5 reasons why the Winnipeg Jets could disappoint in 2019-20

Winnipeg Jets forward Bryan Little talks about the phone call he had with Patrik Laine.

Yesterday we published a piece to counter all the naysayers who believe the Winnipeg Jets are bound for a drop after a rough off-season. Think of it as a way to play devil’s advocate.

Today we hop on the other side of the argument and present five reasons why the naysayers are on to something.

1. Too many “ifs”
You’ve heard the recipe for success in Winnipeg this season. The Jets will be a threat:

• IF Connor Hellebuyck regains his Vezina candidate form…
• IF a collection of inexperienced defencemen can step up and fill the holes on a decimated blue line…
• IF Dustin Byfuglien returns to play…

To summarize: a lot needs to go right for the Jets to keep the season from falling apart. Things tend to go wrong with that many questionable links in the chain.

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2. Loss of veteran leadership
Though the Jets have a number of talented young players to fill holes left behind by a summer of loss, talent isn’t always enough. There’s a reason NHL teams don’t turn over experienced defence corps the way the Jets are doing right now.

Composure is a learned trait for pro hockey players, maybe more so for defencemen. The Jets are going to hit turbulence this season and to expect fringe NHLers and youngsters to steady the ship while learning the NHL game on the fly is a tall order.

3. Second line centre situation
For the most part the Jets added new problems over the summer rather than solving old ones. The most glaring unresolved issue remains the second line centre situation.

This has been a thorn in the organization’s side for some time now, evidenced by back-to-back trade deadline acquisitions to fill that role. Both of those players (Paul Stastny and Kevin Hayes) left the team the following off-season, so status quo reigns.

Patrik Laine added fuel to this fire by making it clear he’s not happy on his line saying he’d like to play with the “best players.”

As always, Bryan Little handled that situation with grace. But he’s now had to address both the team’s efforts to replace him and Laine’s comments in camp so far. Maybe Little will use the slights as motivation, but to see a team favourite (and an original Jet 2.0) having to absorb that negativity can’t be good for team morale.

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4. Central rising
While the Jets spent the off-season watching talent walk out the door, other teams in the always-competitive Central Division were loading up.

Matt Duchene arrived in Nashville to boost scoring and spark a dreadful power play. Joe Pavelski landed in Dallas to add veteran leadership and additional scoring punch. Nazem Kadri to Colorado provides grit and depth to an emerging monster. Olli Maatta, Calvin de Haan and Robin Lehner in Chicago just may stabilize a shaky back end.

If you’re taking a step back while your competition takes steps forward, it won’t be long before you find yourself trailing in this division.

5. Dressing room
Laine’s public voicing of his frustrations last week didn’t help the argument Jets players and their head coach, Paul Maurice, have made that the rumours of discord in their locker room are just that. Rumours.

Whether that’s the truth or not there’s still little being offered as an explanation to what torpedoed the Jets’ 2018-19 season.

The Jets went 14-14-3 after February 1, which is hardly the record of a contender. The team was unable to put a halt to that slide, which cost them the division title and put them on a first-round crash course with the NHL’s hottest team.

To believe Winnipeg will succeed is to believe the coaching staff has identified the root cause of last season’s collapse and will be able to address it. That could be easier said than done.


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