenseman, but very suspect defensively. If his defensive play has not improved, he may be picked out of all the Jets defenseman as the fault of timely goals scored against the Jets this season.
In his Nation Network Fantasy Primer Jonathan Willis predicted 48 points, 5 less than last year.
Robert Cleave – Don Waddell
I know the standard procedure is to pick a player for these things, but Don Waddell's decade-long fandango of incompetence will do more to hold the team back from being a competitive entity than any one player. Of course, if he'd been better at his job the team might still be in Georgia, but as it stands, the Jets' prospect pool is utterly barren of potential depth players, and the guy in charge from the franchise's first days until this spring was at the heart of the mismanagement of the team. I have no idea whether things will improve for the team over time with Kevin Cheveldayoff running things, but he'd have to go a ways to be worse.
Cam Charron – Dustin Byfuglien (again..we have a trend)
There is nothing more frustrating than an offensive defenseman prone to lapses in his own end that spends far too much time concentrating his talent in the attacking end. I guess it's not a surprise that the sometimes-forward, sometimes-defenseman in Chicago has more of a propensity to shoot than any other rearguard in the league, but there is something uniquely upsetting about Big Buff.
Whether it is the rumoured weight problems, the run in with the law or his contract extension, which kicks in this season, there is a lot to discuss about Byfuglien. Most of it is terrifically positive, and I look forward to chewing off the excess skin next to the fingernail since I believe there is no way that Byfuglien's two-way play can justify that large contract of his.
Saving the best for last, here are your hero’s:
Dean Belanger – Zack Bogosian
Probably one of the most written about Jets so far because of the extended contract negotiations, Bogosian has the potential to fall flat under the weight of expectation. I believe the young man is about to cover the bet and take his game to the next level. All eyes will be on him so if he does that, a street name won’t be too far behind. Add in his physical style and that he plays an all round solid game he should be a star for many seasons to come. The addition of Charlie Huddy covers my bet. He was the top addition to the team this summer.
In his Nation Network Fantasy Primer Jonathan Willis predicted 29 points, 12 more than last year.
Matt Eichel – Eric Fehr
Obvious pick because he is from Manitoba? Not quite. Fehr is, of course, the hometown hero, but his experience in Washington has been a memory that he would like to put behind him. Now out of the Bruce Boudreau system of coaching, where Fehr was not one of his favourites, he finds himself in a familiar, somewhat comfortable setting. But not too comfortable. For Fehr, he has the potential to be a 20 goal scorer and though he will miss the start of the season, he will be a regular and looked to produce 20+ goals in a third line, energy player role. His timely scoring could make him the hero for the Jets this season.
In his Nation Network Fantasy Primer Jonathan Willis predicted 29 points, 9 more than last year.
Robert Cleave – Evander Kane
Kane is my pick because of all the players on the current roster, he's the one that might be able to move beyond being merely good. The Jets have several decent players, and I don't doubt that the most likely player to meet expectations will be Andrew Ladd, but Kane has the potential to be something more than just a solid pro. His regular stats might not indicate this, but when I looked at the underlying numbers for the forwards earlier this summer
, he showed significant improvement in the second half against decent competition. Development of young players isn't always strictly linear, but my sense is Evander Kane is on his way. Honourable mention might go to Charlie Huddy. If he can work with the Jets' defence, Bogosian in particular, with the same adroitness that he showed in assisting some of the younger players in Edmonton over the years, he might prove to be this summer's best free agent acquisition.
In his Nation Draft Primer Jonathan Willis predicted 54 points, 5 less than last year.
Cam Charron – Ondrej Pavelec
The play of the goaltender is what allows medium teams to become good, and good teams to become great. The Thrashers of last year had a lot of changes to be made to allow them to sneak into playoff contention, and whether they're waiting a year to make changes from within, management did not address those changes in the offseason.
Pavelec put up a save percentage of .928 at even strength last season, which was 9th in the NHL among goalies who started at least fifty games. Any flirtation with the playoffs will rest on his shoulders, and should the Jets miss out, he will not be the one to blame.
In his Nation Network Fantasy Primer Jonathan Willis predicted 65 GP 2.70 GAA 25 Wins .913 SV% which is pretty close to last years numbers.
So there you have it, you can safely get your favorite player on your new jersey now. More importantly, what say you?