For the Winnipeg Jets, the 2021-2022 season did not go as planned. The Jets finished the season 10th in the Western Conference and missed the playoffs for the first time since the 2016-2017 campaign. Winnipeg also had two head coaches and saw some of their key players regress during the season. As a result, they now enter a summer full of question marks as they look to make their absence from the postseason an aberration rather than a trend.
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By the Numbers
Power Play: 20.6% (17th)
Penalty Kill: 75.0% (28th)
Goals For: 252 (17th)
Goals Against: 257 (20th)
Kyle Connor had his best season yet, as he led the Jets in all offensive categories. The Michigan native set new career highs in goals with 47 and points with 93. In addition, he was the only Winnipeg player that scored more than 30 goals despite only shooting the puck 14.8 percent of the time. Although the Jets struggled towards the end of the season, Connor was one of the few bright spots.
Additionally, the twenty-five-year-old thrived on the powerplay. In 79 games, Connor had 28 points on the man advantage, which shattered his previous career-high of 13. Connor also improved in clutch moments as he had nine game-winning goals. For a team in need of a superstar, Connor continued to show why he is a unique talent.
As the Jets had one of their worst seasons in recent memory, Neal Pionk struggled. The Omaha native entered the 2021-2022 campaign with expectations after signing a four-year extension. While he had an excellent start, his performance took a dramatic step backward in the second half. The twenty-six-year-old only had 34 points and was demoted from the powerplay.
Additionally, Pionk was given a new defense partner in Brenden Dillon. They were able to outscore their competition but were out-chanced at even strength. The Jets duo were outshot on five-on-five plays, which was a significant concern for two players who have an average salary of $ 9.775 million in annual salary. For the Jets, they are hoping this past season was an outlier for Pionk.
Behind The Bench Analysis
There will be a new coach behind the bench as the Jets eye a postseason return. Paul Maurice began the 2021-2022 season as the Jets head coach before he resigned in December and Dave Lowry took over. Under Lowry, Winnipeg went 26-22-6 and missed the playoffs by eight points. Although the Stanley Cup Playoffs are not over, the Jets have already said Lowry won’t be back. Winnipeg has been connected to some of the top coaches available such as Scott Arniel and Barry Trotz.
Front Office Analysis
General Manager Kevin Cheveldayoff has a busy couple of months ahead. The Jets GM since 2011 has to find a new coach while unrestricted free agents such as Pierre-Luc Dubois, Mason Appleton, and Evgeny Svechnikov need new deals. After the Jets’ second-half collapse, tough decisions are ahead with a roster that could see a lot of change. Over the last few years, the Jets have regularly been in the playoffs, and Cheveldayoff needs to step up after a disappointing season.
2022 Entry Draft
For the first time in a while, the Jets will be picking in the top 15. Winnipeg has the 14th overall pick and will be looking to add impact talent. They currently have six picks, and the only round they don’t have a selection is in the fifth.
Although the Jets will have plenty of options at 14, one player they have been connected to is Conor Geekie. The 6-foot-4 center was at one point considered a top ten talent, but there are some concerns about his skating. However, Geekie has been one of the most productive draft prospects in Canadian Hockey. For a team in need of offense, Geekie has a lot of upside.
Offseason Wishlist/ Checklist
As the Jets look to retool their roster, they have their hands full. In addition to their unrestricted free agents, they also have an influx of AHL players who need new deals. That list includes Kristian Vesalainen, David Gustafsson, Jeff Malott, and Leon Gawanke. The future of Mark Scheifele is also unclear as the talented forward has been a popular trade in the rumor mill.
While Winnipeg has a lot of decisions to make, their roster is full of talent. Many of their problems could be fixed with bounce-back years from veterans such as Pionk and Dillon. The Jets will also have the unique opportunity to add a top 15 talent in the draft. Expect this team to be busy in the coming months as they look to put a disappointing 2021-2022 campaign in the past.
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