The regular season is just over the horizon. Most teams have made the final touches to their roster and practicing in the lines we’ll see for the start of the season.
The Winnipeg Jets are one such team with their opening roster’s lines looking set, provided injuries do not change things.
We’ll preview the season by looking at some of the lines for the Jets, next up comes the Jets top line.
The trio of Andrew Ladd, Bryan Little, and Blake Wheeler are a bit of a known commodity. In fact, they are one of the most commonly used trios in the past 5 seasons. I crowd surfed Twitter, asking some of the most common three-man forward units were, and only one ended up with more minutes than Ladd’s Little Wheeler: the Sedin twins with Burrows.
The interesting thing about Ladd, Little, Wheeler is that they’ve performed quite well as a trio, but there are many who view it as a “good second line on a contender team.”
Here are the Jets top line over the past five seasons versus some of the other most commonly used top lines:
While the Jets do not have the fortunate advantage of a generational talent like Crosby, or elite two-way talents like Kopitar or Toews, they’ve done pretty well for themselves.
While they may not be the best trio in the entire NHL, they can trade punches with the best. The greatest advantage though is that they can give almost as solid results, but far cheaper. The Jets trio comes with a combined Cap Hit of only 14.7 million dollars.
If Andrew Ladd received a pay raise all the way to 6 million, that would still only place the line at 16.3 million a year on average.
Not all of these lines have been leaned on as heavily as the Jets in the past. Historically the Jets have run very much as a one-line-plus-Evander-Kane team.
Deployment factors are sometimes over exaggerated, they are still real. The deeper a team, the better individuals will perform. Even improvements outside of the Jets top line improves Ladd, Little, and Wheeler. Fatigue, line matching, zone deployment, and other factors will all play a role.
Another factor is systems. Most of Ladd, Little, and Wheeler’s time together exist away from Paul Maurice’s time as the Jets coach. Maurice has proven to impact the Jets results in a positive manner relative to his predecessors.
The Jets once again re-unite their top line of Ladd’s Little Wheeler. It may only be temporary as Maurice likes to make Wheeler “harder to find” but that is how we will start the season.
Once again one of the league’s most tenured forward trios re-unite; however, this time on a very different Jets team.