The 2017-2018 season was a drastic success for the Jets. Easily their best since the return to Winnipeg. They made the conference final. How much more could you possibly ask for? Well other than the Cup I suppose, you’ve got me there.
Hopes were high for 2018-2019. The tough Central Division seemed to lack it’s former dominance. This was the year for the big, strong, and young Jets to make their presence known.
They made the playoffs. They never looked to be the power house we thought they were. That Stastny trade last year shored up a lot of issues that showed up again this year. The lack of a true second centre, coupled with Patrik Laine forgetting how to score for 6 months (yet somehow still hitting 30 goals, incredible to think he had a rough year with THIRTY goals), lots of injuries, and Connor Hellebuyck having a slight dip in production lead to an average overall season.
Let’s start with the good stuff. Blake Wheeler, Kyle Connor, and Mark Scheifele are one of the greatest lines I have seen. They have everything you would want and more. One passer, one finisher, and a large, fast centre that can do both. They destroyed opponents physically while scoring at elite rates all year. They were awesome. They made up for deficiencies they had all year.
The other young guys had a little more trouble. Patrik Laine started really slow in October, but then torched all teams in the month of November. He scored 18 goals in 12 games that month, including 3 hat-tricks. The rest of the season was a hard time; finishing with 30 goals and 20 assists on the year. Not ideal from the player we are labeling elite. (Don’t get me wrong he is elite, absolutely, just a tough year.)
Nikolai Ehlers missed 20 games this year. His production saw a dip throughout the year as well. He finished the year with 21 goals, 16 assists for a total of 37 points.
Their high power offence pulled them through the season. They survived limited games with Dustin Byfuglien, Josh Morrissey, Ehlers, and others. The playoffs are a chance for them to reset and become the beast they were supposed to be. They geared up big for it too.
When push came to shove at trade the deadline they pulled and trigger and got Kevin Hayes. The price was high, but the need was greater. Though he isn’t as good as Stastny was last season, he has been good, and more importantly, allows everyone on the roster to slot into better roles.
They also made about 800 other trades. None of them relevant.
When the season was all said and done, their second in the Central was a great result, except it meant they get the Blues in the first round. A really good team.
So far, well, the team that has been hottest since January 1st in the entire NHL, has continued to be a powerhouse. Leading the series 2-1 the Blues haven’t even gotten help them their top dogs this post-season, yet. Their new goalie and their depth forwards have carried the weight so far, making life hard for the Jets in every zone.
To their credit the Jets have kept things close, Laine has scored in all three games, a huge boost for Winnipeg. Dustin Byfuglien is back with a vengeance and Jacob Trouba is as good as can be. Connor Hellebuyck is not giving games away.
We are in for a good week of match-ups still to come. Maybe, just maybe, the Jets can cause some chaos and do some damage, just like they did last year.