A focused and determined Connor Hellebuyck addressed the media on Wednesday as the Winnipeg Jets prepare for their home opener against the Calgary Flames – one week away! The 2020 Vezina winner was asked about his goals moving forward. As a big proponent of an athlete’s mindset and mental performance skills, I absolutely loved his answer: “Well, now the only one that matters is the Stanley Cup.”
Can Jets Win the Cup?
So, is the Stanley Cup within reach for the city of Winnipeg and the Jets organization? Only time will tell, but a quick SWOT (Strengths, Weakness, Opportunity, and Threat) analysis might help break things down.
Jets’ Strengths: The Forwards
When the teams starting goaltender is the reigning Vezina winner, I think it is safe to chalk that up as a strength. Although last season was an average one for back-up Laurent Broissoit, he is no slouch either. A former WHL champion with the Edmonton Oil Kings, he is a specimen of an athlete and fans should expect a better supporting performance from him this season.
In my opinion, the Jets forward group is one of the better all-around units in the NHL. Very well balanced in terms of skill, talent, youth, and experience. Perhaps most importantly, is the depth of players willing to play and thrive in a more traditional bottom six role. The elephant in the room is Patrik Laine. His departure would make the forward group less lethal, but it also might help the Jets address a minor weakness.
Jets’ Weakness: The Blue Line
Perhaps the biggest weakness in Winnipeg could be the depth of the defensive unit. They still have some decent players, led by Josh Morrissey, but the depth has not been the same since Dustin Byfuglien’s departure. I have mentioned it before, but the Jets disproportion in salary allocation between forwards and defense is the largest in the league. Further, the defensive unit is the lowest paid collective group in the league – seven players making $16,075,000.
Opportunities for the Jets
Could a Laine trade help re-balance the salary allocation and strengthen the defense? Definitely. Will the Jets pull the trigger on that transaction? Seems like it is headed in that direction but GM Kevin Cheveldayoff seems to have a minimum return threshold and will likely stick by that for the time being. Yes, Laine is an amazing talent, but sometimes the continuous headache is not worth the hassle. Especially if you can get an appropriate return and improve the team
The other opportunity is the Jets playing in the new Canadian division. Not only do teams in this division have one less team to compete with for a playoff spot (7 teams in Canadian division vs 8 teams in the other three divisions), but it also might be the weakest of temporary divisions.
The biggest threat the team faces now is not getting anything back for Laine only to have him leave for nothing later – he becomes an RFA after this season, but that would likely be a nightmare of a process if it even gets there.
In terms of core players aging out, that list is short. 34-year-old captain Blake Wheeler is aging but has not showed signs of slowing down production wise. Mathieu Perrault (33) and recently reacquired Paul Stastny (35) have decelerated but are still useful players – both veterans become UFA’s after the 2020-21 season concludes.
Like every NHL team, the Jets still have several items to address before they are a true Stanley Cup contender, but they do appear well positioned in the short and mid-term.
Under a week away folks! The NHL season will be a great distraction from the ‘reality’ that has taken over North America at the moment.
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