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Photo Credit: © David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

Are the Winnipeg Jets close to contending for the Stanley Cup?

We’re only a couple of days removed from the Pittsburgh Penguins second Stanley cup championship in as many years, and because we’re in June, we’re so close to the 2017 draft and Free Agent Frenzy.  With that being said I thought it would be a great time to compare the Winnipeg Jets to the Pittsburgh Penguins

 

Now, to help or argue the cause, I won’t be considering any prospects who have not played a meaningful game (looking at your Roslovic) and I will also be omitting those who are Pending UFA’s  (*cough* Pavelec *cough* Thorburn* cough*) Keep in mind, this would be extra hard to follow through considering (as of typing) we do not know who the Jets will be protecting in the upcoming expansion draft.

 

Top 6 Forwards

Based on experience alone, you would think this wouldn’t be close, and to be honest, you may be right.   Kuntitz, Crosby and Malkin have been together since the 2008-09 season, Patric Hornqvist since the 2014-15 season and guys like Hagelin, Bonino and Kessell since the 2015-16 season.  Now Crosby and Malkin may be the centerpieces of this team, but let’s not take anything away from the others.  The main things to take away from those (Hagelin, Bonino, Kessell, Hornquist) is they had a lot of experience prior to their arrival in Pittsburgh (Average career length of 6 years).

 

Compare that to the Current Winnipeg Jets top 6 alone (Wheeler, Scheifele, Little, Laine, Ehlers, Perreault) the average career length is 5 years.  (Note: omitted partial years where players spent time with the AHL)

 

So perhaps with the current group being together for another year or 2, we can expect greater things at the Crosby-Malkin level.  I suppose this argument can be used to protect Perreault over Lowry, but I’ll let somebody else touch this subject.

Solution:  Unless you’re willing to dive into Free Agency a lot and go All in this year, I think with some of the prospects that the Jets have, that the bottom 6 can be filled out nicely and the top 6 should be left alone

Defense:

First off, I’m amazed the Penguins were able to go as far as they did with the defense they had. The average age of the non UFA’s that the Penguins have is 26 which is almost 2 years younger than the Jets have, so perhaps experience isn’t an issue.  But what is?  Looking at the point total, it’s pretty even amongst the top 4 (assuming we’re all in agreement who the top 4 on both teams are.)  After that, we’re getting into Mark Stuart territory…..and yikes!  To find a comparable to Mark Stuart on the Penguins roster you’d have to reach at looking at Cameron Gaunce who played in 30 less games and is 6 years his junior.

Solution:  None of the top prospects are ready to fill the void of the bottom 4.  Would have to go through free agency.  Likely targets would be the likes of Kris Russell, or Brendan Smith

 

Goaltending:

This is a strong subject for some.   Obviously, better defensive play would result in some winnable games, but let’s face it, goal-tending wasn’t what it should have been.

 

Matt Murray played in 49 games and posted a respectable .923 save percentage.  Compare that to Connor Hellebuyck who’s save % was.903.   Simply put, not good enough.  The Jets are going into the right direction, moving on from Pavelec (Like they had a choice) and could potentially lose the services of Michael Hutchinson.  But they still need that timely save here and there.  Clearly having Marc Andr Fleury benefitted Murray, but where is that veteran presence for Hellebuyck.  I think if Kevin Cheveldayoff is truly serious, he goes out and gets that veteran goaltender.

 

Solution:  Dive into the Free Agent pool.  Brian Elliott put up similar numbers as Connor so even though he’d bring the veteran presence, I’m not so sure he is what the Jets need.

 

 

If you had told me the Jets are close to the Penguins, I would have laughed at you.  After comparing the above (Numbers aside), not so much.  The teams are closer than you would think.  The prospects developing and adding a veteran goaltender and some depth on the defense, and this team could push for quite some time.