2017-18 Winnipeg Jets Predictions and Futures Odds Picks
There isn't a fanbase that wants to win more than Winnipeg's does. They aren't obnoxious about it in the way that, say, Toronto or Edmonton is. Those cities expect to win and feel like their rights have been violated when they don't. Winnipeg's love is more pure and more earnest. This team is part of the DNA of the city in a way that is unique in the league. They felt violated when the team left, and now that they are back they want a winner - something they have never really had in a meaningful way.
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I hate to break it to the fans, but this probably isn't their year, either. This is an interesting squad, though, and one that could be a dangerous underdog if everything went their way. Remember, the West feels top-heavy, but Nashville was the last team to make the playoffs in the conference last year, and they went all the way to the Cup. You can be sure Winnipeg fans noticed that and are looking to replicate that. The team won eight of their last 10 and finished ninth in the West - albeit seven points back of Nashville - so they feel like they are close if they can plug a few holes. Realistic?
Winnipeg Jets Offseason Moves
The Jets were disastrous defensively and in net last year - they ranked 26th in goals allowed, which is the biggest reason they fell short of the playoffs. It's a testament to their offensive strength that their goal different was just -7 despite the defensive problems. They had a three-headed system in net, and it just didn't work. They kept around Connor Hellebuyck, who they still seem to want to be the goalie of the future, and brought in Steve Mason as a veteran start to mentor him. Mason is not a superstar, and he wasn't great last year for Philadelphia team that wasn't defensively stellar, but he's an upgrade over what they had, and if he can embrace the challenge of a new city then he could really help. The team also added defenseman Dmitry Kulikov from Buffalo on a three-year deal. He was a bit of a bargain after a really rough, injury-plagued year for Buffalo last year, but if the 2009 first-rounder can recapture some of the form he showed in Florida before he was traded to the Sabres last year then he could be a very positive addition to the back end.
Beyond those two moves the offseason was relatively uneventful. They shuffled some depth pieces and took care of a couple of smaller contracts, but for the most part they stood pat with what they had.
They swapped their first-round pick to Vegas for Columbus' first-rounder,
which the Golden Knights owned, in order to bribe Vegas not to pick
defenseman Tobias Enstrom in the expansion draft, so they got a lower
prospect than they otherwise would have. Finnish winger Kristian Vesalainen
is a couple of years away from relevance on the NHL level.
Winnipeg Jets NHL Outlook
The core of this team is very solid. Patrik Laine had a spectacular rookie season, and there is plenty of room for him to improve - especially defensively - in his second year. He's a true superstar in the making. Mark Scheifele is an offensive star, too - he had 82 points in 79 games last year - and at 24 he's only just entering his prime. Nikolaj Ehlers had a great sophomore season and will be looking to take another step forward. Jacob Trouba is an excellent defenseman who has the potential to become elite. And Blake Wheeler, Bryan Little and Dustin Byflugien are more than useful. Add in Kyle Connor, a very promising forward who was over his head as a rookie last year but that really found his game in the AHL after being sent down, and there is a lot to like about the team. They really need the defense to gel, but Kulikov should help, and they have decent personnel. And they really need Mason to find his way and improve the stability in the nets. This team was fantastic over the last month of the season, though, and if they can build on what they showed there they have a nice season in them.
Winnipeg Jets Schedule
February will be a crucial month for this team. Starting on Jan. 30 they play 10 straight home games. Four of those games are against opponents that are really bad, so the whole series of games is fairly manageable. They need to really take advantage of that strong slate of home cooking or they will come to regret it.
Winnipeg Jets NHL Futures Odds
Bovada has Winnipeg at +5000 to win the Stanley Cup, which has them tied with the Islanders and Flyers behind 20 other teams. The Islanders are a good parallel for this team and what they could be capable of - dangerous if everything goes their way but short of a margin for error. BetOnline has them as the 11th choice to win the Western Conference at +2500, ahead of only lousy long shots Arizona, Colorado, Vancouver and Vegas. That seems a little pessimistic from where I'm sitting. And at +1400 to win the Central Division they are ahead of only Colorado. St. Louis, the next closest team, is at +500, so oddsmakers don't like this team. The season win total is at 41.5. They won 40 games last year.
2017-18 Winnipeg Jets Predictions
I think it would be dangerous to write this team off. They have some issues, but the core is strong and young enough that they are only going to get better. If Mason can have a good season and the defense is better, and if Laine can take a step forward, then this is definitely a team that will be in the wild-card mix. The West is very deep this year, so good teams are going to be left on the outside looking in. The Jets are solid, though, and should be more a part of the conversation than the odds suggest. This team is one to watch in the hunt for underdog value.
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Read more articles by Trevor Whenham
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