Hockey is perhaps more unpredictable than any other sport ahead of the season, but there’s one thing I’m prepared to bet on in 2017-18: the Winnipeg Jets won’t be this year’s Colorado Avalanche.
For those wondering why the comparison exists at all, a recent Sportsnet article by Sean McIndoe, of Down Goes Brown Twitter fame among other accolades, listed teams who could do in 2017-18 what the Avs did in 2016-17: nosedive from the slightly-below-middle of the standings to the very bottom.
The Winnipeg Jets were among those listed.
To be fair to Mr. McIndoe, he’s not saying the Jets will have the historically bad season the Avs had one year ago. He’s merely listing teams that could tumble down the standings from the middle of the pack.
The idea flies in the face of the optimism that’s been floating around the Jets the last couple of months. Cautious optimism, yes, and tempered with the knowledge that many of this offseason’s changes were too long in coming, but still optimism.
Much of the article’s argument seems to hinge on a couple of key points. One, the team’s goaltending still isn’t great. Two, the team has been bad for a long time, and if Jacob Trouba wants out (which he seemed to last year) are we sure he’s the only one?
Ok. In the words of Pulp Fiction’s Jules Winnfield: Allow me to retort.
First of all, Steve Mason isn’t likely to be the savior of the team between the pipes, but as McIndoe goes on to state later in the piece, he wasn’t brought in to be. He was brought in to be better than the options the Jets have had up until now.
It’s a low bar, I know, but as we’ve examined at Jets Nation in the past, it’s one Mason more than meets. He’s put up respectable numbers throughout his career, and his few off-years (including last year) have come behind defense corps quite a bit less talented than Winnipeg’s.
It’s worth noting that McIndoe isn’t the only one questioning how much impact Mason will have on the Jets. Plenty of Jets fans are scratching their heads at the idea that anyone would think Mason was the answer to the Jets problems in goal. Plenty of pundits are too.
ICYMI, I wrote on the Jets, Steve Mason, and the odds of deja vu happening all over again in Winnipeg next summer: https://t.co/RRPIMEyaa6
— Adam Proteau (@Proteautype) August 4, 2017
Mason, however, wasn’t brought in to be the team’s savior. He was brought in to solidify the depth in goal, take some of the pressure off of Connor Hellebuyck, and provide the talent up front with a sturdier performance between the pipes. There’s no evidence he can’t do any of those things. At worst, he’s an improvement.
Who Wants Out?
The argument about people wanting out of Winnipeg is rather a tired one, somewhat belied by the eight-year extension Mark Scheifele signed here. In the years before that, Blake Wheeler, Dustin Byfuglien, and others have signed extensions of their own.
Johansen, 24, is signed for 8 years at $8m, while Mark Scheifele is a year younger, more productive and is locked up for 7-years at $6.125m. pic.twitter.com/6AuRMNT9r7
— Grady Sas (@GradySas) July 28, 2017
Still, in fairness, every day Trouba goes without an extension will fuel that doubt about his desire to be here. If, however, the Jets agree to terms with Trouba sometime before or during next season, much of this chatter about him wanting out will stop.
Speculation about other players wanting out is just speculation, and it fades away if the Jets start winning. Winning forgives almost anything, and the Jets seem to be closer to that than they’ve ever been. In any case, I fail to see how the perception that some people may want out will negatively impact the Jets. Of course players will want out if the team starts losing. You could say that of any franchise in any sport in existence.
If All Goes Well…
The thing to remember about the 2015-16 Colorado Avalanche is that they weren’t as successful as the 2016-17 Winnipeg Jets. The Jets of last year had five twenty goal scorers and four players over the 60-point barrier. The Avs didn’t have one.
So when the Avs took a step back, it wasn’t as if they were starting with lots of room to back up. The Jets can’t say they have tons of room for it either, but they would have to fall off a cliff to hit the lows the Avs hit last year.
Absolutely everything would have to go wrong for the Jets to even approach the Avs level of bad. Scheifele, Wheeler, Nikolaj Ehlers, Patrik Laine, Josh Morrissey and Jacob Trouba would all have to take steps back, and frankly that seems unlikely.
— Toronto Bonner (@theBlackKaner88) August 10, 2017
The article describes the Jets as having “enough talent to contend for a playoff spot”. That may be a bit reductionist. The Jets finished seventh in team goals for last year and finished tied for the league lead with five twenty goal scorers.
All five twenty goal scorers are back, and a Jets defense core ravaged by injury last year is completely healthy and ready to go once more. The team has a new goalie, which they desperately needed, and improved depth on the blue line.
Could the Jets take a step back despite appearing so promising? Sure. Hockey is an unpredictable game and lots could go wrong. The injury bug could bite. Laine and Josh Morrissey could hit sophomore slumps. Hellebuyck and Mason could struggle.
But this year’s Colorado Avalanche? Time will tell, but that’s not likely.