Dustin, is he Byfuglien-or-out? Can the Jets soar above a competitive Central Division, or will they find themselves grounded. With more aircraft puns wrapped in a season preview, let’s see what we can expect from Winnipeg:
First Key Game: Oct. 3rd @ NYR – The Jets will face former teammate Jacob Trouba right out of the gate as they begin the season on a 4 game Eastern swing.
Odds to win the division
5:1 (5th overall) (via Betway)
Is this a bet worth taking?
Stand by…The Jets are waiting for take-off at the moment, as key RFA’s Kyle Connor and Patrik Laine have just recently rejoined the team, Dustin Byfuglien is pondering retirement, and there was significant turn over on the blue line, while others in their division went about improving. They’re still a strong team but in the meat grinder that is the central, they’ll have to get off to a strong start, now that the holding pattern with their key RFAs is over if they’ll have any chance at another division crown.
Keys To The Season
Story to watch
The thin blue line? The Jets lost both Jacob Trouba, and Tyler Myers to free agency, and (as of this moment) Dustin Byfuglien is contemplating, who knows what all, but his future’s uncertain to say the least. They added some depth guys like Nathan Beaulieau and Anthony Bietetto, acquired Neal Pionk from the Rangers in the Trouba deal, as well as committing long term to Josh Morrissey in an attempt to offset the losses.
Question is will it be enough? They’ve been excited about prospect Sami Niku for a while and he should get a serious shot given this turn over, but the likes of St. Louis, Nashville and Dallas have among the best back lines in the NHL, so how Paul Maurice handles them, and Byfuglein’s decision, could be the difference between a long run or a long rest come April.
Player to watch
Josh Morrissey: With a new eight year contract in hand, and their blue line in flux, much will be expected of the 24 year old d-man. He’s coming off a 31 point season, in just 59 games, and will get plenty of opportunity to add to those numbers as their top guy.
The Jets have a plenty of talented forwards so getting the puck to them as quickly and efficiently as possibly is vital and Morrissey will be relied upon to bring offensive upside to his steady defensive game. He’s been lauded by his coach and earned the trust of the organisation, so assuming he can continue his development, and help stabilize things in their own end, the Jets may again soar in the west.
Their Own Players: The Jets have plenty of young talent, was just the little matter of getting them to put pen to paper…With both key RFA’S Kyle Connor and Patrik Laine enjoying an ‘extended off season’ away from the team, and Dustin Byfuglien MIA, the Jets need to get something done if they want to have any shot at a Cup run this year. Laine recently signed a two year bridge deal, of the ‘bet on yourself’ variety. He’s coming off a down year (by his own incredibly high standards) of just 30 goals and 50 points, but is among the best young snipers in the game. If he can continue find his confidence and some uh, “better players”, he can be a game changer.
Connor is now locked up long term after signing a seven year extension (7.14 mill aav). He had a solid sophomore campaign, playing all 82 games and chipping in 66 point. They’re both, understandably, seen as key pieces moving forward. That’s not to say Winnipeg placated them the way another Canadian market has…but getting them signed was essential for GM Kevin Cheveldayoff, as they’re too valuable to let sit out for long in the highly competitive Central.
If the Winnipeg Jets were an animal, what would they be?
A Polar Bear: The polar bear capital of the world resided in Manitoba, and much like the Jest the mighty Polar Bear is a fierce beast who exists in a dangerous environment, and will have to adapt if it’s to survive in the Central.