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Largely unchanged Jets will have tough time in reloaded Central

Aug 2, 2014, 11:16 AM EDT

Andrew Ladd Getty Images

Winnipeg is a city with passionate hockey fans who were naturally thrilled when they found out the NHL was returning to town.

When they got the then Atlanta Thrashers in 2011, roughly 15 years after the original Jets left, the question of whether or not an NHL team could be sustained in the relatively small city was raised. So far the Jets have consistently filled their arena, per ESPN.com’s attendance figures, but you only have to look at a city like Toronto to know that fan support doesn’t always equal fan happiness. Since moving to Winnipeg, the Jets have been unable to make the playoffs and the troubling part is that it’s not clear when that will change.

The Jets do have some promising prospects in their system as well as young players, like defenseman Jacob Trouba, that are starting to make an impact. They’re also coming off of a quiet summer though and that silence is deafening in the midst of the upgrades that the rest of the Central Division has gotten. St. Louis has added Paul Stastny, Chicago got Brad Richards, Dallas acquired Jason Spezza, Nashville now has James Neal, and Minnesota will start the season with Thomas Vanek. To make matters worse, the teams that upgraded all finished ahead of Winnipeg last season. Factor in the Avalanche — who lost Stastny, but added Jarome Iginla — and it quickly becomes apparent that the Jets might end up in the Central Division basement again.

Without any major upgrades, the Jets will have to hope that head coach Paul Maurice will be the difference in Winnipeg, who replaced Claude Noel during the 2013-14 campaign. There’s also a chance that their rebuilding efforts will start to pay dividends. If not though, then criticism of GM Kevin Cheveldayoff and his seemingly conservative approach to the trade and free agent markets might intensify.

Jets fans have waited a long time to get an NHL team. How much longer will they need to wait before they get a winner?

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  1. govtminion - Aug 2, 2014 at 11:33 AM

    I really want to see this team turn around and start competing the way Columbus has finally done, but… I don’t see a lot going on here in terms of getting things on track. They’re content to lean on Pavelic again, despite his numbers from last season. They’re so far hanging on to Kane despite both sides being pretty clearly unhappy with the other. And while we’re seeing great young players pop up across the league- both on lottery teams and on contenders- not much of that seems to really be taking hold in Winnipeg in comparison.

    Maybe next year, who knows… but I don’t see the Jets getting even near a playoff spot this year in a tough West.

    • avfanforlife - Aug 2, 2014 at 11:56 AM

      I’d also love to see the Jets make it into the playoffs – If any fans deserve it, they do… Mgmt needs to start thinking outside the box a bit.

      • rmccleary97 - Aug 2, 2014 at 12:58 PM

        The Jets fanbase doesn’t *deserve* anything. Sure, maybe it would be nice for them to see playoff hockey live and in person – but their support of the local team doesn’t merit getting a playoff appearance any more than the Blues somehow *deserve* to win a Cup because it’s the only remaining Next Six team to not have done so.

      • avfanforlife - Aug 2, 2014 at 1:16 PM

        Peg fans are probably the most loyal, hockey-smart, arena-filling, patient, etc. group out there. I’m an AV’s fan first and foremost, but I’ve followed the plight of the fanbase in Winnipeg since the team left, the petitions to bring them back, the building of MTS, the excitement in Manitoba with the announcement that a team was coming back and then being named the Jets, the instant sell-out of MTS, and the crazyness of the home games, etc… If any FANBASE deserves to see their team play some post-regular season games, it would be them. Now, has the TEAM earned it? Not with the stale choices mgmt is making. A team *deserving* to win a cup, and a fanbase deserving to see playoff hockey is apples ‘n oranges my friend.

    • pavelfitzgerald - Aug 2, 2014 at 12:34 PM

      Most of what you said is true except for how great young players are popping up around te league except for the Jets. Trouba & Schiefele aren’t “great” (mind you, outside of a select few, no young players are “great”) but have huge upside. They have re-stocked the cupboards from the Atlanta days & next year should see Lowry, Kosmachuk, Morrissey & possibly Petan make the jump.

      I don’t think the Jets are “content” with Pavelec but they didn’t really have any other choices. Ryan Miller was not going to Winnipeg. Hiller would’ve but he got PAID in Calgary. Halak has been inconsistent at best. I know people floated the Reimer deal with Toronto as a possibility but do you really want to ship out an asset for a marginally better goaltender & still have Pav’s on the books? Or do you give him one final shot & if it fails you turn to a veteran stop gap or give Hutchinson (was great in the AHL last year & had a solid handful of games in the NHL) or even Hellybuck a shot (reigning NCAA Mike Richter award winning goalie who will have a full season in the AHL under his belt)? They also have Eric Comrie in the pipeline who may be Team Canada’s starting goalie at the World Juniors this year?

      Yesterday’s PHT article pointed out Jonathan Quick’s middle of the road save percentage the last two years in the .912-18 range. I am not saying Pavelec is Quick but sometimes a goalie doesn’t hit his stride until his mid-late twenties ala Tim Thomas, Backstrom, Lehtenon, Schneider (granted that was due more to a lack of opportunity). This is Pav’s year to shape up or ship out.

      With the way the West (& the central specifically) has stocked up this year I doubt a change in goal would’ve helped the Jets much. They know this is a team that probably won’t make the playoffs & that is okay because this team is still 1-2 years away from seeing their rebuild really take effect. This organization is undoubtably much better from the NHL to the AHL to players in juniors than it was when it arrived here.

  2. astilgy - Aug 2, 2014 at 11:57 AM

    “‘Minnesota will start the season with Thomas Vanek.” ……. any new knowledge you have that we don’t?

    • wutangwild - Aug 2, 2014 at 12:23 PM

      Do you reside under a rock…?

      • purpleprideinps - Aug 2, 2014 at 12:37 PM

        I think the article was just poorly written. He makes it sound like Vanek might not be with the team at some point in the season. I was confused when I read it too, but the writer is just saying that Vanek is on the team. The part about Arizona is just ignorance about the NHL. There is no excuse for that.

      • endusersolutions2013 - Aug 2, 2014 at 2:57 PM

        What part about Arizona – in this article?

  3. dmchi2010 - Aug 2, 2014 at 12:27 PM

    Arizona is not in the Central Division!!

    • 19to77 - Aug 2, 2014 at 1:21 PM

      Dadoun very, very rarely proofreads before posting. There’s usually a couple things like that in his articles. Misspellings, grammar mistakes, basic factual errors… you know, the usual hallmarks of professional writing.

  4. quinner17 - Aug 2, 2014 at 3:12 PM

    It’s July and you can already count the Jets out of the 2015 playoffs. That GM has to go

    • pfpmb - Aug 3, 2014 at 12:24 AM

      What calendar are you using? It’s August 2, 2014.

      • chief361 - Aug 5, 2014 at 2:43 AM

        considering the next stanley cup playoffs won’t occur until 2015, i think he’s using the same calendar as the rest of the world. the point i believe you’re missing is, while no one can predict the future, most would wager comfortably that the jets will be golfing as early as the third week of april 2015. the new playoff format in conjunction with the jets lack of moves this summer in the toughest division in the league all but assure it but, never mind using any common sense.

  5. purpleguy - Aug 2, 2014 at 7:54 PM

    Well, at least the Jets fans will have more excuses to drink when they drive down south to attend Wild games. It was pretty funny — I sat 3 rows below a group of Jets fans last year and could never get a beer cause they always cleaned the beer guys out.

    • chief361 - Aug 5, 2014 at 2:48 AM

      hey, when you can get a steal of a deal at $9 per pint of mich golden light who could blame em?

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