What’s Next for the Winnipeg Jets?

What’s Next for the Winnipeg Jets?
Christopher Hair

The Winnipeg Jets played the Anaheim Ducks well. In fact, the argument could be made that they outplayed the Ducks for large chunks of their conference quarterfinal series. In the end, it was all for nothing as the Ducks swept Winnipeg in four games following their 3-2 victory in the MTS Centre on Wednesday night.

The Jets season was a success, making the playoffs for the first time since moving to Manitoba. But just because it was successful doesn’t mean it was enough. Nobody should be happy with a four game sweep, no matter how competitive the series ended up being.

Winnipeg was outscored eight to one in the third period and overtime in the series. The Ducks spent the entire year thriving in close game situations, and it carried over into this series. The Jets had the lead after two periods in all of the first three games and lost them all as Anaheim’s playoff experience and savvy really made a difference.

The veterans that were expected to lead the way for Winnipeg largely failed to produce. Andrew Ladd, Dustin Byfuglien, Mathieu Perreault, Michael Frolik, and Jiri Tlusty combined for four points in the series.

All of them were assists.

Team captain Ladd had 11 shots in the first three games without a point. He did add an assist in game four, but only mustered one shot on goal. Big Buff’s signature moment of the series wasn’t a laserbeam shot or a clutch goal like he showcased in his Stanley Cup run with the Blackhawks. Instead, it was a selfish, undisciplined blow to the back of Corey Perry‘s head while he was celebrating a goal.

The Jets made significant changes to the roster this season, bringing in playoff experienced players, hoping they would provide an edge for them down the stretch and in the postseason. Tyler Myers, Drew Stafford, Lee Stempniak and the aforementioned Tlusty provided three of the team’s nine total goals. They also chipped in one total assist. One.

Compare that with the performance of Anaheim’s Ryan Kesler, who tallied three goals and an assist just in the two games played in Winnipeg.

Now that their season is over, their are some questions the Jets will have to answer. Frolik and Jim Slater are both unrestricted free agents, as are trade acquisitions Stafford, Stempniak and Tlusty. Andrew Ladd and Byfuglien will be entering the final year of their respective contracts. Should the Jets try and work out extensions with them in the offseason or maybe look into trading them?

At this moment in time, Winnipeg has only seven forwards under NHL contract for next season. There may be a lot of new faces around the True North team next year.

There were plenty of positives to takeaway from 2015 for the Jets. They are a younger team with plenty of upward mobility. Mark Scheifele is a steady, young pivot and Adam Lowry is a budding star. Perreault grew into a true top six forward after struggling to break into that spot in Washington. Jacob Trouba and Tyler Myers should be the anchors for their defense for years.

But the Winnipeg Jets still haven’t won a playoff game since April 27, 1993. This iteration of the Jets franchise has never won a postseason game. The raucous crowds of the MTS Centre showed why the NHL moved back to Winnipeg. Now can they finally be rewarded with a team that wins when it matters? The Jets have a lot of work to do this offseason to make that happen.

Christopher Hair

Christopher Hair has been an avid hockey fan for 20 years. He grew up on the Hollywood Kings of the late 80’s and early 90’s with Wayne Gretzky, Jari Kurri, Kelly Hrudey, and Luc Robitaille. Growing up in Glendale, Arizona he is living proof that hockey fans can be made and come from the desert. He is also an editor for Five for Howling.

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