It is hard to say what the Winnipeg Jets defence will look like this year except it will be very different than previous iterations. After years of needing changes, Kevin Cheveldayoff made some trades and has appeared to have significantly upgraded the defence which will be a huge boost to the Winnipeg Jets if it works.
The Jets most significant move on defence might be one that did not happen: Dylan DeMelo not being claimed by the Seattle Kraken allowed the Jets to retain one of their steadiest defenders and build off of him. Trades for Nate Schmidt and Brendan Dillon should further bolster the Jets blueline. It won’t be a big name blue line, but it should be better than last year’s defence at least.
The biggest thing with the defence now is for them to play a system that lends to their strengths rather than forces them into a box. If they are allowed to move the puck and activate on offence, we should see a better team going forward.
We are already seeing the returns on the new defence in pre-season. Ville Heinola, who spent last year becoming a popcorn taster, has been playing with DeMelo and has the opportunity to be on a sneaky good pairing for the Jets. Their strengths are slightly difference and DeMelo’s veteran savvy should help with Heinola’s youthfulness.
This defence will probably struggle at times, but the bones are stronger than anything the Jets have put out since they dressed a top four of Dustin Byfuglien, Tobias Enstrom, Jacob Trouba, and Josh Morrissey before Morrissey forgot how to hockey. It was a beautiful time.
The Jets have struggled on defence so much since then it will be interesting to see a team that has the potential to be so much more than that. They have the potential to actually have a trustworthy defence that won’t rely on their goalie to bail them out all the time. They will have a defence that can move the puck.
The defence used to be a point of worry for the Jets. It is now a point of intrigue and optimism for the Jets and their fans because it no longer looks like the team will get hemmed in with no one capable of skating the puck out. If anything, the defence as it stands right now has some interesting looks and should be a boon for the Jets.