Unlike others that write for Arctic Ice Hockey, this writer is far more optimistic about this upcoming season. Not only will the Jets make the playoffs, but they will improve in several key areas. Here are five reasons why:
1. Depth at all positions
Having much better depth at all positions on the farm will help the Jets this year. At the end of last season it was obvious that many players were playing injured. No doubt lack of depth on the farm contributed to this. In a panic move, Kevin Cheveldayoff picked up Jay Harrison from the Hurricanes for a 6th round pick. Now we are saddled with his contract on the Moose. This does not happen to deeper teams. How many teams have two top ten goalie prospects ready to go on the farm? The duo of Connor Hellebuyck and Eric Comrie might be better than some NHL tandems!
2. Fourth line skill
In an interesting twist, Nic Petan may play on the fourth line this year with Andrew Copp and Chris Thorburn with Thomas Raffl subbing in as needed. This line certainly features more skill than any of the fourth lines put together in Jets 2.0 history. This bodes well for mundane things like scoring more goals, allowing less goals against, having fresh players for overtime, taxing your top nine forwards less, leading to less frequent injuries,etc.. You know, fairly minor stuff.
3. Better line combinations
The past few pre season games have featured line combinations which seemed to bring out the best in each player. Last year, the line of Drew Stafford - Mark Scheifele - Blake Wheeler was a good example of three respectable players that should not play together. How many times did they get pinned in the Jets defensive zone? Putting Stafford with Adam Lowry and Alex Burmistrov allows him to float out of the zone, while the other two hold down the fort defensively. Andrew Ladd, Bryan Little, and Blake Wheeler should never be split up. That leaves Mathieu Perreault with Mark Scheifele and Nikolaj Ehlers. It is hard not to get excited about that line.
4. Domination at 3 on 3
This team is built for the new overtime format. The last two three on three bouts have been a thing of beauty, with the Jets dominating the entire period and coming out on top.
5. Proximity of AHL team
More of an intangible benefit, but there are cap benefits as they can send down players and recall them with ease. With the teams being close, it is much easier for the coaches to communicate, much easier to bring up players and a heck of a lot less travel.
Wild card: less penalties, hopefully
The Jets had the most penalties last season and the worst spread. This led to fatigue, injuries, and of course worse outcomes during games. The Jets coaching staff probably has plans to work on this, and no doubt we likely won't see a repeat. That alone could make a huge difference on the outcome of the season.
Where do you think the Jets will end up this year? How much will the above contribute? Am I blowing smoke up your behind? Let us know!