Our look back at the Jets 10 Q review

- April 20th, 2012

Now that there’s been time for the dust to settle, we figured it was a good time to look back at the 10 questions we posed regarding the Winnipeg Jets going into the season (five prior to training camp and another five prior to the regular season) and see how things turned out:

1) Is Ondrej Pavelec ready to take the next step?

In looking back, you have to wonder if the question was meant to be rhetorical as he proved without a shadow of a doubt that he’s a bona fide No. 1 goalie. While there was a patch late in the season where Pavelec looked a tad overworked, he was the clear-cut MVP of this team and the biggest reason they stayed in the playoff race as long as they did. Pavelec played in a career-high 68 games and finished with 29 wins (also a career-high) while playing 3,932 minutes and 26 seconds and making 1,845 saves and posting four shutouts. His 2.91 goals against average and .906 save percentage were pedestrian but were largely impacted by a couple of rough outings, not a true indication of how he played. He’s a restricted free agent and due a substantial raise.

2) Which Dustin Byfuglien will we see?

Things didn’t start well for the hulking blue-liner as he struggled in his own zone and wasn’t producing much offence in the early going. But he settled his game down in both ends of the ice and ended up tied for second in the NHL among D-men with 53 points in just 66 games. While Byfuglien is prone to freelancing, getting caught up ice on occasion and needs to cut down on his shift length, he’s a great passer and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him post 20 goals next season, provided he can stay healthy.

3) Where will the goals come from?

The Jets ended up in the middle of the pack in terms of goals scored, finishing with 225 overall, but had only three guys who cracked 20 goals: Evander Kane (30), Andrew Ladd (28) and Bryan Little (24) and seven others in double digits: Kyle Wellwood (18), Blake Wheeler (17), Nik Antropov (15), Jim Slater (13), Alex Burmistrov (13), Dustin Byfuglien (12) and Tim Stapleton (11). The Jets need to add at least one Top-6 forward or two and will be looking to add a little more offence and depth to the forward group for next season.

4) Just how good is the defence corps?

That’s still a tough question to answer. This group was seen as a strength going into the campaign and did have to endure several significant injuries that forced them to dress 12 different blue-liners. There are some strong pieces in place and a nice collection of puck-movers and offensive weapons, but they need to defend better (in conjunction with the forwards) next season. The Jets had the fourth-most goals allowed (246) and that’s a stat that needs to change for this team to make a stronger playoff push. Assistant coach Charlie Huddy is a calming influence and deserves a lot of credit for helping Zach Bogosian have an outstanding bounce-back season. Bogosian had five goals and 30 points and improved his plus/minus to -3 after putting up a team-worst -27 in 2010-11.  The Jets have some depth in the organization on the back end and we wouldn’t be surprised if they move one of them to try and bring in a Top-6 forward.

5) Which young player will take the biggest leap forward?

There were several candidates going into the season and while you could make the case for Pavelec or Bogosian, it was third-year winger Evander Kane who made the biggest strides. Kane led the Jets with 30 goals, was second in points with 57 (both career highs) and finished plus-11 in 74 games. Sure, he missed time with a concussion, endured a few small droughts but improved his consistency. Kane has another level to get to, but he’s only going to be 21 next season and most believe the best is yet to come for the fourth overall pick in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft. He’s a restricted free agent and it will be interesting to see how those negotiations go this summer.

6) How big an advantage will home ice be?

The raucous atmosphere inside MTS Centre certainly helped the Jets notch a few extra wins, something that was evident during a brilliant stretch in December and a strong push in February and early March. However, when all was said and done, the Jets finished 23-13-5 on home ice, which is impressive considering they were 14-22-5 on the road. But for the sake of comparison, the top two teams at home this season were the St. Louis Blues (30-6-5) and the Detroit Red Wings (31-7-3). So the Jets still have some ground to make up on that front, but the crowd was remarkable in Season 1 and we expect they’ll continue to be fired up come the fall.

7) What impact will Eric Fehr have upon his return?

Let’s just say things didn’t go nearly as well as either the player or management hoped, finishing with two goals and three points in 35 games while averaging less than 10 minutes of ice time per game. Picked up for an ECHL prospect and a 4th round choice in 2012, the Winkler product was expected to play on one of the top two lines and have an impact on the power play. Instead, after off-season shoulder surgery, he never really looked fully comfortable until late in the season when he got a chance to play with Jim Slater and Tanner Glass. However, he suffered another shoulder injury and was done for the season. the pending restricted free agent isn’t expected to be back with the Jets. But after a full summer of training, don’t be surprised to see Fehr get a shot with another team. After all, he’s a former first-round draft pick that has scored 20 goals in the NHL and plenty of teams need offensive help.

8) Can Mark Scheifele stick around?

The answer was yes and no. Scheifele’s outstanding pre-season earned a well-deserved spot on the opening-day roster, but it quickly became evident that he would be better served by another year of seasoning with the Barrie Colts. Scheifele scored his first NHL goal against the Toronto Maple Leafs at Air Canada Centre with friends and family members in attendance, but that was one of the few offensive highlights. The seventh overall pick in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft worked on his all-around game, competed for Canada at the world junior hockey championship and has joined the St. John’s IceCaps for the Calder Cup playoffs. It will be interesting to see how much better he is come September. There’s no doubt he’s motivated to stick with the Jets this fall.

9) How will head coach Claude Noel handle the jump to the NHL?

Despite missing the playoffs, you’d be hard-pressed to suggest Noel didn’t do a good job with this group. He coaxed career seasons out of several players and set the foundation for the coming seasons. The Jets started slowly, but clearly bought in to the message Noel was trying to instill. Sure, there were growing pains but those were to be expected. Noel’s frankness might rub some people the wrong way but he’s engaging and refreshing. He’s vowed to make a few adjustments as the Jets work on building a winning culture.

10) Can Blake Wheeler reach his full potential?

The 25-year-old winger had his best season as a pro, leading the Jets in scoring with 64 points and managed to score 17 (which was four behind the 21 he put up as a rookie with the Boston Bruins), despite enduring a long drought to start the season and another to end the campaign. Wheeler went through a long stretch and showed he can be a point-per-game player and finding a way to move his career high in points around 80 next season isn’t out of the question.

 

Categories: Hockey

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