A player’s most rigorous time of the year is soon to be upon us. That time of the year is called training camp. Training camp in hockey is not as excruciating as a sport such as football.
HBO has chronicled the wear and tear of the training camp grind in football on their show Hard Knocks. In Football, in less than a months time the team must cut a roster from 90, down to 53.
In hockey, training camp does provide a hefty challenge for some. Except because of financial constraints made beforehand, there is not much room for someone to come out of nowhere and make the team.
Instead, the mystery and suspense that surrounds camp is rather who plays where rather than who makes the team at all. Though there is some suspense on whether rookies will make the team or be sent back to their respective junior clubs.
Nevertheless, there are questions looming regarding the Jets upcoming training camp.
Here are five storylines heading in to training camp.
Where is Evander Kane’s head at?
It seems as though people around Winnipeg ask this question every year, where is Evander Kane’s head at? This offseason provided no shortage of suspense.
This summer, Kane had his annual offseason controversial comment. It was on a Vancouver radio station where Kane was asked if he wants to play in Winnipeg anymore. After, a brief pause, Kane responds; " I am a Winnipeg Jet for now." Not the most promising answer from a player who is viewed as one of the faces of the franchise. That interview has been interpreted several ways. Some think that was Kanes way of expressing his desire to win. Others view it as an outlet for Kane to share his desire to be traded from the team.
My interpretation is that Kane wants to win, with the Jets or without the Jets. Kane figures that the Jets are not in a position to win, and wants out of Winnipeg. It will be truly interesting to see how Kane performs when he shows up for camp. Will he rise up and lift the Jets into the playoffs? If he does, will that change his outlook with the club?
Will Josh Morrissey make the team?
If you take a look at the Winnipeg Jets roster, you will quickly notice that there are some openings. There are also many young, up-and-coming players in the Jets system that could battle for a spot. Former first round picks Mark Scheifele and Jacob Trouba found spots on the Jets roster last year. Scheifele needed two years of seasoning in junior before making the leap to the pros. Trouba spent one season seasoning his game via the college route - playing one season with the Michigan Wolverines before leaping to the pros.
This year, Josh Morrissey is aiming to make the jump to pro hockey. Morrissey spent his 2013-2014 campaign playing in the WHL with the Prince Albert Raiders. After a 73 point season and an early exit from the playoffs, Morrissey was assigned to play for the Icecaps as they begun there quest to the Calder Cup. Morrissey gained experience and quality time getting used to the pro game. Talk that he could make the big squad has increased in frequency.
There is no doubt that Morrissey’s benefited from his stint in the AHL. It would definitely minimize the shock that a player normally experiences when jumping into the NHL. The big question is, what does Morrissey have to do to make the Jets? Morrissey needs to just play his game, a game comprised of tremendous skill and speed. Morrissey’s skillset is superb, especially when he quarterbacks the powerplay. He is extremely smart too. He can complete a precision outlet pass when leading an offensive rush and his skating allows him to rarely get caught too far out of position.
The Calgary Alberta native will be on the bubble to make the team all throughout training camp. I see the Jets taking full advantage of the nine games he is permitted to play without it burning off the first year of his Entry Level Contract. Morrissey has the skill to make the squad and he could impact the team in a big way if he does, but he will have to prove his worth across those first nine games to do so.
Will Zach Bogosian take the Next Step?
Zach Bogosian is getting paid like a star, but he certainly is not playing like a star. The Jets handed Bogosian a lucrative 7 year 36 million dollar deal prior to the 2013-2014 NHL season. As year two of the contract approaches, the Jets have not received close to enough bang for their buck. Looking at the Jets defenseman core, there is room for Bogosian to blossom. There is not a star defenseman standing in the way of Bogosian taking the next step and has all the tools to thrive.
Since being selected 3rd overall in the 2008 NHL Draft by the Thrashers, Bogosian has struggled to keep up with his 2008 draft class contemporaries. The likes of Steven Stamkos, Drew Doughty, Alex Pietrangelo and Erik Karlsson highlighting that draft class.
Bogosian has potential. Bogosian has proven that he can play in this league. Now is time for Bogosian to prove he can contribute at a high level. His physical edge is definitely noticeable, but the consistency of his decision making leaves something to be desired.
Bogosian has been thrown in to a situation where he will tons of minutes, usually upwards of 23 per game. Having a defenseman that can play that many minutes is valuable, but its also matters what he does during those minutes. A seven year, 36 million dollar deal, comes with high expectations. The team would, no doubt, like him to contribute more offensively. They also need a shut down stud.
The former Peterborough Pete has a chance to enter training camp healthy and prove that he is worth his big contract. Bogosian has been affected by injuries and as a result of that has experienced some shortened seasons.This needs to end as well. If Bogosian can stay healthy and provide more offensive punch than 11 points in 55 games, he could start to live up the hype came with his draft status.
Is there a Goalie Controversy Brewing In The Jets Crease?
Controversy always finds its way between the pipes in Winnipeg. This year should be no different. After a season to forget, Ondrej Pavelec once again enters the season atop the Jets depth chart. Many fans consider this to be an unfortunate reality. At this point, having Ondrej Pavelec as your goaltender is not an assuring thought.
Behind Pavelec on the depth chart you will find a young, up-and-coming goaltender in Michael Hutchinson. Hutchinson entered last season unknown to many fans. Through the course of the season he made a name for himself. Hutchinson worked his way up the ranks last season. Playing in the ECHL, AHL and eventually he had a three game stint with the Jets. In Hutchinsons three games with the Jets he finished off with a 2-1 record.
Since then the former Boston Bruins third round pick has been all but handed the backup job behind Ondrej Pavelec. We know who will be between the pipes to start the season, but we don't know how will the games be distributed.
Will the Jets give Pavelec the ball and let him run with it? Will they challenge him with Hutchinson? Will the starter's leash be long or short? Recent history makes me wonder if Hutchinson will be given a fair shot. Al Montoya was noticeably better than Pavelec a year ago. Pavelec continued to start with impunity. Will things change?
What Can Paul Maurice Do With The Jets In A Full Year?
Paul Maurice replaced Claude Noel on January 12 after it became increasingly evident Noel had lost a grip on the club. Quickly following Maurice’s entrance, it seemed players tried to make an impression on their new coach. The Jets started out 8-2 under Maurices. There appeared to be a newfound energy, but eventually their game regressed. They looked like the same old Jets.
Maurice wasn't able to change much after jumping in mid-season. Implementing new systems takes time. Maurice enters this year preaching fitness to the players. He also has a new set of systems that he would like to install. He will have a full training camp to do so. If Maurice improves the systems, pushes the players and cracks the whip, the team could improve. Whether or not he can improve them enough to compete in the Central Division is a whole other question.
If the team continues to stagnate, the attention will shift elsewhere. A coach can only have such an impact on its players. It is General Manager Kevin Cheveldayoff’s job is to assemble the roster, so roster change may come.
What are you most excited to see at training camp? Share your thoughts below.