Ladies and gentlemen, we are days away from meaningful hockey once again filling our lives with joy. The Central is poised to be home to some truly great teams, and as with every year, it’s truly a toss-up as to who will wear the division crown come April.
With the clock winding down towards a new season, let's get you back to that special hockey feeling by taking a quick look at each team in the division and what you can expect from their next 82 games. Here are your 2018-19 Winnipeg Jets.
How Did Last Year Go?
The 2017-18 season was the most fun the city of Winnipeg has had since their first Pizza Hut opened. Everyone knew that the Jets had potential but even those of us who thought they would be good were surprised at just how good they were. After a rough opening week, the Jets settled down and started winning games. They wouldn’t stop winning games until the second week of May. Then they lost four straight to an expansion team who cut them in half.
What The Hell Happened?
Everyone who had the potential to be good ended up being great. The Jets smartly gave up on the Steve Mason era after 2 games and stuck with a very capable Hellebuyck. The Jets leaned on speed and crashing waves of offensive attack to stun teams into submission. This offensively minded game took a little stress off of a young defensive unit who matured greatly over course of the year. The Jets were firmly a Stanley Cup contender when they then acquired Paul Statsny from the Blues which turned their formidable center depth into a matchup nightmare. Throw on the incredible wild card talent of Dustin Byfuglien on the backend and Patrick Laine in the offensive zone and this team had an answer for whatever teams could plot against them.
Did Anything Good Happen?
Connor Hellebuyck was as good as a certain podcaster thought he would be. Patrick Laine challenged a Russian G.O.A.T for the goal title and a real goat to a beard growing contest. Dustin Byfuglien turned into a myth. Nikolaj Ehlers snuck rocket boots into his skates. Kyle Connor had a Calder caliber season, racking up 57 points. Mark Scheifele won over 600 faceoffs. Blake Wheeler beat up a teammate, which is a perk of the captaincy I was unaware of. The Jets nearly won the Presidents Trophy. They knocked the actual Presidents Trophy winners out of the playoffs, taking their stupid plane with them. Most importantly, Winnipeg managed to win a playoff game in front of the whiteout, which was something a lot of people living through turn of the century thought they would never see.
Did They Get Any Worse?
Yeah, it feels like they did. The Golden Knights made such a good impression on Paul Stastny that he bolted from scenic Winnipeg to live in Neon Hell. Toby Enstrom finally left, choosing to play in Europe instead of putting up with the notoriously unfriendly Canadians around him. Matt Hendricks moved five hours south to play for Minnesota and Joel Armia was dealt to Montreal.
Are There New Faces This year?
Get excited to welcome the following players to Winnipeg!
Seth Griffith, who apparently played for Buffalo?
Simon Bourque… is that Ray’s son? No?
… But Winnipeg doesn’t have a destination problem.
What’s Going To Happen This Year?
Last season was a great story, a lot like Rocky narratively speaking. The upstarts took it to the league, and even if they didn’t win it all, that didn’t really matter because they proved they belonged. This season is Rocky II. They will be expected to win in the sequel. The Nashville Predators seemed to struggle at times, especially in the postseason with being expected to win. I think the Jets might struggle from the same issues as well. Hellebuyk played in 67 games last season. That’s going to catch up with him this year. Teams will spend more time planning ways to stop Winnipeg’s fierce neutral zone transition because the slower the Jets move, the worse they perform. Add on top of this, the fact that almost every Central Division team improved. It’s simply going to be tougher sledding than last year.
“Clubber, What’s Your Prediction For The Fight?”
48-22-12 3rd in the Central: Don’t get me wrong, the Jets will win a lot of games. They will make the playoffs and should still be considered Stanley Cup contenders, but they slide back a little in the regular season. It’s going to be a crazy ride.
There you have it, folks. Up next, the Nashville Predators.