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MHH Previews the Lesser 29: Winnipeg

Welcome to a new installment where we will preview each of the other NHL teams who simply make up the bulk of the league the Avalanche play in. Today, we preview the Winnipeg Jets.

Bruce Fedyck-USA TODAY Sports

Their head coach: Paul Maurice. The 49 year old has bounced around some of the more strugglesome teams since he got his first NHL head coaching job a decade ago. He started in Toronto, got canned and fled south to Raleigh to spend several years with the Hurricanes, then after a brief stint in Russia with Mettalburg Magnitogorsk (what a great name!) of the KHL, he was hired by the Jets in January 2014. He got Winnipeg back into the Stanley Cup playoffs for the first time in forever in the 14-15 season, his first full season with the Jets, but last season wasn’t quite as kind to him or his team.

Their captain: Currently vacant, which was a result of Andrew Ladd being sent back to his old stomping grounds of Chicago at the trade deadline (now Ladd is with Carolina). My money on the captaincy award would be placed on Dustin Byfuglien, who I despise. I thought he murdered Tyson Barrie when the Jets and Avs played a game early in the 14-15 season. Many of you probably remember, if not, here’s a YouTube link for you: Nonetheless, Byfuglien is a big, scary, sometimes dirty player that I don’t want within 100 feet of anyone who dawns the burgundy and blue. I’ve felt like ever since the franchise moved from Atlanta to Winnipeg, Byfuglien has been the face of the Jets, so the Winnipeg “C” accompanied with his ugly mug would be appropriate.

Their 15-16 season: We’ll divide the Jets’ season in two parts. First, there was October. They went 7-3-1 that month, including a 4-1 beginning. Midway into the tenth month of the calendar year, it seemed very feasible that the Jets would win the Central, with how they’d been playing to that point. But 7-3-1 only accounts for 11 games in an 82 game slate. The remaining 71 games saw the Jets emass a 28-36-7 record. They became sellers at the trade deadline, hence the aforementioned Andrew Ladd move, and unquestionably the worst team in our division in comparison to the Avs and our other divisional foes.

How did they do against the Avs? They lost the season series as the Avs took 3 of the 5 games against Winnipeg. One of those Jets’ wins doesn’t even recognize for those of us that are all-around Denver sports fans. The Jets beat the Avs in Denver on February 6th. For those of you that understand why that’s significant, you’ll know because it was the night before the Denver Broncos took Super Bowl 50. No one who is both a Broncos and Avalanche fan, like myself, batted an eye about the Jets defeating the Avs the prior day when we went to sleep on the night of the 7th. So, in my eyes, the Avs and Jets played 4 games last season, and Winnipeg only won once.

When do they play the Avs this season? In Denver on October 28th and November 11th, at Winnipeg on December 18th, in Denver on February 4th, and at Winnipeg on March 4th.

Will they be good? I can’t say that they will be. Their most notable free agent acquisition, I think was getting Shawn Matthias, and I only say that because we know he can be a good depth-line player. They’ve got good veteran players like Blake Wheeler, Tyler Myers, and Ondrej Pavelec, but up against the Blackhawks, Blues, Stars, Predators, and of course the AVALANCHE, I don’t personally believe the Jets will be all that different of a team from the one they were last season.

3 Questions with their SB Nation blog, Arctic Ice Hockey:

-How excited is the Peg about Patrick Laine, and what do you expect out of him in his rookie campaign? The city is over-joyed with the prospects of watching Patrik Laine. Laine is arguably the second most highly touted draft pick in Winnipeg Jets history -behind Dale Hawerchuk. Laine fever has hit so hot and heavy that fans have seemingly forgotten they other kids that will be jumping onto to scene. Near the end of last season, Kyle Connor was the golden child of the Winnipeg Jets future. Now, he's hardly mentioned and some have suggested that he may not make the team out of camp. Expectations are hard to pin down, but I believe most expect him top play top 6 minutes, PP1 and push for 30 goals. That may be a high bar, but 40+ points should be doable.

-With how loaded the Central is, where do you predict the Jets to finish in the regular season standings? This is a lot tougher to nail down. The Jets weren't as bad as their record suggested last year. They were an okay possession team that was tanked by poor goaltending and inept special teams. Those are very very real problems, but not guaranteed to repeat themselves. Can Laine lift the powerplay with his quick and powerful release? Will Connor Hellebuyck take hold of the starter job and give the Jets NHL caliber goaltending? Without these answers, I'll default to "bubble team."

-Patience has got to be starting to run thin up there as it relates to becoming a Cup contender. How much longer will fans take this rebuilding stuff until big changes start being made? Some fans are already at the point of frustration. Others can't see past the optimism of Laine. Heck, I've seen multiple fans on Twitter suggest that Chevy is a top 5 GM in the NHL. Fans will be fans. If there is any reason for optimism, people will latch onto that. Kyle Connor, Connor Hellebuyck and Patrik Laine provide plenty of reason for optimism and that is unlikely to change within the next year or two.

Thanks to Tim Bonnar for taking the time to answer!