Puck Daddy’s 2016-17 NHL Preview: Winnipeg Jets

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Last Season: 35-39-8 (78 points); 7th in Central Division; 11th in West

The season began with hopes of building off their first playoff appearance since returning to Winnipeg. The season ended with another early start to their off-season and their captain, Andrew Ladd, dealt to the Chicago Blackhawks after extension talks went nowhere.

The Jets would end up just missing out on the Auston Matthews sweepstakes in the NHL Draft lottery, but landed a decent runners-up prize in Patrik Laine at No.2 overall. GM Kevin Cheveldaeoff made two big moves before opening night in re-signing Mark Scheifele (82-26- 52-78) to an extension and waiving goaltender Ondrej Pavelec, paving the way or Michael Hutchinson and Connor Hellebuyck to battle for the No. 1 job.

2015-16 Season, In One Picture

BUFFALO, NY – JUNE 24: Patrik Laine, selected second overall by the <a class="link rapid-noclick-resp" href="/nhl/teams/wpg/" data-ylk="slk:Winnipeg Jets">Winnipeg Jets</a>, poses for a portrait during round one of the 2016 NHL Draft at First Niagara Center on June 24, 2016 in Buffalo, New York. (Photo by Jeff Vinnick/NHLI via Getty Images)
BUFFALO, NY – JUNE 24: Patrik Laine, selected second overall by the Winnipeg Jets, poses for a portrait during round one of the 2016 NHL Draft at First Niagara Center on June 24, 2016 in Buffalo, New York. (Photo by Jeff Vinnick/NHLI via Getty Images)

Hello ladies…

Did They Get Better, Worse, Or Are They About The Same?

The lineup stayed relatively the same for the Jets with a few exceptions.

First, the big elephant in the room. RFA Jacob Trouba remains unsigned, and as of publication, is still the property of the Jets despite the request for a trade. The most notable addition is the No. 2 overall pick in the draft – Patrik Laine. The team also added Kyle Connor, Shawn Matthias, Brandon Tanev and Josh Morrissey.

One thing that sticks out the most about the Jets is how young they are. The ‘old guys’ on the team are Chris Thorburn (33) and Mark Stuart (32). The team has six players in the thirties and the rest range from 28-years-old to 18.

Five Most Fascinating Players

1. Patrik Laine. What’s scarier: the weight of the expectations of a hockey mad environment or being compared to Mario Lemieux? To Laine, probably neither. The 18-year-old is full of confidence with a personality to match. At least, he has a great personality for now, until the NHL pummels it right out of him. Can he overcome the shadow of Auston Matthews he’s lived in since the draft?

2. Jacob Trouba. His agent released a statement that his client requested to be traded so he can play on the right side – with another team. The Jets did invite him to camp, and not surprisingly, he didn’t show up. It’ll be fascinating to see if he and the Jets mend fences (a la Jonathan Drouin and the Lightning). If not, other GMs around the league know that Chevy is in no-win situation here, and they have to see if he’s going to give. Right hand shooting defensemen are at a premium and more than a few teams wouldn’t mind picking up Trouba without an offersheet.

3. Dustin Byfuglien. Last year, Big Buf was motivated to play for a new contract, and he got what he wanted. The Jets signed him to a five-year, $38-million dollar deal that kicks in this year. The question remains one of motivation and how happy he’s going to be if the team isn’t winning consistently.

4. Nikolaj Ehlers. In two seasons with the Halifax Mooseheads of the QMJHL, he scored 205 points. That lead to the Jets taking him in the first round, ninth overall in the 2014 draft. In his NHL rookie year, he scored 15 goals, 38 points before missing the final 10 games of the season with an eye injury. Ehlers is tremendously fun to watch and could have a breakout sophomore season if paired with the right linemates consistently.

5. Blake Wheeler. The Jets leading scorer from a season ago was two points shy of eclipsing the 80 point plateau for the first time in his career; making a 17 point improvement from a year prior. The Jets brass showed their faith in him by giving him the captain’s ‘C’ this offseason. Despite being the fourth highest paid player on the team, the captain of the Jets gets the scrutiny of the microscope of Winnipeg placed directly on him. Just ask how much fun it can be from former captain Andrew Ladd when he had to answer for the Byfuglien-Kane tracksuit incident.

Mascot Hijinks Video Break

Mick E. Moose and Pokemon Go. More like POKEMON UH-OH, amirite?!

Can We Trust Them At Even Strength?

Sorta. Jets finish right in the middle of the NHL in most even strength categories.

Per Corsica, the Jets were 14th in the NHL at 5-on-5 score and zone adjusted Corsi-For at 50.96-percent. Center Matthieu Perreault led the team with 56.78 CF%. Dustin Byfuglien was the highest CF% defenseman (53.48%).

Winnipeg ranked 14th in both goals-for (144) and goals-against (145) at 5-on-5. Scheifele (22) and Wheeler (21) led the team in even strength goals.

Can We Trust Them On Special Teams?

Not really.

The power play was dead last in the NHL at 14.8-percent. Wheeler and Byfuglien led the team with 17 power play point each. Scheifele and Ladd (who was traded at the deadline) topped the squad with 7 power play goals each.

The penalty kill was 25th overall at 78.4-percent success rate. Winnipeg was the fifth most penalized team this past season. This is where Trouba will be missed the most. He logged far and away the most time on the ice while the Jets were shorthanded. The bright spot was the 10 shorthanded goals-for the team scored.

Can We Trust Their Goaltending?

Hmm… The magic eight ball says it’s too early to tell. For now, Connor Hellebuyck and Michael Hutchinson will vie for the No. 1 goaltender role as Ondrej Pavalec was assigned to the Manitoba Moose.

The 2014-15 season was the first full one for Hutchinson in the NHL. He surprised most with a 21-10-5 record. Hutchinson struggled in his second. He posted a 9-15-3 record with .907 save-percentage and 2.84 GAA.

Helleybuyck had a decent rookie year in net. He started 26 games and finished with a 13-11-1 record, .918 SV% and 2.34 GAA.

Player Most Likely To Be In Vegas Next Season

Tyler Myers. Will have two years left on his deal and does not hold any sort of no-movement clause.

Coach Hot Seat Rating (1-10, 10 Being Scorching Hot)

Eight. A season after making the postseason, the Jets recorded their lowest point total over a full season (78) since their return to Winnipeg. The honeymoon has been over and the fan base wants to see progress. Patrik Laine and Connor Hellebuyck should provide some excitement and hope for the future, but playoffs have to be the biggest result of the 2016-17 campaign for Paul Maurice.

Prediction

The Jets have another year of pain ahead of them before getting back to the playoffs. The younger players need a little more experience before this group can come together and ice a consistently competitive team. Unfortunately for Paul Maurice, these growing pains could cost him his job.

2016-17 Season Preview 
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Jen Neale is an editor for Puck Daddy on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email her at puckdaddyblog@yahoo.com or follow her on Twitter!

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