The Winnipeg Jets, they ain’t hot but they’re warming up.
Everyone and their mothers knew that there would be growing pains for a few years when the Thrashers fled their failed Atlanta expansion and high-tailed it back to Canada. Years of mismanagement and questionable personnel decisions meant that the Jets, nee Thrashers, basically had to start from the bottom rung of the ladder. Still, the fact that the Jets even had a team again was just so damn exciting, fans were willing to be a little patient. Several middling seasons and a conference re-alignment later, the honeymoon period is now officially over, and the diehard Manitoban fans are looking for results.
Here’s a harsh truth: Manitoba is freezing cold, weird, and a pretty crappy place to live if you’re a rich balling millionaire in their early 20s. Bringing hot UFAs to Winnipeg is never going to be easy. Luckily, the Jets have spent the last few seasons drafting admirably well, putting together one of the most exciting young cores in the league. When you got guys like Jacob Trouba, who I personally think is going to be a Norris contender sooner than later, Mark Scheifele and slightly older homegrown stars like Blake Wheeler and Bryan Little, you don’t NEED that big-ticket free agent mercenary.
Plus, maybe not being able to do coke every night and party with strippers and live like a big time celebrity big-shot millionaire like players in LA will let Jets players keep their eyes on the prize. THEY ONLY HAVE ONE KIND OF SNOW TO WORRY ABOUT IF YOU KNOW WHAT I MEAN. (Winnipeg is cold.)
The 2014-15 regular season was an exciting one for the budding Jets: GM Kevin Cheveldayoff was the center of some heated criticism for his seeming lack of intestinal fortitude when it came to pulling the trigger on a big trade, but then quieted all the haters by executing one of the season’s biggest blockbusters, sending noted Young Money aficionado Evander Kane, as well as former touted defensive prospect Zach Bogosian to the crappy Sabres for hulking man giant Tyler Myers and underrated forward Drew Stafford, who both seemed to buy seamlessly into Paul Maurice’s philosophy.
They’ve been relatively quiet this offseason, though bringing former top prospect Alexander Burmistrov back from the slowly-dying KHL should help their depth. In order to replicate their somewhat surprising 100 point season from 2014-15, the Jets are gonna have to hope that their young players and team chemistry continues to mature, while their non-NHL prospects can step into the lineup and make some noise; Josh Morrissey and Nikolaj Ehlers are both super-exciting players on the verge of breaking into the lineup, and the Jets have great prospect depth at just about every position.
Plus, the Jets got “Big Buff” Dustin Byfuglien, and any team that’s got Big Buff is a favourite (in my heart).
Oh, and if they get a season from Pavelec where he doesn’t jump back and forth between being the best and worst goalie in the NHL every 2 weeks, that would certainly help their odds.