The 2014-2015 season has come to a close for the Winnipeg Jets. After being swept on home ice by the Anaheim Ducks in the first round, the Jets have found themselves packing their bags earlier than many anticipated. The Jets might have been underdogs based on the standings heading in to the series, but many proclaimed them as the favourites. For example, TSN's Jeff O`Neill proclaimed the Jets as his Stanley Cup favourite. Expectations were high for this young and inexperienced squad. To the dismay of the Winnipeg faithful, the team underwhelmed and could not pull off the upset. It would be a stretch to say the Jets disappointed this season. In hindsight, expectations might have been a little too high heading into the postseason. Many of the Jets' players were just dipping their feet into postseason action - just getting there was an accomplishment itself.
This team wasn't supposed to be in the playoffs. At the beginning of the year, you'd have expected Jets fans would be huddled together watching the draft lottery rather than watching a playoff series. The Jets exceeded expectations and sped up the rebuild in the prairies.
It is also worth stating that this won't be the last time that the hockey world will hear and see the whiteout in Winnipeg. The Jets are a team on the rise.
The Jets have a solid, young roster as it stands, but they might be getting a injection of more youth in the near future. Top prospects such as Nicolas Petan and Nikolaj Ehlers could be knocking on the door for spots come training camp. Other prospects, such as Josh Morrissey, Scott Kosmachuk and Andrew Copp, are not far off either. In between the pipes, IceCaps' goalie Connor Hellebuyck wrapped up a stellar season down and he could create some competition between the pipes with Michael Hutchinson and Ondrej Pavelec once training camp rolls around.
Maybe if the Jets were healthier the team could have stolen a game in the series. After the season ended, it was announced that a lot of the Jets' key players were playing through injuries. Jets' captain Andrew Ladd played through a sports hernia, Jacob Trouba played through a broken hand, and Matthieu Perreault and Dustin Byfuglien played through dislocated ribs. That's a lot of hurting.
Head coach Paul Maurice deserves a lot of credit when it comes to the way that this team has preformed. Since the Jets fired head coach Claude Noel, Maurice provided a spark to the team. Since his arrival, this has become a new hockey team. This team takes pride in their physical play, and they leave the opposition black and blue afterwards.
The mastermind behind everything, Kevin Cheveldayoff deserves quite a bit of credit as well.
Cheveldayoff made the moves necessary to push this team into the playoffs. When the deadline rolled around, the Jets' roster had holes and it was apparent. Cheveldayoff knew this and acted on it. Despite Cheveldayoff's rather conservative approach regarding the trade market, he made moves when they needed to be made.
The moves payed off.
Without acquiring Drew Stafford, Jiri Tlusty and Lee Stempniak, would the Jets had even reached the playoffs? Maybe, but probably not. In the same string of deals, the Jets got rid of their biggest off-ice distraction in Evander Kane. The Jets also swapped Zach Bogosian for Tyler Myers in their blockbuster deal with the Buffalo Sabres. Since joining the Jets, Myers has been a delight to watch and it appears he has put his Buffalo struggles behind him.
Cheveldayoff may have been adding for the present, but since he arrived in Winnipeg, he has stuck to his draft and develop model. Draft picks Adam Lowry, Mark Scheifele and Jacob Trouba are already NHL regulars. He has also given a much-needed facelift to the Jets prospect system. The Jets inherited a weak prospect pool from Atlanta, and now 4 years later the Jets have some of the best prospects in the league.
Winnipeg may be cold. Winnipeg may not be the most desirable destination for free agents, but some players seem to really think this place is special, and they see potential in this team:
Woke up this morning so proud to be a Winnipeg Jet. Our group truly is special and our best years are ahead of us!— Blake Wheeler (@BiggieFunke) April 23, 2015
Thanks again for the love the last couple months. I'll never forget the feeling I had stepping on the ice for game 3!— Blake Wheeler (@BiggieFunke) April 23, 2015
Thank you Jets fans for a great year! The support throughout was amazing and I can't even begin to describe how incredible the whiteout was.— Michael Hutchinson (@mhutch34) April 23, 2015
Excited for what is a head for us!— Michael Hutchinson (@mhutch34) April 23, 2015
Ben Chiarot (@BChiarot7) April 23, 2015
So honoured to be a part of the Winnipeg Jet organization, this year will be one that I'll never forget and it excites me that— mark scheifele (@markscheifele55) April 23, 2015
The best is yet to come. Thanks to the amazing Jet fans that supported us through this amazing year you guys are the best.— mark scheifele (@markscheifele55) April 23, 2015
"This is one of the best, if not the best, hockey city to play in."
- Bryan Little
The final buzzer may have marked the end of the season, but the Jets will be back playing hockey in the springtime for years to come.