If you have followed my Love Hate series from its beginning then you're already painfully aware that my writings are merely a cheap rip-off of a very popular column that Matthew Berry writes for ESPN. Week after week, Berry publishes his articles regarding which NFL players he loves or hates in fantasy football match-ups for that given weekend, adding personal life stories or quirky anecdotes in his lede.
So it should come as a surprise to no one that I turn back to The Talented Mr. Roto for hip and poignant writing ideas when the few creative juices that reside in my brain dry up. Hey, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, after all!
Leading up to every NFL season, Matthew Berry writes a bold predictions column entitled You Heard Me!, aimed to provide his readers with the additional fantasy-angled ammo required to win their draft day, or -- better yet -- their league. With that in mind and the Winnipeg Jets' season set to kick off tomorrow, I have decided to hock yet another of Berry's columns for my own gain, because why stop at one? In a world full of flimflammers, I am undoubtedly the most flimflamiest. I'm like a swindling version of Charlie Brown.
In any event, I looked deep into my crystal ball of fortune and will regale you all with my findings throughout this article. Please remember this is supposed to be a bold predictions column so I forgive me if the article doesn't point out the obvious prognostications that have already been covered in other articles on this site.
So without further adieu, here are the five boldest predictions I could muster. Enjoy!
Andrew Ladd will post his worst statistical season since joining the franchise.
Woah, crazy crazy. Way to come out of the gate swinging for the fences. The rest of this article has nowhere to go but down. But bear with me now, people. Ladd is set to celebrate his 29th birthday in December and studies show that NHL players tend to peak in their mid-twenties while hitting their downslope into their late-twenties and early-thirties. For many NHLers, closing in on their thirties signifies that they are in the twilight of their careers. At this point, those that stick around at hockey's highest level are either i) earning paycheques for what they accomplished five years ago, ii) display vast quantities of grit, heart, character, and truculence, or iii) have valuable playoff experience and/or have won a Stanley Cup. Check, check, triple check Andrew Ladd!
Now this isn't to say that Ladd will all of a sudden become a footnote on the scoresheet entirely. To be sure, Ladd has posted 50-point campaigns in three of the last four season since being traded to the Atlanta Thrashers in 2010-11. The one year he missed that distinguished plateau was the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season in which he scored 46 points in 48 games.
Consistency, be thy name!
But this is a bold predictions article it doesn't get much bolder than flying in the face of sound logic. My theory is that Ladd will miss a bit of time this season due to injury. As he has played in nearly every game since calling Winnipeg his home, I'm banking on the odds his quasi ironman streak ends in 2014-15. Maybe he'll have another baby. Maybe they'll be twins. Maybe his babies will have babies in some genetic super baby plot twist. In any case, Winnipeg will erupt and overreact for no reason. Put me down for a 40-point season for the captain. You heard me!
The Winnipeg Jets will finish fourth in the Central Division.
That's right, I didn't stutter. If I didn't lose you by betting against Winnipeg's prodigal son then I surely lost you here. Thanks for the page views though! While it's true that the Central Division now boasts star attractions the likes of Ales Hemsky, Jason Spezza, James Neal, Jarome Iginla and so on, Conference III still strikes me as an arms race which will be decided late into the season.
The Chicago Blackhawks, St. Louis Blues, and Dallas Stars are all likely to claim top spots in the division, but I still can't shake the notion that the Colorado Avalanche simply cannot continue to beat their opposition despite being outshot 2:1, Nashville Predators' goaltender Pekka Rinne is going to struggle as he works his way back from a hip injury and the mind-numbingly boring Minnesota Wild will maintain their penchant as a team that doesn't (or can't) score goals.
So, you heard me! The Winnipeg Jets won't be the worst team in their division. The downside though is that they won't make the playoffs either, as two Pacific Division opponents will finish ahead of them in the Wild Card race. Get ready for another draft pick outside the top five. But hey, progress is progress!
Michael Hutchinson will become the de-facto starting goaltender.
Though he may never be appointed the true heir to the throne, both Paul Maurice and Kevin Cheveldayoff will acquiesce to the idea of Ondrej Pavelec owning the Jets' crease, choosing winning to be more valuable to their careers than maintaing self image. You heard me! This is the year that the lead role of starting goaltender is finally up for casting and Michael Hutchinson is your Cyrano de Bergerac. It was the part he was born to play, baby!
The platoon of Hutchison and Pavelec will tandem the Jets' goal akin to how Richard Nixon Spiro Agnew ran the White House; controversially. But dammit, they got the job done -- at least for awhile -- and so will these two. For Pavelec, the emergence of Hutchinson will prove to management how expendable he is. After 2014-15, he Ryan Phillippe post Cruel Intentions.
How do you say goodbye in Czech?
Evander Kane will contend for the Maurice "Rocket" Richard Trophy.
Let the good news keep coming, Jets' fans! Since seeing the NHL return to Winnipeg, there has remained one trend which has exposed itself with this roster. Evander Kane likes to shoot the puck. A lot. In each of the past three season, Kane has ranked top five in shots per 60 minutes (13.44, 11.54, 11.83) for players registering over 500 minutes in TOI. Shots on net typically equate to goals, and I feel as though Kane has been afflicted by bad luck these past two seasons. I predict a monster season for Kane; one that will hopefully silence his critics once and for all. You heard me! Evander Kane will score 37 goals and finish as a finalist for the Maurice "Rocket" Richard Trophy.
Kevin Cheveldayoff will trade one of his key prospects.
The 2014-15 season will be the year of Kevin Cheveldayoff. With increased pressure mounting from his fan base to improve his roster by hook or by crook, the man they call Chevy will actually make an important prospect-for-player trade in an effort to building a winning contender. The Western Conference will be a slugfest this year and the allure of a playoff berth come early April will prompt management to try like a zombie apocalypse survivor to secure a spot at the Big Dance. Yes, the mantra around here has been draft and develop, but that's hardly bold. And when your back is up against the wall in a results-driven business the temptation will to instantly contend will become too sweet to pass up. Will it be Adam Lowry? Will it be Nicolas Petan? Will it be Eric Comrie? Time will tell. Yeah, you heard me!
I pooled some of Arctic Ice Hockey's readership for their thoughts on the upcoming season as I was completing my own research for this article, asking who would have a break out season, who would have a disappointing season and where the Jets would finish in the standings. Suffice to say, they were not overly optimistic, especially regarding the play of Zach Bogosian.
@pitty_da_fool: This is the year of Evander Kane. I'm going to say Zach Bogosian will disappoint because I'm not sure Ondrej Pavelec being Ondrej Pavelec is disappointing. We will finish somewhere in the FML zone [9-12 in the Western Conference].
@ShaunaRaeG33: Zach Bogosian will disappoint for sure. Expect the Jets' to probably finish near last in our division. There are just too many good teams. I think Michael Frolik will break out this year.
@IanDmytriw: Evander Kane will impress while Zach Bogosian's slump will continue. I'm picking the Jets to finish 6th worst [in the NHL standings].
Now, onto the Love Hate!
Things I love this week:
It's showtime: Gone are useless pre-season games in which a bunch of lower depth players are fighting for NHL jobs. It's time for the league to go best-on-best. May the best team win.
Things I hate this week:
The NHL is back to regularly scheduled programming and this column is reaching 1,700 words. What could I possibly hate that would be enough to keep you interested?
Ed. Note: What are your bold predictions for the 2014-15 Winnipeg Jets' season. Let us know in the comments section below. Love Hate will return to its regularly scheduled Monday slot beginning Monday, October 20.