The Winnipeg Jets preseason is finally over.
After back-to-back losses to the defending Eastern Conference Champion Boston Bruins, the Jets finished their third preseason in Manitoba with a 1-4-3 (Wins-Losses-Overtime/Shootout losses) record– last in the new Central Division. This isn’t exactly what one would expect from a team looking to make that final push into the postseason for the first time in six years, but the operative word–preseason– says there’s little reason to start panicking.
Offensively, the Jets had a variety of different combinations with two lines in particular taking a more permanent shape. The first trio up front will have Bryan Little at centre with Blake Wheeler to his right and Captain Andrew Ladd at the left wing. There was little, if any doubt that the threesome would remain together and lead the way for Winnipeg in the 2013-2014 campaign. Wheeler had been nursing what head coach Claude Noel called a "full body injury" but did skate alongside his aforementioned linemates in Saskatoon on Friday. The LLW line combined for 4 points through the preseason.
The second forward line that appears to be set in stone has phenom Evander Kane on the left wing with veteran Olli Jokinen at centre and former Stanley Cup Champion Michael Frolik at right wing. Along with the undetermined third line, these six forwards in whichever combination Noel sends out will need to provide solid secondary scoring when LLW goes cold like a Manitoba winter.
As a whole, the Jets struggled to find the back of the net as they managed just 13 goals over the 8 games, a 1.625 goals for average over the preseason. The lack of offensive production could be attributed to the inconsistent line pairings as many of the normal Winnipeg starters were not always in the lineup.
The back end of the lineup was slightly more consistent in terms of their pairings in preseason contests. The results weren’t more flattering, however. Statistically, the defense averaged 3.25 goals against during the eight game warmup.
Tobias Enstrom and Dustin Bygfuglien will be the top duo with Zach Bogosian and Grant Clitsome on the second defense pair. The Jets still have at least make one more cut to get down to the maximum roster of 23. The third pairing could be a variety of combinations. Jacob Trouba, the Jets defense phenom is a viable candidate and has played a good chunk of the preseason with alternate captain Mark Stuart. It appears the 19-year-old will be with the Jets to start the season as one of seven defensemen along with Paul Postma.
Between the pipes, Ondrej Pavelec appeared in three games for Winnipeg during the preseason. He backstopped the Jets to their only win against Edmonton and was 1-0-2 overall.
Al Montoya, after being resigned to another one-year contract, beat out Edward Pasquale for the primary backup position behind Pavelec. Montoya went 0-3 in preseason action, and Pasquale had a shootout loss at Hockeyville against the Capitals to open the preseason and a 2-1 loss to Edmonton a week ago.
With a less than inspiring preseason behind them, the Jets will begin their quest to get to the playoffs for the first time since 2007. Expectations are high in Manitoba and if Winnipeg wants to meet their postseason goal, they’ll certainly have to average more than one win per eight games.