Sunday, September 29, 2013

Winnipeg Jets 2013/2014

This weekend the Winnipeg Jets hockey team is doing something they have not done before: They are having a meeting in Banff to do a bit of team building. On Monday afternoon, the roster has to be pared down from 26 to 23. In a surprise move, management has held off on making the cuts possibly to let the three who are cut to continue bonding with the team and to let them know, they will no doubt be called in an instant if needed.

Given the injuries of last year, the ability for the team to plug holes in the line-up are paramount.

The pre-season was really the first time that Jets owners and managers were able to bring in all possible prospects drafted, invited and signed to be put through training and to see what they were made of. Patient development will reap some later rewards with a number of these players.

Some players were lost over the off season. Hainsey, Antropov and Burmistrov are all gone to other teams. In the case of Burmistrov, he was unhappy and headed to the Kontinental rather than stay. Antropov also went to the K.

Hainsey to a haircut in free agency on his pay and left for another team. No indication of whether Jets even negotiated for him to stay. Santorelli also came and went on free agency.

Of course this opens opportunities in positions and salary space.

Some of the toughest decisions will come on defence where Jacob Trouba, the 2012 first round choice demonstrated to maturity and poise.

At first glance, it would seem Pardy and Postma and Redmond could be sent down for the defence but lingering injuries from other starters might change that.

On the forwards, it is another tough choice but Peluso, Cormier, Frolik and Halischuk are probably being talked about. Once again lingering injuries might give then team flexibility about what happens.

A few things seem certain though: Scheifele and Trouba have earned positions on the team. Setoguchi was a good off season pick up.

We need a solid two lines. Will Jokinen have a better season or will Schiefele be a better fit with Kane and Setoguchi? Or will the decision right out of the gate be to out Schiefele in that mix?

The 1-4-3 record in pre-season was nothing to write home about. But pre-season ought to be the time for a team to see what they have in the system and not worry about chalking up wins that don't count in the standings.

It is unlikely going to make anyone happy if that is what our standings look like for the month of October in regular season.

We are in a very tough division this year. We need to improve power play and goals against average. Pavelec wants to play every game. He won't and he can't. Montoya can't sit on the bench all season and then be thrust into things if Pavelec gets hurt, is sick or is struggling.

Where will the fans be in all of this? To be sure, the boo birds will be watching Jokinen. If he continues to struggle, he will draw sharp focus before a lot of other players do.

A few more times of Enstrom crumbling in a corner and fans might be thinking what other options lay on defence.

In terms of coaching, this will be the year to see of Noel will be able to get the players to buy in on a system. It worked on penalty killing. Let's see if it works on power play and goals against average.

In terms of ownership, they have expressed faith in the Cheveldayoff. This most recent draft was considered excellent by most outside observers. And two of our top drafts might be on the team this year. Not bad.

We have not made any blockbuster trades and given the salary cap, it will be a wait and see. We have not been too bad on picking up players on waivers.

The owners have been trying to enhance the experience of coming to a Jets game with more options just outside the building. The Shark Club will be a welcome revenue generator for the organization as well as entertainment component all by itself with the casino. Across the street, the Alt Hotel and two restaurants are well under construction. They will be a welcome addition in 2014.

The people of Winnipeg love their hockey. They want their team to play hard every game and without a doubt want to get into the play-offs. This year's success will be measured by improving our standings and results in all areas. I don't think anyone is expecting a Stanley Cup.

Let the season begin.

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