10/13/16: The Canes and the Jets

People.

There is hockey today, on this blessed date of October 12, 2016. Seriously. And it actually counts for the season standings! Unfortunately, Winnipeg is not one of those teams vying for meaningful points this evening. That said, we get to enjoy the spoils of the youngest, deepest LW unit tomorrow night against the Carolina Hurricanes. I guess the best things come to those who wait.


The Carolina Hurricanes

The Canes are the slumbering beast of the Metro division. While their record does not show a winning roster, Carolina has the puck-possessing war-machine that is primed to thrive in the new era of the NHL. The off-season saw a number of significant additions to the goal-deprived line-up, including Teuvo Teravainen, Lee Stempniak (winces internally), and Martin Frk. Sebastian Aho should also be primed for an NHL debut soon, which is welcome news for those who adore the Finnish phenom.

This Carolina squad has quietly had one of the better off-seasons of any team in the NHL. The Cam Ward extension was a swing and a miss, but all of the other roster acquisitions should help the upstart Canes to potentially compete for a wild card spot. While it’s too early for Carolina to make a serious playoff push, this is a team that has the ingredients for a successful showcase season.

Tomorrow night’s line-up will include such mainstays as Jordan Staal and Jeff Skinner. These guys have been among Carolina’s most productive players and are consistently under-appreciated by NHL fans. Victor Rask has also made the opening night roster. He’s a personal favorite of mine, and I love the positive impact he brings to puck possession.

On defense, the only new name is Roland McKeown. Can’t say I’m familiar with him at all. Jakub Nakladal is not currently with the team due to some visa issues, but should be rejoining the squad soon enough. For a bargain-bin contract at $600K, Nakladal is the perfect RHD for the Canes to add defensive depth.

The Winnipeg Jets

The last few weeks have been a whirlwind of emotions for Jets fans. The peaks and valleys of being a Winnipeg fan are numerous, but we’ve reached yet another peak. Hellebuyck and Hutchinson will likely compose a 1A/1B starting tandem, which gives the Jets a much better chance at long-term success. The stacked LW corps also gives Winnipeg some serious offensive punch.

The youthful additions of Patrik Laine and Kyle Connor should provide needed goal-scoring depth, but I wouldn’t expect rapid early returns. The Jets are still growing despite the bevy of talented veterans. Thursday’s game should be a good indicator of how the offense is developing. The pre-season showing was not encouraging, but struggles were anticipated. Let’s hope the forwards have sorted some of the defensive zone issues out.

On the blueline, the noted absence of Jacob Trouba still lingers. The longer he goes without a contract, the lower Winnipeg’s chances of a wild card spot become. I don’t mean to over-emphasize the importance of one player, but Trouba’s impact on the Jets defense is tremendous. We need him, and frankly, he needs us.

I’m not expecting too much from Laine or Connor. The Canes are a very good team, and both players are still adapting to playing in the pro leagues. That said, I feel fairly confident in a Jets win.


Score Prediction: 4-2 Jets

Scheifele, Ehlers, Little, and Burmistrov connect for the Jets. Staal and Rask score for Carolina. Hellebuyck makes 26 stops on the night.

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Long Live the Thrashers

At long last, the final remnants of the crappiest Atlanta Thrashers holdovers has been sent down to the minors. The era of Ondrej Pavelec, for now, is over. Enter Connor Hellebuyck and Michael Hutchinson to assume the goal-tending duties. I cannot stress how monumental this roster move is. It reflects a possible shift in team philosophy; that assembling a winning roster does not mean loyalty to veterans is guaranteed. It’s time for the kids to run the show.


Other Re-Assignments

Peluso, Strait, Dano, Petan, Copp, and Melchiori were also sent down to the Moose. I’m pleased with most of that lot being returned to the minors, save for Dano and Petan. Both are top-6 forwards at the NHL level and warrant additional ice-time, but they’ll easily get top-9 deployments with the Moose. Copp still has a lot of potential as a skilled bottom-6 center. More ice-time in the Moose’s top-6 and power-play units should continue to hone his skill-set.

I must admit that I didn’t expect Strait to be waived. Cheveldayoff reportedly sought Brian’s services for 3 years. That’s pretty depressing when you consider just how bad Brian Strait is, but getting waived to the Moose instantly improves the Jets’ roster. This, combined with all of the other waiver moves, makes me optimistic for Winnipeg’s upcoming season.

My Idealized Line-Up Scenario

Jake, if you’re reading this, please re-sign. We need you in our lives, and in this line-up.

Anywho, I have an idealized Jets roster in my head based on the current selection of available players. Here it is:

Forwards

Ehlers-Scheifele-Wheeler

Connor-Little-Armia

Laine-Perreault-Stafford

Tanev-Burmistrov-Matthias

Defense

Morrissey-Byfuglien

Enstrom-Myers

Chiarot-Postma

Goalies

Hellebuyck-Hutchinson


Today’s developments are, for once, exciting. I have a lot more optimism about the Jets’ season now that some key roster moves have been made. A Trouba deal would solidify the potential for a wild card appearance. At the very least, Winnipeg looks like it’ll be a genuine contender without being weighed down by some of the worst Thrashers players.

Senators-Jets Pre-Season Recap

You probably came here thinking I was going to recap tonight’s pre-season game between the Senators and the Jets. I regret to say that won’t be the case. There was a game, and it wasn’t pretty, but the Jets won 4-2. Woot woot, power-play goals galore! What this post will be, however, is a Nikolaj Ehlers and Kyle Connor appreciation thread, because hot diggity are those kids good!


Nikolaj Ehlers: The Great Dane

I can’t praise Ehlers enough. Tonight, he was once again the dominant winger the Jets drafted him to be. On a beautiful backdoor pass to Mark Scheifele, Ehlers notched his first point of the night. Getting an assist, however, just wasn’t enough. The guy was flying all around the ice, drawing penalties left and right as the half-cocked Sens line-up attempted to contain him. Notice I said “attempted to contain.”

The assist was eventually followed up by an empty-net goal that was awarded after Ehlers was hauled down on a breakaway. Nikolaj’s speed wreaked havoc in Ottawa’s defensive zone, leading to numerous scoring chances and crisp offensive zone pressure throughout most of the game. Sure, he “only” scored an empty-netter, but his strong puck-play and possession-driving zone transitions only served to reinforce why he’s playing alongside Scheifele and Wheeler.

How is he going to be the third-best winger on the team in a few years? Winnipeg has such an embarrassment of riches on the left side, it’s legitimately unfair. For a team that’s finished in the middle of the pack for most of its tenure, the Jets sure are loaded at forward. Now would be the ideal time to trade Myers and lock-up Trouba…

Kyle Connor: All-American Hero

Boston passed up on this up-and-coming rookie phenom for reasons unbeknownst to sane and rational people. Kyle Connor is increasingly looking like a bonafide offensive stud. For what it’s worth, pre-season hockey is usually complete drivel. The Sens only served to reinforce this notion by icing a roster of bottom-6 forwards and defenseman, but Connor has continually carved up the opposition since his college and junior days.

Tonight, he had himself a glorious short-side snipe that pinged off the back of Andrew Hammond’s mask and into the net. It was Connor’s third goal of the pre-season and yet another reminder that he needs to be in the regular season line-up. Paired with someone like Perreault or Little, Connor has the potential to torch opposing netminders with his solid edge-work, gifted release, and smart shot selection.

Connor’s looked most at home on Winnipeg’s improved power-play, which should be enough to open a roster spot for him. I know Laine was the hyped prospect (and still is), but Kyle’s excellence and talent shouldn’t be overlooked. He’s earned a permanent spot on this team, and barring anything significant, should make the cut.


The Goats: Definitely Not The Greatest of All Time

Brian Strait: ……yeah. I really don’t need to say more. He’s bad.

Kevin Czuczman: I’m not seeing much in the way of impressive performances from Kevin. He looks like an AHL defender, which is fine because the Moose could definitely use him. The sample size is small, but it’d probably be best if he gets a minor league demotion for the time being.

Ben Chiarot: Yikes, yikes, and even more yikes. Chiapet did not have a good performance tonight and was bailed out a number of times by his teammates. The one time he wasn’t led to a goal against. The Jets really need some left-handed help, sooner rather than later. Hopefully, Morrissey makes the cut.