On Wednesday, we revealed the first three “major questions” facing the Jets coming into the new season, and today we wrap things up by talking about three more questions that we felt were more pressing for the team.
4 – Who is your pick for the Jets biggest breakout player of the 2017-18 season?
Rob: I’ve been a huge supporter of Kyle Connor in the past, and his time with the Moose last year showed me he’s ready for a breakout season. If he’s used properly (no guarantees there, I know) he could hit the 20-goal mark. There will be an adjustment period, as there was with the Moose last year, but once Connor is over that, he can start clicking along offensively. My prediction: just like last year in Manitoba and the year before at Michigan, Connor starts off quietly enough before catching fire after Christmas. I just hope the Jets are patient enough to let him get to that point.
Art: I liked so much of what I saw from Tucker Poolman in the preseason, that I think he finds a way into the lineup either due to injury – which I fear is more than likely to happen sooner than later – or possibly due to a trade. I don’t think keeping him in the NHL as a 7th defensemen helps now and I would assume the Jets know this as well, so hopefully the fact he is still up on the main roster indicates the Jets want to get him in the nightly lineup sooner than later.
Cassie: If he’s given the right line-mates, I do think Nic Petan will take the step forward he needs. We’ve been seeing it in the preseason and I think that sets the tone for the rest of the season. This will depend on who he’s playing with and how he reacts to that.
Kyle: I am going to say Adam Lowry. It is finally time for Lowry to finish his development. He has had a couple of seasons to get comfortable and this is the year that I think he will become a really good defensive player that can also score. We have seen the defence from him before, but now is the time I think he will really impress on offense too. (Assuming he isn’t stuck with Hendricks or Tanev)
Tony: My honest answer is I don’t know, because I don’t trust Maurice to use this players the right way. Petan and Dano could both break out if they get the right opportunity, but I don’t see that happening. If I am forced to pick someone I will say Andrew Copp. Copp has some offensive tools to score more than he has and Maurice seems to trust him so he will get ice time.
Cody: It depends on how we define breakout. Can Patrik Laine still breakout? I am looking to Connor Hellebuyck to break out in a reduced role with less pressure. I am also pulling for Joel Armia to finally step up.
Cam: I really want to say Nic Petan, but I don’t trust Maurice to use him well. I’m going to say Andrew Copp. He saw a few top six minutes last season because of injuries and Maurice liked what he saw. So, I would not be surprised to see him given a more offensive role.
5 – Who are you expecting to struggle and have a tough season?
Rob: If I had to pick one player who could really falter this year, I’m going to say Dmitry Kulikov. I certainly hope to be wrong on this, but his play in preseason was uninspiring. Let’s see if it’s a blip on the radar and he can get back to being a physical, puck-moving defender by year’s end. Then too, let’s hope he can stay healthy. If not, Tucker Poolman could well vault him on the depth chart. Poolman has been great lately.
Art: I am sure there will be one or two that will not do as well as expected, but if I had to publicly say a player in particular then I expect Steve Mason to struggle at times this season. He has a history of looking really good as a number one, but he also has a history of not doing so well which has led him to not being truly being ever used as an NHL club’s number one goalie. I also fear this will be one of the issues Maurice has in terms of how he uses his guys. I don’t think younger players will be given much rope to slump (which in the cases of Dano and Petan is a mistake) and I fear how PoMo handles Mase when he doesn’t perform well.
Cassie: Kulikov is my first bet on someone who will struggle. I wasn’t a fan of the signing and I think it’s going to be a problem. Another player I could see struggling is Myers. Myers hasn’t played much in the last year and I’d expect him to be sluggish at times while trying to get back into the NHL routine.
Kyle: I think Little will have a tough season. He has been hurt multiple times in the last couple of years and is also approaching the age where he will start to decline. I think he might have some trouble keeping up with some of these young guys at times, especially if he gets hurt again this year. Little is still an excellent player and I think he will be good for years to come, however I can see him struggling a bit this year with all of the offense no longer relying on him.
Tony: Lowry. I don’t think he will struggle so much as not be as productive as he was last season. He will still be very good defensive but just don’t see him hitting 15 goals again.
Cody: It’s tough to say; I don’t want to be negative. I could make a case for most players to improve and take a step back. I think that injuries will be the biggest factor for who has a tough season.
Cam: Tyler Myers. In recent seasons, he has been injury riddled and has not played a significant amount. As well, he has not been deployed well by Maurice. He’s my pick for player most likely to struggle.
6 – Where do you see the Jets finishing? What will their record be? Will the make the playoffs?
Rob: As of now, I see the Jets squeaking into the playoffs in the first wildcard spot. What their actual record will be I can only guess, but at minimum they’ll need 45 wins. That’s five more than last year. Can they do it? I believe so. I believe the Jets are five wins better than last year.
Art: Not only do I think the Jets make the playoffs, I think they do better than get in with a Wild Card spot, I think they are one of the top three teams in the Central. I won’t say they win the division, but I also won’t be all that shocked if they did…
Cassie: Barring injuries, I can see them making it into a wildcard spot. If there are a ton of injuries again, about where they finished last year would be it.
Kyle: I wouldn’t be surprised if the Jets make the playoffs in a wildcard spot or even top 3 in the division. I also wouldn’t be surprised if the Jets totally fall apart and miss the playoffs again. Expectations are high this year, but the Jets seem to be good at not achieving their expectations.
Tony: Talent wise this is a playoff team. On paper, there is no reason the Jets can be top 3 in the central. Reality is the coaching staff is a wild card which makes the Jets a wild card qualifying team at best, but more than likely 9th in the West seems right.
Cody: Like the rest of the staff I am full of optimism. I think that the Jets are deeper than before and are going to make the playoffs as a wildcard team.
Cam: Despite Maurice, the Jets will grab a wildcard spot. Too much talent and there’s a greater sense of urgency it seems.