The fans that routinely pack the MTS Centre love the Winnipeg Jets; The Hockey News, however, does not.
By all accounts, the Winnipeg Jets have had themselves a rather productive NHL offseason, far more so than they could claim of their 2010-11 whirlwind which was three months of mashing square pegs into round holes in preparation for their first season after moving north from Atlanta
But today, The Hockey News -- once a staple in hockey publications -- chose to tear down True North's efforts in their latest series of pre-season predictions. It only took two editions for their prognosis to go off the rails, which is impressive considering a vast majority of their writers have been behind the curve for years now. After previously predicting the New York Islanders to finish dead last in the Eastern Conference for the 2012-13 season, they have followed up with the assumption that the Winnipeg Jets won't fair much better, coming in with the second worst record in the entire conference.
The Jets were awful on the road last season so a sudden improvement there would go a long way. Still, what this team has in talent on the blueline, it greatly lacks up front. Blake Wheeler and Evander Kane had career years in 2011-12, but will they continue that ascension, stall, or fall back? Can Bryan Little regain the 30-goal form from 2008-09? The Jets offense needs a stud to assume control and for their plethora of youth to continue to rise. But when you rely on things like this to happen for your team to be successful, you're walking a thin line.
Firstly, it would seem to even the most casual observer that the Jets will be more aptly prepared for their road trips this year, especially given the experiences they've gained after a treacherous 2011-12 schedule. Last year, the Jets logged the most travel miles of any Eastern Conference team, keeping them away from the (204) area code longer than they had anticipated, as noted by GM Kevin Cheveldayoff.
"From a travel standpoint, we're much more prepared. Last year was the unknown," Cheveldayoff said during a Monday afternoon phone conversation. "Where we may have come home after a game, we may stay. You thought you might be doing the right thing and maybe you weren't. It's just common sense. Not trying to push it."
With a better understanding of the ins-and-outs of how to prepare for their schedule, it's difficult to imagine the Jets posting another 14-22-5 record away from their friendly confines.
Furthermore, THN point points out the Jets will be relying heavily on their "youth", completely glossing over the additions of Olli Jokinen -- one of the most prized centres during this summers free agency period -- and Alexei Ponikarovsky, who both no doubt stabilize a top nine which they deem to be "lacking". With no disrespect meant towards Tanner Glass and Tim Stapleton, Jokinen and Ponikarovsky are far superior hockey players. Additionally, thanks to both those signings, the Jets will now have an actual semblance of a third line, unlike last year when a sub-par fourth line was given a cute nickname and masqueraded as a great shutdown line, which in fact, they were not.
More unfathomable of the analysis is that somehow, THN fawns over the defensive depth of the Jets, a vastly overstated paper tiger which has not been addressed as September arpproaches, save for the addition of Paul Postma to their corps. While the team did play relatively sound defensive hockey last season, you cannot deny the combination of Mark Flood and Randy Jones were regular roster players for the majority of the season and their absence has been filled with further unproven internal talent.
It seems as though our prognosticators lazily dusted off their copies of the 2011-12 final standings, noted that the Carolina Hurricanes had added an abundance of talent -- assuredly vaulting them past the Jets -- and assumed that the Montreal Canadiens had done enough to conclude the same, dropping Winnipeg to second last on their list of potential 2012-13 playoff candidates.
Sound analysis. Their crew really worked hard to put that one together.
Though THN's article has drawn our ire, fans of the team should remain cautious of a possible berth in the 2012 playoffs. To be sure, the team has improved itself by leaps and bounds with their offseason additions, enough so that they, along with six other Eastern Conference teams, should be in a dog fight in late March for the final two or three playoff spots left for grabs. Those odds aren't in Winnipeg's favor, but still give fans a reason to believe in hockey past the first week of April.
And that's also not to say that THN won't update these predictions once more before the start of the 2012-13 season, taking into account how training camps and injury situations shake out. But to claim the Winnipeg Jets actually got worse than teams who were nearly stagnant this summer (*cough*
Now it's time to throw it to AIH readers: Where do you think the Jets will finish this year? Hit us up in the comments section.