This is the final file in THN.com’s series of breakdowns of every NHL team in the offseason. We wrap things up by examining the Winnipeg Jets.
2021-22 Record: 39-32-11
Finish in the Central Division: the 6th
Available salary cap space (per CapFriendly.com): 8.4 million dollars
Restricted Free Agents: Mason Appleton, F
What Winnipeg has: An elite scorer in Kyle Connor; veteran talent in forwards Blake Wheeler, Nik Ehlers and Mark Scheifele and defensemen Josh Morrissey, Neal Pionk and Brenden Dillon; a top goaltender in Connor Hellebuyck; a new head coach in Rick Bowness; young forwards still developing in Cole Perfetti and Pierre-Luc Dubois.
Why Winnipeg needs: More production in attack from the bottom six forwards; solid support for Hellebuyck in newcomer David Rittich; more health luck for their attackers; an improved road record (they were a sub-par 16-17-8 away from home last season); a better shootout showing (they were 2-4 in 2021-22).
What is realistic for Winnipeg next season: After making the playoffs for four straight seasons, the Jets floundered last year, disappointing their legion of fans and prompting questions about the direction of the franchise. Unfortunately for them, those questions remain largely unanswered, and there’s a general sense of mediocrity that has permeated the organization this offseason.
Let’s start with Winnipeg’s coaching situation: After longtime bench boss Paul Maurice resigned during the 2021-22 campaign, he was replaced on short notice by Dave Lowry — and when the New York Islanders -they unexpectedly fired head coach and Manitoba native Barry Trotz. At the end of the season, the Jets were expected to bring in Trotz. However, after a long wait, Trotz chose to take more time before embarking on a new NHL challenge – not exactly the best commentary on Winnipeg’s overall competitive status. If Trotz wanted to coach Winnipeg, the job was his. Instead, Jets general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff hired former Dallas Stars head coach Rick Bowness, a move that felt like they got the second best choice for the role. It’s not ideal, to say the least.
Similarly, while Winnipeg still has above-average talent across the board, there’s a sense that the Jets’ stars, with the exception of leading scorer Kyle Connor and goaltender Connor Hellebuyck, simply aren’t in the same class as the best players from their division. . That’s not to say their players are worthless; rather, it’s about comparing them to the top players on the best teams in the Central Division and acknowledging that Winnipeg doesn’t have enough depth to be a top-four team in their division.
Indeed, if it weren’t for the fact that they play in the same bracket as the Arizona Coyotes and the tanking Chicago Blackhawks, the Jets might have finished lower in the Central last season. Winnipeg was an abysmal road team in 2021-22, and with their roster remaining more or less identical to the one that ended the year, it’s hard to imagine the Jets suddenly leapfrogging the Dallas Stars and Nashville Predators for a playoff spot next season. .
The Jets have plenty of salary cap space right now, but unless they trade an impact player, it’s very likely they’ll finish the 2022-23 campaign in the same spot they finished a year ago. And if that’s the way things go, fans will (rightly) be calling for Cheveldayoff to be replaced. Cheveldayoff had 11 seasons in his current position, far more than many general managers have received in other hockey positions. If there is continued regression with this group, there could and should be a wholesale change within the franchise.
The rabid Jets fan base deserves more than this so-so collection of talent. There simply isn’t enough depth for Winnipeg to lean on should the bug bite them hard again, and that’s another commentary on the mediocre job Cheveldayoff has done. Another year like last season will be hard enough for Jets fans to endure, but it will be exponentially worse if Winnipeg owner Mark Chipman doesn’t hold Cheveldayoff accountable for it.