April 17 2012 12:20PM
As a former Canadiens fan of the late 1990s and early 200s, I know what early April usually brings - watching other teams play in the playoffs instead of my favourites playing themselves.
Now as a newly converted Jets fan this season, the whole rigamarole starts over again (although the Habs did finish worse than the Jets) but it's not exactly the same as with my former team.
The Jets - albeit young and needing depth - are on the up slope to becoming a better team and the organizational philosophies that Kevin Cheveldayoff has installed in the Jets organization can begin to take root more effectively with the good graces coming down from owners Mark Chipman and David Thomson.
This meaning the Jets will not over pursue any big name free agents in an attempt to find the quick fix solution to the Jets finishing eight points out of the playoff picture.
Let's assess the Jets needs and the possible wants they could also be looking for to shore up the roster for the 2012-13 regular season.
Need #1: First Line Centre
This is in no way directed as a hit against Bryan Little, the Jets default first line centre this season. Little's goal output rebounded above the 20 goal plateau this season after it dipped to a career low 13 in 2009-10 and only bettered itself to 18 last season in Atlanta.
With 24 goals as a first line centre, Little ranks tied for 13th in centres for goals along with the likes of Eric Staal, David Backes, and Mike Fisher. That's some good company when it comes to the goal scoring department, but Little's meager 22 assists was a drop from 30 a year before which kicked Little out of the top 30 in points by centres altogether.
What the Jets need is a centre who can score 20-30 goals a season and be responsible for being the setup man for his wingers as well. To be brutally honest, the combination of Little centring Andrew Ladd and Blake Wheeler is not a first line on any other NHL team. But that just points out the fact the Jets have some depth issues going forward.
If the first line is to be a force, Bryan Little cannot be that first line centre. Little should be counted on as a second line centre and play the role of secondary scoring in years to come, but as for now, he is making due with the situation he has been handed and shown improvement this past season.
Want #1: A 50 Goal Scorer
I've heard many Jets fans on either Twitter or my own friends who obsess over the team that we should make a bold move for possible pending free agent Zach Parise.
"Why not?" they ask, "He's a 50 goal scorer waiting to happen," after which they salivate over the possibility of Parise and Kane together on the Jets first line.
Let's stop that drooling for a minute and look at this with brutal honesty.
Firstly, Parise is currently in a playoff run with the Devils as they face off against the Florida Panthers. Who's to say he would want to come to a team that is trying to make the playoffs versus a team he is already on - and captaining - that is a legitimate playoff team every season?
Secondly, how much will Parise demand if he was to go to a non-playoff team to be a catalyst for building a winner? The Jets do have alot of cap room, but is it worth the risk? The Jersey captain made $6 million this past season on a one-year deal only to get himself into becoming an unrestricted free agent, so chances are he is looking north of $6 million as a payday.
And thirdly, Parise - though a very tantalizingly great thought of dawning a Jets jersey - is not a viable option for Jets management if they wish to continue the route they are on. Of course, if Parise does get to July 1st without signing back with the Devils, the Jets should undoubtedly go after him, but they will not be alone and possibly not one of the teams willing to go north of $6 million.
Need #2: Stronger Back End Defensemen
Lately, I've also heard alot of chatter on Twitter about the possibility and the need to trade top end defensemen Tobias Enstrom. As a big fan of Enstrom, I was not sure why fans would even consider it.
Enstrom was an All-Star defenseman last season - though he didn't play due to injury - and he was also hurt for significant stretches during the season and seemed to be caught up in the hype of the NHL's return to Winnipeg.
Though his points per game decreased from his last two season in Atlanta, Enstrom is only due for a rebound in 2012-13. Despite size issues, his first pass and deft stick handling make him a defenseman that any other team would jump at to get a puck moving defenseman.
That moves me to telling fans - let's not worry about our top defensemen, but our secondary defensmen. The likes of Ron Hainsey, Mark Stuart, Mark Flood, and others.
It wouldn't be an overly big surprise to see Randy Jones not re-signed and the Mark Flood situation is tentatively odd and perplexing at best.
Mark Stuart is a shot blocking expert and heart and soul guy, while Zach Bogosian continues to improve every game, and Grant Clitsome has found a niche in Winnipeg though his defensive play could use some work at times.
As for Hainsey, the Jets could do better. Much, much better.
Despite Hainsey's +9 being second on the team behind leading goal scorer Evander Kane, Hainsey's point production dropped immensely from 19 points a year ago to only 10 assists this season and his stock continues to drop the past three seasons after a career year in 2008-09 - his first in Atlanta.
Injuries did plague Hainsey, but his inconsistent play was the biggest weakness on the Jets back end. Granted, Hainsey was not the only Jets defender with problems in his own zone, but his veteran play did not equal up to his paycheck that he has been receiving - $5 million this season with $3 million on the way next season.
If the Jets could deal Hainsey out of the lineup, his $4.5 million cap hit would free up room to get a steadier, more reliable fifth or sixth defenseman that could cost in the range of $1-$2.5 million and be more responsible in the Jets end - a desperately needed thing for such a young club.
Want #2: Top 5 Pick
I'm not entirely sure what's going through my mind as I write this second and final want for now.
The Jets already have a top 10 pick, but what if they were able to trade up for a top 5 pick in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft?
Last season, taking Mark Scheifele seventh overall proved to be a decent pick, although eighth overall pick Sean Couturier is lighting it up with the Philadelphia Flyers this season.
But what if the Jets could have the likes of a Nail Yakupov or a Mikhail Grigorenko on their team? Or even an Alex Galchenyuk on the team?
It would cost the team dearly, but may be worth it. With the Jets depth on the back end, there could be a possibility to trade up in the draft, especially since the Oilers hold the first overall pick and are in desperate need for defensive help. Could a Ron Hainsey along with a few prospects and picks work? My first reaction is: No.
I've heard ideas tossed around about shipping Enstrom to Edmonton and getting the pick or others but not the likes of Byfuglien, Bogosian, or Stuart or even Paul Postma or Zach Redmond.
But with the two latter young, AHL All-Star talents upcoming from the playoff bound St. John's Ice Caps what would the Jets be losing if they were to trade an Enstrom or a Hainsey for a very NHL ready Yakupov?
Yet again, Yakupov has expressed his want and excitement to play in Edmonton should he be picked first overall by the Oilers. (Marcy Di Michele, The Hockey Writers, 04/17/2012)
Interesting idea, but still a want.