It was a less than stellar season for Claude Noel and his Winnipeg Jets, but it wasn’t a total loss of a season.
In the lockout shortened year, the Jets managed to go 24-21-3, good for second place in the Southeast Division, behind the Washington Capitals.
With a “close but no cigar” ending to their playoff hopes Thursday night, the Jets enter the offseason earlier than hoped and look to find answers.
The season was truly an up and down season for the team.
Probably the best thing to come out of this season was the continued surge of goaltender Ondrej Pavelec. Although his record may show other wise, Pavelec went 21-20-3, he held the team strong throughout the season and helped with key wins.
No save bigger than this one on Monday night that, at the time, kept the Jets’ playoff hopes alive.
Pavelec finished off the season with a .905 save percentage and with a 2.80 goals against average. The goaltender also second the league in shots faced this season with 1, 251, behind only Ryan Miller who faced 1,270.
Pavelec was a workhorse this season, starting 43 games of the 44 he played in.
Of course, the goaltender can’t win all games for a team, they must get help up front and no one was more productive this season
than the captain, Andrew Ladd.
The captain gave in an impressive 46 points through the season, good for team leading and 15th in the entire NHL. Ladd was also 1 of only 4 players to play in all 48 games this season. Oddly enough the other 3 are also his teammates. Blake Wheeler, Evander Kane, and Bryan Little were the other three.
All four players gave the team 152 points this season. They also gave 48% of the teams goals scored throughout the year.
The offensive production is there for the team at the top, it needs improvement in every other portion of the offense however.
The Jets are one of the youngest teams in the NHL. With an average age of 26.71, 5th youngest, one expects the team to go through going pains. And during this shortened-season a lot of pains were exposed, that led to the Jets’ inability to qualify for the quest for Lord Stanley.
The biggest need for the team, that Claude Noel and GM Kevin Cheveldayoff must address are the special teams. The Jets were one of the worst teams this season on the power play, going only 13.8% this season. And on the other side, on the penalty kill, the team wasn’t much better, going 79.7% for the season, 23rd overall.
With the Jets likely only having a 1.5% chance of obtaining the first overall pick in the NHL entry draft, the team will fall between 11 and 14 overall in the draft.
Addressing the Issues
The Jets should be looking to address this draft in a number of ways, along with free agency itself. Cheveldayoff should be eying a big body defenseman this draft, preferably Seth Jones, but were going to keep it realistic as they likely won’t be getting the first overall pick, barring a miracle.
Look for them to take a look at Russian defenseman Nikita Zadorov if he falls to them. Zadorov is a 6’4″ blueliner, who played this season in the OHL for the London Knights. Zadorov registered 25 points this season for the Knights.
Cheveldayoff also needs to get more offensive production from his guys. Likely going for a “fix-it-now” approach, Cheveldayoff is going to need to look toward free agency this season. Maybe even a possible talk with Danny Briere? The forward is expected to be amnestied by the Flyers at the end of this season but nothing is certain in this day and age.
It’s been said over and over but the Jets are improving with each stride they make. But this off season is a true test for Noel, Cheveldayoff, and the entire Jets team. With a few holes to be filled, the Jets are aiming to make a splash next season in the playoffs.