Fun with possible Jets line combinations

- January 2nd, 2013

We’re not trying to raise expectations or spread false hope, but with negotiations seeming to be moving along in a more constructive manner between the NHL and NHLPA, it’s time to start looking into the crystal ball to see how the Winnipeg Jets opening lineup might look in a couple of weeks.

There are surely some wild cards, like Mark Scheifele, who could make life awfully difficult on the Jets’ coaching staff and management team. And we’re still not sure what the salary cap number is going to be, but regardless, the Jets are in pretty decent shape on the money front.

According to cap geek, the Jets salary breakdown would be as follows:

14 forwards (including Scheifele, at least at start of season and especially since Patrice Cormier has seen limited action because of injury) account for $34,032,959, seven defenceman (we’ll include Derek Meech as the 7th D-man and figure Zach Bogosian will start season on long-term injury so his salary shouldn’t count against the cap) account for $17,650,000 and goalies Ondrej Pavelec and Al Montoya account for another $4,501,000, leaving the team at a grand total of $56,183,959.

Again, it’s important to note that those numbers could change, the Jets could decide to bring a free agent or two into the mix, make a trade and have the potential to use an amnesty buyout if that’s an item that is eventually included in the new collective bargaining agreement.

From where we sit, we’re not sure that’s something the Jets will use, but it’s certainly possible.

As it stands right now, here’s my take on what the combinations could look like when training camp opens.

Let’s get your thoughts on the subject as well, as this is far from an exact science.

Evander Kane-Olli Jokinen-Blake Wheeler

Andrew Ladd-Bryan Little-Kyle Wellwood

Alexei Ponikarovsky-Mark Scheifele/Alex Burmistrov-Nik Antropov

Antii Miettinen-Jim Slater-Chris Thorburn/Spencer Machacek

Toby Enstrom-Dustin Byfuglien

Mark Stuart-Ron Hainsey

Grant Clitsome/Derek Meech-Paul Postma/Zach Redmond

Ondrej Pavelec-Al Montoya

My take on why things might look this way:

* While it’s true that Jokinen and Kane are both shooters, Wheeler is an excellent playmaker and has the ability to finish as well. He had some chemistry with Kane at times last year. Head coach Claude Noel knows what he can get out of Ladd/Little/Wheeler, so he can always go back to that combination if he wants/needs to.

* There’s been some speculation on Twitter the Jets might follow the lead of Team Canada and give Scheifele a try on the right wing, maybe on that second unit with Ladd and Little. Sure, it’s possible, but at this stage I don’t see it happening. Scheifele is a natural centre and that’s his best chance to succeed. As GM Kevin Cheveldayoff said last season, it will be Scheifele who shows the Jets when he’s ready. I don’t see the Jets rushing Scheifele, but he might force his way onto the team, at least for an extended look.

* Another potential combo to watch for could be Ponikarovsky with Antropov and Wellwood as that trio spent time together with the Toronto Maple Leafs. Ponikarovsky could also provide a big body with Kane and Jokinen if Wheeler slides back with Ladd and Little.

* Cormier might eventually work his way into the rotation on the fourth, but a knee injury likely takes him out of serious consideration for a spot on the opening-day roster.

* On the back end, Bogosian’s wrist injury might leave him unavailable to get back into game action until late February or early March, depending on how things continue to progress with his rehab. That leaves some heavy minutes to be picked up until he returns and likely bumps Mark Stuart into the Top-4, a role he’s quite familiar with, as he was partnered with Bogosian for a good chunk of last season.

* There is ample opportunity available with Bogosian out, likely leaving Grant Clitsome, Winnipegger Derek Meech and Paul Postma to battle it out for time on the third pairing. However,  Zach Redmond is playing extremely well for the St. John’s IceCaps in the AHL and given the circumstances, he could easily work his way into the picture as well. Since Redmond is in his second season, the Jets will likely want him playing. So if he’s not on that third pairing, it’s more likely he’ll remain in minors so that he’s ready for next season.

* As for the goalies, backed with a contract extension, it’s pretty clear that Ondrej Pavelec will carry the bulk of the load. But given the compressed schedule, it will be interesting to monitor just how often the Jets tap backup Al Montoya on the shoulder. Let’s place the over/under for Montoya at 10 games for now.

Categories: Hockey

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