For the Winnipeg Jets, the hope is that the upcoming 2014-2015 NHL season will bring something special to the forefront. They’re obviously hoping to make the post-season since 2007, when they were still based in Atlanta.
But the off-season hasn’t exactly been full of changes to the blueprint. The club retained all but four skaters from last season and didn’t make many deals in the off-season.
“There are still some irons in the fire that haven’t come to fruition yet,” general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff said back in July. “You’re in some deals, and maybe you’re not in some deals.”
Thus far, it seems that he’s not in some deals more than he’s in some deals.
Many other teams worked to bolster their respective line-ups, but the Jets only added Mathieu Perreault and TJ Galiardi to the roster. Perreault’s job is to replace the departed Olli Jokinen, while Galiardi will add to the core group of third and fourth line forwards.
Winnipeg went 37-35-10 in 2013-2014 and finished last in the Central Division.
Now things could take an upswing with Paul Maurice behind the bench. He replaced Claude Noel in January and had some early success, winning nine out of his first 11 games. He’s a credible coach and he apparently has a tough training camp lined up for the lads, which should spell out his plan going forward.
Having him calling the shots for a full season should bring some much-needed cohesion to the team, but he’s got his work cut out for him.
There’s also the matter of Evander Kane. He has been the frequent subject of trade speculation, but all signs point to him at least starting the upcoming season with the Jets. Kane will likely start on the second line and could put up some decent numbers, but the rumours will keep swirling and might prove distracting for the 23-year-old.
The good news is that Winnipeg can still table one heck of a top line. Andrew Ladd, Blake Wheeler and Bryan Little can put points on the board. Wheeler had 28 goals last season, finishing with 69 points in 82 games. Little wasn’t far behind with 64 points in 82 games, while Ladd had 54 points in 78 games.
Then there’s the matter of goalie Ondrej Pavelec, who has a lot to prove. He allowed 163 goals in 57 games last season, finishing with a dismal 3.01 goals-against average and a .901 save percentage. Pavelec will be undertaking his sixth NHL season and it might be make or break time for the 31-year-old.
So on paper, it looks to be more of the same for the Jets in 2014-2015. This is a team that needs to be better against the Central Division and that’s no easy task. But with a little luck and some quality coaching, perhaps Winnipeg can finally start putting Atlanta in the rearview mirror and work toward something more.