Dom Lunardo Aug 19th, 2019
Winnipeg, Manitoba. “The Peg” as it’s commonly referred to, is home to the Blue Bombers of the Canadian Football League (CFL), and the one and only Winnipeg Jets. When the Jets relocated from Winnipeg, Manitoba to Atlanta, Georgia in the summer of 1996, one fan held up perhaps one of the most iconic flags in the history of the NHL. The flag proclaimed: “One day our Jets will fly again”. Die-hard hockey fans from around the globe probably shed a tear whenever they hear such sentiments. That sign is just the tip of the iceberg for the passion that runs high in Winnipeg, MB for their beloved Jets.
After coming to within 3 wins of the Stanley Cup Final in May of 2018, expectations were sky-high for this Jets team heading into last season, and rightfully so. A team with Connor Hellebuyck in goal and a defensive core led by the likes of Jacob Trouba, Tyler Myers, Josh Morrissey, and Dustin Byfuglien would give any offensive units headaches. Couple that with the big, heavy, and speedy forwards with the likes of Blake Wheeler, Mark Scheifele, Patrik Laine, Kyle Connor, Bryan Little, and Nikolaj Ehlers and that spells a pretty good hockey club, to say the least. After a 99-point campaign and finishing runners up to the Nashville Predators in the Central division, Jets fans were chomping at the bit heading into the playoffs. Unfortunately, their season came crashing down after just 6 games. It was “one and done” for a Jets team that had their hopes locked in on Lord Stanley.
Notable Off-Season Additions: D Neal Pionk
Notable Off-Season Subtractions: F Kevin Hayes, D Jacob Trouba, D Tyler Myers
Restricted Free-Agents/ Biggest Priorities: F Patrik Laine, F Kyle Connor
Before we can even talk about the Jets, team General Manager Kevin Cheveldayoff will have to find a way (and the money) to get talented forwards Patrik Laine and Kyle Connor on board and under contract. Laine and Connor join the likes of names such as Tkachuk, Marner, Rantanen, Point, Werenski, Boeser, and McAvoy who make up the restricted free-agent class of 2019. Many of which still remain unsigned, with the start of training camp just a short few weeks away. The Jets will have to hit the ground running, so to speak if they are to return to the dance in the spring of 2020. The Central Division remains one of the most talented and competitive divisions in all of hockey and the Jets will need to be at their best right from the get-go. Look for Head Coach Paul Maurice to be under the gun as well, after such a disappointing end to the season at the hands of the eventual Stanley Cup Champions, St. Louis Blues.
Even once the current contract stalemates surrounding corner piece forwards Kyle Connor and Patrik Laine are finally resolved, the Jets will be in tough this season. It’s time for the youth movement to take center stage, as the Jets will rely heavily on their prospects and youngsters such as Sami Niku, Jack Roslovic, and Andrew Copp to take another step forward in their development, and fast. The loss of two of their main horses on the back end (Jacob Trouba via trade and Tyler Myers to free-agency) will ask significant questions of Head Coach Paul Maurice right from the start of the NHL season. If all goes to plan in Winnipeg, a wild card berth seems in the cards for the “Whiteout” in Western Canada.
Check out our other 2019-2020 NHL Team Previews:
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Main Image Credit: Embed from Getty Images