Since we’re well into the dog days of summer as far as hockey news is concerned, the least we can do is offer a quick look ahead to what’s coming for the seven Canadian NHL teams this season.
With a month to go until training camp, I’ve asked a blogger from each city to weigh in on how their team has changed since last season and where they believe they rank in their conference. We’ll run one team every weekday, with the final part of our series today on the Winnipeg Jets.
Who's in? Eric Fehr, Tanner Glass, Randy Jones, Derek Meech
Who's out? Anthony Stewart, Radek Dvorak, Freddy Meyer, Rob Schremp, Eric Boulton
Playing their final season in Atlanta, the Thrashers were red hot out of the gate, going 19-11-5 to start the season and sitting third in the Eastern Conference.
From there, things fell apart rather dramatically, as they won only six of their next 27 games and eventually finished the year closer to the bottom of the conference than a playoff spot and in 25th overall.
One of the lower scoring teams in the East, the Thrashers allowed the second most goals in the NHL last season despite a solid showing from netminder Ondrej Pavelec in his second full year in the league.
For a few thoughts on what’s in store for the Jets this coming season, here’s Ben Wendorf from Arctic Ice Hockey with reasons for optimism, pessimism and a midsummer prediction as to how they’ll finish.
Reasons for optimism:
"The Jets are riding a wave of fan optimism into the MTS Centre, and they're also riding a wave of improvement after the trade deadline. Blake Wheeler clicked with linemates Bryan Little and Andrew Ladd, Zach Bogosian received an increased load in defensive situations, and (despite their record) the Thrashers closed out the year playing solid hockey. The youth of the team also bodes well, as the main drivers of the team's success are all near or well before their prime."
Causes for concern:
"We aren't inheriting the Quebec Nordiques here; the incoming organization has only a 23-game snippet of relatively good defensive play versus about 11 years of perpetual defensive futility. Depth is also a problem, particularly in the forward lines, and almost all of our prospects are at least 60 games to a couple of seasons away from being ready.
"Most of the regressions among the Jets should be offset by young players' progressions, but Chris Mason needs to bounce back as insurance for Pavelec or else we suffer a similar fate to those final 23 games of 2010-11."
Predicted finish in the East:
"Eighty-six points and 10th place. If the Jets' defence is for real, they have just enough firepower to sneak into the playoffs, particularly if Evander Kane improves, the Ladd-Little-Wheeler line continues to click, and Nik Antropov bounces back by working well with Kane and Alex Burmistrov. On the other hand, those are too many ifs to hang a playoff-berth-like expectation on a team, so I'll stick with the slight improvement and a lot of Winnipeggers happy to have a team again."
Now I'll turn it over to you in the comments section: How do you think the reborn Jets will do this season?
And that's all for our mini-previews. We'll have much more in-depth looks at every team come training camps four weeks from now.