What makes you think the Winnipeg Jets will make the playoffs?
Is it their skill up front and the potential damage Evander Kane could do on the first line? Perhaps it’s head coach Paul Maurice. It’s his first full season with the club and he’s got plenty of experience with good, bad and young and old teams. Maybe it’s your faith in Ondrej Pavelec, that this will be the year he breaks out and suddenly becomes a consistent netminder with solid rebound control. What about the youngsters, Mark Scheifele and Jacob Trouba? Could they be even better than scouts imagined?
All of these things are possible. But, the odds of it all happening this season? Not likely. The Jets would need all this and more to have a shot at the postseason. There is plenty to be excited about for Winnipeg fans. The most important of which is the prospects showing plenty of potential in training camp, which should lead to long-term success. Making the playoffs in 2014-15 is something to hope for, but certainly not something to expect.
"The Edmonton Oilers, Calgary Flames and the Winnipeg Jets, I'd be absolutely shocked if they make the playoffs" -Bob McKenzie on TSN 1050
— Michael Remis (@mremis) September 17, 2014
Cheveldayoff's work beginning to show for #nhljets. Petan, Lowry, Morrissey, Ehlers, Kosmachuk among others knocking (some banging) on door
— gary lawless (@garylawless) September 20, 2014
It didn’t get an easier. The Western Conference remains a power house and the Central Division is likely to again be the toughest of the four divisions. The St. Louis Blues and Chicago Blackhawks remain Stanley Cup favourites and you could argue both teams are better than they were in 2013-14. The Blues’ key additions include Paul Stastny, Peter Mueller and Carl Gunnarsson, while Chicago nabbed Brad Richards, who should fit in nicely on the second or third line.
That doesn’t even cover the division champion Colorado Avalanche. Colorado benefited from an all-world performance by Semyon Varlamov last season. It’s hard to expect him to repeat that, but they also made some solid moves in the offseason. They added veteran leadership to an otherwise young squad as Daniel Briere, Jarome Iginla and Brad Stuart joined the team.
The Minnesota Wild and Dallas Stars also made the postseason, filling out the two wild card spots in the best. Again, there is no reason to think these two teams can’t top the 90-point mark.
It’s a great time to be the Eastern Conference, where the competition isn’t nearly as strong.
Lack of Depth
The Jets are one of the youngest teams in the NHL and while they have skilled players up front and on the blue line, they lack the depth needed to compete with the aforementioned teams.
A top line featuring Evander Kane, Mark Scheifele and Blake Wheeler could be among the fastest and most skilled in the NHL. A second line of Andrew Ladd, Bryan Little and Dustin Byfuglien is probably average league wide. However, it’s more of a solid two-way trio than a line that will push the pace offensively and be a consistent scoring threat. After that, the level of talent drops off significantly.
The same can be said for the defence, where there is a strong, dynamic group of three or four players, but again a lack of depth. There is a shortage of strong, shutdown defenders.
Don’t forget to take injuries into account. If even one of the top-six forwards is out for a week or two, it will have a major impact on the offence.
The good news? Players like Nic Petan and Josh Morrissey will eventually provide depth, they just need another year or two to develop.
There is nothing wrong with hoping for the best, but prepare yourself for the worst. When those frigid days in Manitoba come to pass and the ice outside the MTS Centre finally begins to melt, so to will the Jets playoff hopes.
Eric is a postgraduate public relations student at Humber College. Prior to that he obtained a bachelor’s degree in communication studies from the University of Windsor. He covers the Winnipeg Jets for The Hockey Writers and is a featured columnist for Bleacher Report.