What a difference a year makes! Part of the stress/excitement of being a fan of a professional sports team is the unknown. The inevitable changes in your team’s fortunes due to free agency, injuries, trades, or players enjoying semi-retirement at various Earls locations. At the beginning of last season the Jets were seen as a legitimate Stanley Cup contender. This season the Jets are viewed by most as a borderline playoff team, based on last season’s results and a plethora of player personnel changes, both expected and unexpected.
After starting the season with a difficult four game Eastern road trip, the Jets record is an impressive 2 - 2. Given the challenges the team has faced, I think everyone around the NHL is surprised by this result.
It’s far too early to make any conclusions based on four games, but, as we embark on this seven month regular season hockey journey, let’s check in with how worried we are about the team going forward using the arbitrary three-level anxiety level scale.
Not At All Worried
Panic/Losing Sleep Worried
Our defense – Panic/Losing Sleep Worried
I’m very, very worried. Despite my worries, I still support that Kevin Cheveldayoff did the right thing trading Jacob Trouba as well as letting Tyler Myers and Ben Chiarot walk. Unfortunately, he did so thinking he’d have Dustin Byfuglien and a healthy Josh Morrissey in the line up. Morrissey’s injury should not keep him out too long (fingers crossed). Buff’s decision was seemingly a complete surprise to the organization, and his status is unknown. Understandably, the Jets are being patient and giving Buff the time and respect he deserves to make a decision about his future. On the other hand, I don’t think Chevy can let this situation simmer for too much longer.
As much as we’ve been impressed by the play so far of Ville Heinola, Neal Pionk and Tucker Poolman, if the Jets continue to ice a defense consisting of mostly the six players they used in Pittsburgh, there are going to be some tough nights. Morrissey’s return improves the defense greatly, but, only to the level of borderline playoff team. These are uncertain, exciting times Jets fans. Which leads me to …
Potential Trades for a Defenseman – Moderately Worried
If Buff retires, or if the duration of his absence continues much longer, I think Chevy will seriously explore trading for a defenseman. My worries stem from who is potentially available, and at what price. The standard price for a top pairing defenseman seems to be a first round draft pick. That frightens me as I’m always reluctant to trade a first round pick (hello Kevin Hayes), but particularly when that pick may potentially be a lottery pick. If this were a year ago when we were all riding the Jets as Stanley Cup contender wave, I’d say if you can trade a late first round pick for a top pair defenseman, you do it without hesitation. Unfortunately, we’re in a vastly different place now.
Sorry to be a pessimist here, but, there is the potential with injuries or below average goaltending that somewhere around the new year, the Jets could be headed towards the draft lottery. Our first round draft pick might become more valuable than in previous years, which makes me reluctant to deal it. So the question becomes, what are you willing to give up for a potential top two or four defenseman? Future first round pick? Young forward with potential like Jack Roslovic? Package of top prospects including Kristian Vesalainen or Mason Appleton? Stand pat with the young defense we have? There are no easy answers.
Top Two Lines – Not at All Worried
Ending on a positive note, our top six forwards, however deployed, look very good. I suspect we’ll win some games 6 – 4 this season thanks to offensive skills of that group. Patrik Laine has played well and has added assists to his repertoire. Nikolaj Ehlers looks lightning fast and more confident in the offensive zone. Mark Scheifele and Blake Wheeler are who they are – two of the best forwards in the NHL. I’m not 100% sure who the second line center will end up being for most of the season, but our other top five forwards have been excellent.
What are your thoughts readers? Worried? Chill? Too soon to panic? What suggestions do you have as GM for a day? Let us know in the comments.
P.S. Buff, if you’re reading this, please come back. One last season even if you do want to retire. We can do the Kawhi Leonard load management thing. Have a proper retirement season. Standing ovations at Bell MTS Place. Respectful applause in opposing arenas. Plus, there is literally $7 million waiting for you. We really need you!