So a new season is upon us! We have had a full training camp and a slate of preseason games to discuss, debate and forecast what the 2017-18 Winnipeg Jets should look like.
Let’s look at who is a lock to make the team and be on the ice!
Perreault – Scheifele – Wheeler
(They have practiced together for two straight days as the top line. Perreault and Wheeler are the team’s two best wingers for driving the play offensively, possession wise and might be the best wingers defensively as well. It seems like a waste having all of that talent and those particular skills loaded up on one line. This line could produce at an elite level but it leaves big holes throughout the rest of the line-up and really hurts the team’s depth. I would explore having Perreault and Wheeler anchoring separate lines to give the team a much needed matchup advantage.)
Laine – Little – Ehlers
(An absolutely skilled line with tons of offensive power, this line lacks a true play driver. Little is about as underrated a forward as you can find in the league, however his offensive and defensive numbers have started to decline. You can definitely point to his two freak injuries the last couple seasons as reasons for this but the truth is father time might also be catching up to Little. This line could be a force offensively on the backs of the two young European studs on the wings but they’ll need selected offensive zone starts. This line playing any kind of defence, worries me and I can see opposing coaches preying on them with the last change on the road. A simple swap of Wheeler with either Laine or Ehlers would be a huge boon to both lines)
Matthias – Lowry – Armia
(This seems like Paul Maurice’s security blanket. As a trio last year, MAL split the fans down the middle. Half the fanbase hailed them as a revelation. Some fun offensive rushes out of Joel Armia and the “grit” and “sandpaper” of Adam Lowry and Shawn Matthias raised them up in the casual and old school fans mind. However the analytics community was quick to point out that while the trio were strong defensively they didn’t produce nearly enough offensively to be counted on as a third line consistently. The Jets being a very top heavy team the last two years is one of the biggest reasons they were shut out of the postseason. Having these three playing a fourth line role, 10-12 minutes a night would benefit the team as a whole. Basically it comes down to the fact that as a third line they would be below league average, while as a fourth line they would be near elite. The best place for them and the team to succeed is on the fourth line)
Dano – Copp – Petan
(This line is a crapshoot. Between these 3 and the speedy Brendan Tanev, they are the only forwards left on the roster. Realistically you can mix and match these four and Matthias to find the fourth line, but it won’t be pretty. Having Dano and Petan on the fourth line playing 6-9 minutes a night doesn’t do the players individually or the team as a whole any favours. If structured this way, you now have two fourth lines every night which doesn’t bode well for the Jets playoff chances)
The coaching staff and Jets management talked a big game in the summer about wanting to spread out the scoring and having a talented top 9 but these early practices have painted a very different picture. Now that the preseason is officially over we aren’t seeing the fun, exciting, and modern approach we saw when the games didn’t matter. Gone are the Blake Wheelers playing on the third line, gone are the Petans in the top 9, where he could be successful, and gone is Kyle Connor, who was assigned to the AHLs Manitoba Moose. In their stead we’ll see much more of Brenden Tanev, Shawn Matthias and Matt Hendricks (once healthy) to start the year. In a year where we expected change and excitement, we might be seeing just more of the same.
Let’s hope I’m wrong though.