Are The Jets Really This Good??

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As it stands right now, the Winnipeg Jets sit second in the Central Division and second in the Western Conference overall with a 15-6-3 record. After years of just hanging on in the Central, they seem to be breaking out of their shell and finally reaching their potential that many have said that they could have.

But are they really this good?? My buddy Brian told me on Twitter last night that he wasn’t buying into the hype and the main reason is Paul Maurice. I gave a counter of their goaltending being as unusual as it is– especially since they went out and got Steve Mason as a free agent this summer.¬†While the Maurice thing is a valid point, the owners are looking like geniuses locking up the head coach Maurice and GM Kevin Cheveldayoff to multi-year extensions.

Whatever the reason for hesitation to this success, the numbers aren’t hurting the success. Mark Scheifele has grown a long way from wearing a generic jersey at the 2011 NHL Draft to one of the faces of the team and being tied for the team lead in scoring and being tied for 10th in league scoring. The guy who he’s tied with, Blake Wheeler, has a great story of redemption– going from a first-round pick, hitting free agency rather than signing with his drafted team, never finding his footing with the team he signed with, to finally hitting a stride with Winnipeg over the past couple seasons.

And we haven’t even talked about Patrik Laine, who is a on a bit of a sophomore slump, or Nikolaj Ehlers or Bryan Little– who all have the ability to be primary or secondary scorers for this team.

In my point of contention, the goaltending is something that has never been too much of a strong point from Winnipeg. With Ondrej Pavelec leaving, it could have been a spot to get a big name to help get the team over that hump….and they got Steve Mason. And Mason was Mason in the first couple games (0-3-1 in four games). Luckily, Connor Hellebuyck has been a savior for this team with a 13-2-2 record on the season. How long that will last is anyone’s guess– but keep riding the wave of winning until it burst and work it from there.

Defensively, if the top guys can be healthy– they’ll be sturdy there. Tyler Myers is back and contributing in a decent way, Dustin Byfuglien is who he is, and Jacob Trouba could be doing more– but has been fine in his season so far.

Overall– it’s all about how long Hellebuyck can keep his good times rolling and adapts when people figure him out, as well as if guys like Scheifele and Wheeler can stay with their better than point-per-game clip. Add that to the secondary scoring and defensive side getting better offensively– this team could be a consistent force this season moving ahead.

What I’m Looking Out For This Year

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With the pre-season over, what more is there to say that hasn’t been said by talking and typing heads around TV and the internet?? Well….probably not a lot, but that’s fine, it’s fine. I’ll just pile onto some topics because what else would I do?? It’s not like original content can get much hits…but not bitter….not at all.

In any case, here we are– another year older, another team bigger, and all the ish is happening. So, here’s what worth looking forward to this season:

-The Golden Knights are obviously going to be one of the main topics of work. Now, I won’t go with the “Swingers” line because everyone is going with that and I’m not that hacky….yet. However, the thing that I have said is that I’ll get sick of the First that will come from this year, but it’s something understandable. One thing I will be interested in towards the end of the season is how they’re keeping pace with past expansion franchises. Shouldn’t take long (hopefully) for them to past the 1974-75 Washington Capitals– so they’ll have that going for them.

-Goalies being in new places will definitely be a talking point, especially since so many faces switched places. Ben Bishop being Dallas, Mike Smith in Calgary, Brian Elliott in Philadelphia, Steve Mason in Winnipeg– all of them are being touted as the true goalie to stop their woes. In Elliott’s case, he’s #17 in the long line of Flyers goalies to have this title, though he’ll fight Michal Neuvirth for the starting position. While none of them may be the franchise changing goalie, they could be a vast improvement on what the teams had…until they aren’t because goalies are totally replaceable.

-Is there any stopping Connor McDavid?? Sure, it seems like we’ve heard the whole “next one” conversation a lot, but McDavid really has been as good as advertised since coming in. There’s plenty to be happy about in Edmonton, especially since he’s not going to have those World Cup of Hockey games under his belt. If he can command the scoring pace for the league again, the buzzing of this team bringing back the glory days in Edmonton will be hard to block out.

-While it’s great Nico Hischier and Nolan Patrick are out there, there’s plenty of Calder candidates out there for this season. Arizona has Dylan Strome and Clayton Keller, the Isles have Josh Ho-Sang and Matt Barzal, former UND players in Brock Boeser (Vancouver) and Tyson Jost (Colorado) could be in consideration. It’s a wide open field and this new wave of young talent is going to be a fun time to watch…only until your team losing becomes unbearable and even this silver lining can help you get over their horrid play.

-It’s the 100th year– not season because the NHL lost one, but it’s the 100th year and it’ll be interesting to see how deep the league goes for this. Of course, they’ll have the outdoor game between Ottawa and Montreal to commemorate the first NHL game, but outside of that– they announced the top 100 players, they’ve been going around with the Centennial Museum on wheels, but you’d have to think there’s got to be more to this year than what we’re seeing…I hope there is. If that’s all there is, then it’s been a bit of a letdown.

There’s some other out there– like the Penguins possible three-peat, what’s going to happen to Alex Ovechkin, who will care about the Olympics when they’re on– but I think those topics will come a bit more to light as the season goes on.

Puck drops tomorrow– strap it and enjoy the ride.