This is the latest file in a series of reports from THN.com about every NHL team’s off-season. We wrap up by learning about the Winnipeg Jets.
2021-22 Record: 39-32-11
Finish in the Central Division: 6th
Available salary cap space (according to CapFriendly.com): $8.4 million
Restricted free agents: Mason Appleton, F
What to eat in Winnipeg: Elite scorer Kyle Connor; veteran talent from forwards Blake Wheeler, Nick Ehlers and Mark Scheifel, and defensemen Josh Morrissey, Neil Pionk and Brenden Dillon; top-notch goaltender Connor Hellebike; new head coach Rick Bowness; young, still developing strikers Cole Perfetti and Pierre-Luc Dubois.
What Winnipeg Needs: More productivity in attack for attackers from the last six; Hellebike’s solid backing from rookie David Rittich; good luck to your attackers in terms of health; improved away record (last season they were under par 16-17-8 away); the best result in shootouts (2-4 in the 2021-22 season).
What’s Real for Winnipeg Next Season: After making the playoffs for four straight seasons, the Jets flopped last year, disappointing a legion of fans and raising questions about the franchise’s direction. Unfortunately for them, these questions remain largely unanswered, and a general sense of mediocrity pervades the organization this offseason.
Let’s start with the coaching situation in Winnipeg: after longtime bench boss Paul Maurice resigned during the 2021-2022 campaign, he was briefly replaced by Dave Lowry, and when the New York Islanders unexpectedly fired the head coach and native Manitoba Barry Trotz at the end of the season, many expected the Jets to want to bring in Trotz. However, after a long period of waiting, Trotz decided to spend more time before embarking on a new NHL challenge, not exactly the best commentary on Winnipeg’s overall competitive status. If Trotz wanted to coach Winnipeg, this job was his. Instead, Jets general manager Kevin Cheveldioff hired former Dallas Stars head coach Rick Bowness, and it seemed like they got the second best choice for the role. Not ideal, to say the least.
Similarly, while Winnipeg still has above-average talent across the roster, there’s a sense that the Jets’ stars, with the exception of top scorer Kyle Connor and goaltender Connor Hellebike, just aren’t in the same class. as the best players in their division. . This does not mean that their players are worthless; rather, it’s about comparing them to the best players on the best teams in the Central Division and admitting that Winnipeg lacks the depth to rank in the top four in their division.
Indeed, were it not for the fact that they play in the same group as the dreary Arizona Coyotes and the tanks of the Chicago Blackhawks, the Jets could have finished lower in the Central Division last season. The Winnipeg were a terrible road team in the 2021-2022 season, and with their roster remaining more or less identical to the one that ended the year, it’s hard to imagine the Jets suddenly passing the Dallas Stars and Nashville Predators for place in the playoffs this coming season. .
The Jets have plenty of room for a salary cap at this point, but if they haven’t traded for an influential player, they’ll likely end the 2022-23 campaign in the same spot they did a year ago. And if that’s the case, the fans will (rightfully) demand that Cheveldiaff be replaced. In his current position, Cheveldioff has played a whopping 11 seasons, far longer than many grandmasters have gotten in other hockey hotspots. If this group continues to regress, then wide-ranging changes can and should occur within the franchise.
Jets fans deserve more than this so-so collection of talent. The Winnipegs simply don’t have enough depth to lean on if the injury bites them hard again, and that’s another comment on the mediocre work that Cheveldioff has put in. Another year, like last season, will be hard enough for Jets fans, but it will be much worse if Winnipeg team owner Mark Chipman doesn’t hold the Cheveldioff responsible for it.