We bring our team previews to a close, where we most definitely didn’t skip anyone, with the team that has every chance to be the best comedy act in the league this year. A lettered captain has already fucked off for the all-you-can-eat-and-drink menu at Caesar’s. They hated their coach last year, and yet he’s still coaching. The defense has been ripped apart to the point where they really need Carl Dahlstrom. Patrik Laine bitched to everyone he wants to play on the top line, where there doesn’t appear to be any room, which will make his linemates on the second line feel very welcoming. There’s still a wealth of talent in Winnipeg, and on that alone they could cozy up to 100 points. Or they could deteriorate right out of the playoffs.
47-30-5 99 points (2nd in Central, out in 1st round)
3.29 GF/G (7th) 2.96 GA/G (15th)
48.9 CF% (19th) 47.7 xGF% (23rd)
24.6 PP% (4th) 79.2 PK% (22nd)
Goalies: Same as last year, as Connor Hellebuyck will be backed up by Laurent Brossoit. Hellebuyck didn’t hit the heights of the previous year, at a solid .913 overall. The problem for the Jets is they weren’t very good defensively, and they figure to be a measure worse this year. So .913 very well might not be near enough to not give up three goals per game or worse. More worrying, is that Hellebuyck lagged behind his expected save-percentage last year at evens, which simply can’t happen this year. Is he the .924 guy of ’17-’18 or is he more to the career .915? It’s probably the latter, but will that include enough miracles to keep their excellent finishing close enough to win games? Real question.
Brossoit was excellent as a backup last year, and if he puts up another .920 and Hellebuyck struggles a bit, Paul Maurice is going to have another headache he doesn’t know how to handle.
Defense: Goodness. This is a unit. Byfuglien has fucked off, and likely isn’t coming back. Jacob Trouba finally got his wish, which was an escape from Winnipeg. Tyler Myers shuffled off to Vancouver, though that’s not a bad thing. So the only remaining player from last year’s top four is Josh Morrissey, and we don’t know if he’s actually good or looked good next to Trouba. Dmitry Koulikov is still here, whatever that does for you. Promising kid Sami Niku has to start in the minors due to conditioning. Nathan Beaulieu, Anthony Bitteto, Dahlstrom, and Tucker Poolman are the very definition of “guys.” Maybe they think Neal Pionk is going to be more than the Rangers did, but this is a goddamn mess. And this was a team that didn’t have impressive metrics when it came to attempts and chances against last season. What’s it going to look like this one? Especially if they try and play as up-tempo as they have, which they kind of need to to get the most out of their forwards.
Forwards: With Patrik Laine and Kyle Connor back in the fold, there is still the ton of finish along with mainstays Blake Wheeler, Mark Scheifele, Bryan Little, Nikolaj Ehlers. There are the nifty two-way guys in Andrew Copp, Mathieu Perreault, Jack Roslovic, and Adam Lowry. It’s not the happiest bunch thanks to the windsock moods of Laine and how everyone feels about the coach. And they’re going to have to continue to outscore opponents and their own defense, because it could be a real challenge. There are going to be nights when they put up five and six. There are also going to be nights when they hit a couple posts or aren’t quite as dynamic and their defense gives up five or six. If the power play isn’t clicking above 20%, they’re going to have real issues.
Prediction: Tire fire. This team absolutely quit on its coach in the playoffs last year and not kicking Maurice to the curb, who’s never known what he’s doing, was a huge mistake. They’ll probably sacrifice the first four to six weeks waiting for Chevyldayoff to clear the gas leak in his office and can Maurice’s ass. From there it’s about the hire and whether the players are too far gone or respond. If they stick with Maurice too long, this will definitely go into the tank and they’re only eight points or so away from slipping out of the playoffs altogether. There’s so much that can go wrong here. If Hellebuyck is only solid, that might not be enough. If no one on the defense claims a higher spot, they’ll get run over. If Josh Morrissey isn’t up to being the guy, they could get run over. If the forwards think they’ve missed their window and give up the fight, which they did once, they won’t score enough to outlast their other problems. And it won’t take much for that asylum up in Manitoba to completely turn on them and turn into a complete zoo.
It’s on a knife’s edge up there, and the smart money is it falls off.