Much has been made about how the Winnipeg Jets goal this offseason was to get bigger up front. After the free agent signings of Alexei Ponikarovsky and Olli Jokinen the general consensus is that the mission has been accomplished.
Grantland’s Bill Barnwell already did a piece discussing how size does not automatically equal wins in the NHL, so I’ll leave that argument aside for the time being. But I would question the contention that last season’s Jets were a small team.
In 2012 the average NHL player was 200.5 pounds in weight and 72.0 inches in height. The average Jets forward (minimum fifteen games played) weighed 201.4 pounds and stood 73.5 inches tall. This was not an undersized team.
While the additions of Poni and Olli do make the Jets bigger up front, that is largely due to the fact that the 5’9" 180 pound Tim Stapleton has been banished to Minsk of the KHL for next season. The team has already lost the large body of Tanner Glass and Eric Fehr is very likely to be playing somewhere else next season. Fans should not be moaning about the loss of these two strapping lads, because they are marginal NHL players.
If size is the cure all for the Winnipeg Jets’ woes, bumping Nik Antropov up to a more prominent role would be the answer. At 6’6" and 245 pounds Antropov is the biggest forward on the roster, even after the offseason activity.
After seeing the LA Kings romp to the Stanley Cup this season the monkey see monkey do world of NHL GMs has seen the mantra of "we need more size up front" become so overused that it is an understatement to refer to it as a cliché. Lost in the analysis of the Kings is that the biggest reason they won the Cup is that they have one of the top two goalies in the game.
If the Kings were to replace Jonathan Quick with Ondrej Pavelec, their playoff results would have been very different and there would be less drooling over the size of their forwards. Conversely, if the Jets had the good fortune to swap out Pavelec for Quick, the team’s improved results would make the size of the forwards suddenly less of an issue.
The Jets had none of the top 30 point producing centres in the NHL last season. With Bryan Little centering the first line and a revolving door of players manning the centre position on the second line, the Jets may not have been big up the middle, but the main ingredient missing was overall skill.
Of the top 30 point producing centres + Sidney Crosby, the average height was 73 inches and the average weight was 199.1 pounds. Getting one or more players that can play centre and produce at a high enough level to make that list should have been the priority of the offseason. Luckily enough, Winnipeg signed the only available player on that list this offseason, Olli Jokinen.
Poni is a good addition to the team, because he is a better winger than Tanner Glass, the guy he is replacing on the third line. Olli is a good addition because he is a better centre than what the team was putting out there on the second line last season. If Pavel Datsyuk had been available instead of Jokinen, I hope that the Jets would have made a strong attempt to sign him despite of his comparably diminutive size because the Jets need to acquire better players to improve, regardless of their physical measurements.