With the NHL back and the Winnipeg Jets about to reconvene at and take over the MTS Centre this winter, the team we saw leave the ice last April will have some additions, subtractions, and some new faces that are rookie fresh.
Since we haven’t had any Jets news for nearly four months, let’s reintroduce fans and mix and match our Winnipeg Jets for 2013.
Andrew Ladd – Bryan Little – Blake Wheeler
It’s apparent that his line isn’t a bonafide first line on any other NHL team – but on the Jets, these players are just coming into their own – mostly Blake Wheeler and Bryan Little.
The leader on this line – captain Andrew Ladd – already has two Stanley Cup rings to his credit and is trying for a third with his third different team.
His 28 goals and 50 points were as much as the Jets could hope for from Ladd – who could be inconsistent at times last year.
The biggest question mark for this line is whether or not Wheeler can replicate his season in 2013.
In 80 games last season, Wheeler had 17 goals and a team leading 47 assists and 64 points – career highs in the latter two categories.
Wheeler could use some help from his centre Bryan Little, who regained some of his scoring touch from a few years ago with his first 20 goal season (he scored 24) since he scored 31 in 2008-09.
This line powers the Jets and they hope that secondary scoring can be found with their recent acquisitions to the second line.
Evander Kane – Olli Jokinen – Alex Burmistrov
Evander Kane came into his own as a hockey player on the ice last season with a team leading 30 goals along with 57 points.
But his actions off the ice both during last season and during the lockout this season has both fans and management wondering whether signing Kane to a brand new six-year, $5.25 million per year deal was worth it for a player who seems to need more mentorship on how to be a professional.
If the Jets were thinking of trading Kane away, they would get much for him, but at this stage, Kane is the Jets best goal scorer and trading him away after he signed his freshly printed six-year deal would not look well on Jets management.
If someone can help Kane out, perhaps it could be the newest Jets addition Olli Jokinen.
Jokinen, who at times was criticized early in his career for being selfish, has rounded into an all-around player and is looking for a fresh start in Winnipeg.
His experience in Florida – where he scored a career high 91 points in 2006-07 – along with playing alongside Jarome Iginla in Calgary has given Jokinen experiences that has shaped him into a good hockey player.
After a few inconsistent years, Jokinen came back strong in 2011-12 with 61 points – his first season with 60+ points since his last season in Florida in 2007-08.
As for the youngest on the line – Alexander Burmistrov was a treat for Jets fans to watch in his sophomore year in 2011-12, but he will have to become more consistent and continue to develop his competitve edge in both the offensive and defensive zones.
With 28 points in 76 games last year, Burmistrov has followed it up with 11 points in 22 games for the St. John’s Ice Caps thus far during the lockout and looks to put more experience on his skates.
Alexei Ponikarovsky – Nikolai Antropov – Kyle Wellwood
Chris Thorburn – Jim Slater – Spencer Machacek/Patrice Cormier/Antti Miettinen
These lines is the most apt to change during training camp.
The addition of Alex Ponikarovsky (who played with Nik Antropov and Kyle Wellwood in Toronto) only strengthens the line and may help Antropov get back on track offensively.
As for Wellwood, the 5’10, 180 Windsor, Ontario native put up career numbers in a Jets uniform last season with 47 points – 29 assists and 18 goals.
The addition of Ponikarovsky could only help Wellwood as well since the newest addition to the line went to the 2012 Stanley Cup Final with the New Jersey Devils.
However, there is also the possibility of a younger player – such as Mark Scheifele – finally sticking with the big club after only playing seven games last season.
With 48 points (21 goals, 27 assists) in 29 games for Barrie this season, Scheifele is continuing his progress to become better and potentially be a big time player for the Jets.
If #55 is to make this lineup, he will have to put someone out of a job – most likely Antti Miettinen, Spencer Machacek, or Patrice Cormier.
If the Jets want more grit, they may have to part ways with Miettinen – who was a major disappointment last year for the Jets – 13 points in 45 games.
Dustin Byfuglien – Tobias Enstrom
Zach Bogosian – Mark Stuart
Ron Hainsey – Grant Clitsome/Paul Postma/Zach Redmond
The Jets defense was a sore spot for the Jets last season as their top plus/minus defenseman was Ron Hainsey at a meager +9 compared to Dustin Byfuglien at -8, Mark Stuart at -4, and Zach Bogosian at -3.
This season will be a transition season of sorts for the Jets blueline.
Firstly, Tobias Enstrom is starting his newly signed six-year deal. Will it be worth it? Can he play stronger in his own zone?
Secondly, Zach Bogosian is in a contract year that pays him $2.5 million. Can he come back healthy and play well? Will he re-sign during the season or after the season? Or will he test free agency?
Thirdly, can Dustin Byfuglien come into camp healthy and in shape?
Fourthly, will either Paul Postma or Zach Redmond put any of the defensemen already in the top six out of a job?
The answers to these questions will determine the success of the Jets defense and the clues that defensive coach Charlie Huddy will need to use to make his defense successful.
Ondrej Pavelec – Al Montoya
The biggest question this season is: Can Ondrej Pavelec be a legitimate number one goalie in the NHL?
Though his 2011-12 numbers were nothing worthy of any hardware or awards, Pavelec is the Jets best bet going into this season and apparently beyond because of a newly signed five-year deal, worth $3.9 million per year.
Is that worthy of a goalie who went 29-28-9 with a 2.91 goals against average and a .906 save percentage?
My biggest reaction to the contract was this: it is too long.
I not a huge fan of Pavelec. Watching him last year, he was brilliant one game and the opposite of brilliant the next. His inconsistency should be a major point of concern for Jets fans and management.
Not only are last year’s numbers alarming – his off-season conduct in his native Czech Republic followed up by his terrible play in both the Czech league and the Finnish Elite League (went a combined 5-14-1 with a goals against average above 3.00) have me and should have other Jets fans concerned.
Can Pavelec come back healthy, in shape, and ready to improve on his 2011-12 season?
If not, the Jets improved when it comes to their backup goalie in signing Al Montoya.
Despite a subpar 2011-12, Montoya is a solid, experienced, though young goalie who can help Pavelec deal with the pressure of having to play 50-60 games per season.
The 2013 version of the Winnipeg Jets is much more reassuring than the 2011-12 team we had adopted from the Atlanta Thrashers.
There are upgrades in many areas of the team that will aid them in scoring and defense, but it will be the training camp battles – especially the ones involving Jets picks Mark Scheifele, Paul Postma, Zach Redmond, and possibly Jacob Trouba (who could turn some heads for the future).
Mix and match what you will on the Jets roster – I like the 2013 roster much better than the 2011-12 Jets.