The time has finally come to say goodbye to August. In turn, that means autumn, and more importantly, hockey season, are both just a few weeks away.
Yes, leaves will begin to change colour very soon, however, September will serve as the starting point for this upcoming season. While the majority of fans will likely be focused on the preseason, training camp is also set to begin next month, with rookie camp opening just one week beforehand.
For the Winnipeg Jets, the next several weeks should feature plenty of interesting storylines as they prepare for one of the most crucial campaigns of their existence. With that in mind, let’s dive into the final mailbag of the summer.
How Should Fans Grade Winnipeg’s Off-Season?
Assuming the Jets are finished making moves this summer, general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff and his staff probably deserve an “A-” for their efforts over these past couple of months.
Without question, dramatically upgrading this team’s blueline was their biggest need of the off-season, and following the acquisitions of defensemen Nate Schmidt and Brenden Dillon, it’s safe to say management accomplish that feat. As a result, these two additions should be able to help compliment teammates Josh Morrissey and Neal Pionk in top-four roles next season.
Given the amount of defensive depth Winnipeg now features at the NHL and AHL levels, worrying about a lack of talent on the backend isn’t something they’ll hopefully need to be concerned with moving forward. So checking this box off is a major reason for the front office’s high grade.
In saying that, there are two factors as to why they didn’t receive an “A” or an “A+” for their performance this off-season.
The first reason being they lost forward Mason Appleton during the expansion draft and weren’t able to acquire a suitable replacement for the 25-point scorer, which is expected to force Kristian Vesalainen, Dominic Toninato or Riley Nash to emerge into a much larger role. Secondly, backup Laurent Brossoit departed through free agency, leaving Eric Comrie and Mikhail Berdin to battle for the No. 2 spot behind starter CONNOR HELLEBUYCK.
While neither of these situations will likely turn into major issues in 2021-22, they’re still two areas where the Jets’ front office couldn’t upgrade over the summer.
Would the Seattle Kraken Have Selected Jack Roslovic If He Wasn’t Traded?
Perhaps, but it’s pretty unlikely. First, we have to assume the Columbus Blue Jackets would’ve accepted a one-for-one trade involving forwards Pierre-Luc Dubois and Patrik Laine, which they may have done.
Even if this potential trade went through, chances are disgruntled forward Jack Roslovic wouldn’t have changed his mind about returning to the Jets, meaning he likely would’ve remained a restricted free agent and sat out for the entire 2020-21 season. While taking this route would’ve still qualified him for the expansion draft, his value probably would’ve taken a massive hit, making the 24-year-old a less enticing target.
Not to mention, general manager Ron Francis isn’t in the business of doing favors for other teams and would’ve done exactly that if his team had selected Roslovic instead of Appleton. Unless the Kraken agreed to some kind of side deal with the Jets, which wouldn’t have come cheap, odds are the 25-year-old would still be calling the Pacific Northwest home in 2021-22.
So fans shouldn’t lose any sleep over this situation, as it’s not worth stressing over.
Are the Jets Capable of Making a Deep Playoff Run in 2021-22?
100 percent, yes. If the Jets didn’t make two impact acquisitions on defense this off-season, then sure, they’d possess a significantly lower chance to legitimately compete for the Stanley Cup this season. But since that’s not the case, there’s no reason to suggest this club can’t become a serious championship contender.
Now, numerous things must happen for Winnipeg to surge deep into the 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs, most importantly, they’ll need Hellebuyck to stay healthy and continue dominating in net like he’s done in each of the last four seasons. Since the 2019-20 Vezina Trophy winner is expected to receive reliable support from his defenders, there’s a very strong possibility he’ll perform up to his extremely high expectations once again.
Another key aspect to the 2021-22 campaign will be witnessing improved results from Dubois, who endured a miserable inaugural season with the Jets. If the 23-year-old can recapture some of the magic from his time with the Blue Jackets, where he created 66 goals, 159 points, 329 hits and 151 blocks over 239 career games, then he could enjoy a solid bounce-back showing during a contract year.
Similar to Dubois, Schmidt is also someone who’ll be attempting to forget about last season’s struggles and will be aiming to make a strong impression with his new team. If the veteran blueliner can revert back to his previous form, which saw him post a 53.2% CF percentage during five-on-five situations in 2019-20, he’ll likely prove to be much more successful than he was with the Vancouver Canucks last season.
What’s the Over/Under on How Many NHL Games Ville Heinola Will Play This Season?
For betting purposes, if you’re interested in that sort of thing, let’s put the over/under mark at 15 games.
Considering the Jets’ blueline doesn’t currently feature any glaring holes, it’d probably be a safe bet to take the under on this one, especially since defenseman Sami Niku still remains on the roster. Barring a significant injury, unfortunately, it seems prospect Ville Heinola likely won’t crack the NHL squad out of the gate, forcing him to open the regular season in the AHL yet again.
Taking into account Heinola has only participated in 13 career NHL games, with coach Paul Maurice at the helm, the promising young defender probably won’t spend a significant amount of time at the highest level of competition even though he’s proven capable of taking on that challenge.