One of the best surprises of last season was the Winnipeg Jets finally playing up to their potential. It was wonderful to watch and great to see what the team could do when they got above average goaltending amongst other components. The fact that the Jets finally took a major step forward this past season does not mean that they will remain at the same level this season.
There are a few reasons why it is unlikely that the Jets will repeat their performance from last season. The first one is we do not know of Connor Hellebuyck can repeat his performance from last season. There were many games early on where Hellebuyck was the reason the Jets had won them. It might not take too much of a fall-off for the Jets to lose a couple games.
The next reason is the loss of Paul Statsny. While the Jets were fine before Statsny, his addition changed things up for the team. It was obvious that something was off with Patrik Laine and Nikolaj Ehlers until it became apparent that the wrong piece was not the two wingers, but centre Bryan Little. Little is not a bad player, but he is not the right player for Laine and Ehlers. Maybe the Jets change things up and move Mark Scheifele between the two wingers or maybe things change with their chemistry and Little, but if nothing changes, the Jets could take a step back.
This leads us to the defence. While they are not doomed, these are still some concerns. The Jets lost Tobias Enstrom, who was an important part of the Jets top four no matter what his detractors say. The Jets do have Sami Niku waiting in the wings to hopefully take over the top-four spot that has been left open by Enstrom’s departure. However, the Jets currently do not have Josh Morrissey under contract and Dustin Byfuglien is a year older. If all goes well, Morrissey and Jacob Trouba are able to maintain their play from last season and Niku is able to play the role of Enstrom with Byfuglien with no issue. If not, the defence could become an issue for the Jets as the season rolls on.
The Jets definitely have the ability to be as good as they were last season. There was not a while lot of roster turnover and they still have strong pieces in place. However, there are a few glaring reasons that could lead to the Jets taking a step back. That said, it would mean the Jets in a Wild Card position at worst and not them missing the playoffs. In the playoffs, it might mean them not winning a round, but it would be no surprise depending on how they are actually playing. All in all, the Jets could easily take a step back this season, but they will not be a bottom-tier team in the league and they will be in the playoffs at the end of the season. What they do once the playoffs start is yet to be seen.