The Winnipeg Jets aren’t sure what they are. And, now that they’re hanging around the playoff race and could actually get into the 2022 NHL postseason, it’s become even more unclear if the team should go through a soft retooling, a rebuild of sorts, or just need a couple of pieces to put them back into contention as one of the better, more skilled and ready teams in the NHL.
It wasn’t long ago that many insiders viewed the Jets as a team to watch. With Mark Schiefele, Nikolaj Ehlers, and Patrik Laine leading the charge, a leadership core of Blake Wheeler and Bryan Little, plus a strong blue line group with scoring talent like Kyle Connor coming up, some thought they had the potential to be a great team one day. With Connor Hellebuyck in the net, it only made it seem more likely this team would do good things before stuff went sideways. Cut to just a couple of seasons later and the blue line was completely changed, Laine was moved out for Pierre-Luc Dubois and Little is done in the NHL. Moreover, there’s been talk of big changes, including Scheifele possibly finding a new home as early as this summer.
The Jets spent this year’s NHL Trade Deadline moving out some key pieces, most notably Andrew Copp, and it was believed the organization would take a good look in the mirror and try to formulate a new plan. Head coach Paul Maurice left the team in the middle of the season and few seemed to know where the Jets were going. That may still be the case, but if this club somehow manages to make it into the playoffs, it’s hard to know what to expect moving forward. If they make a run, all bets are off as to what changes might come and what expected changes will be scrapped.
At the same time, it might be important for the Jets to learn the lesson the Montreal Canadiens didn’t. Montreal got in last season, made a miraculous run, thought they were a better team than they were, and in 2021-22, the wheels fell off. If the Jets aren’t careful, they could be next season’s version the Habs.
As Mike Stevens of The Hockey News writes:
This means Cheveldayoff will almost certainly need to thread the needle between rebuilding and rebooting in order to prolong — or, quite frankly, re-open — the Jets’ contention window. It’s a balancing act few GMs have managed to pull off in the salary cap era, especially those as averse to major roster change as Chevy.
Do the Jets See What Montreal Did and Make Big Changes?
It’s easy to get caught up in the idea that your team is actually better than it is. Squeaking into the playoffs can give a false sense of hope that a club is only a couple of small changes away from being right there with the best in the league. Frankly, the Jets are no longer that team. A far cry from the huge expectations that were placed upon them by insiders as little as two seasons ago, things have drastically changed for this franchise.
Is it time the Jets look at what they really are who can really help them and pull the trigger on deals that might be hard but are also necessary? Losing Scheifele certainly isn’t ideal, but it might be required to get this team back on track and actually a legitimate contender again.
This isn’t to suggest that Scheifele is to blame for the lack of success this Jets team has had. It’s merely an observation that in order for the team to get the pieces they need to be as good as many would have hoped they’d be one day, they need to move the one piece that can get them the biggest return.
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