Special thanks to Tim, Garret, and Trevor of Arctic Ice Hockey for their participation in the final segment of "Meet the New Central Division." The Jets aren’t just new to the division, they’re new to the conference this year after spending the last two seasons stuck in the Southeast Division, presumably as punishment from the hockey gods for depriving me of beer and losing seasons to watch here in Atlanta.
One thing to really take away from this: Ondrej Pavelec better sleep with his eyes open.
1. If you had to come up with a team motto/mantra for your club, what would it be?
Tim: A fitting motto for this team would probably be: Just good enough to break your heart.
Over their first two seasons in Winnipeg the Jets have been maddeningly inconsistent. One week they look like they can beat anybody they next week they are getting pwned by the last place Panthers (or the Habs the year before). Despite these ugly losses the Jets have gotten up and played well against the likes of the Bruins and Penguins and landed just on the outside of the playoff bubble. Some consistency would be nice.
Garret: The official motto is "Fueled by Passion" and Jets fans are definitely passionate about hockey... Whether that be selling season tickets at record speeds, standing ovation to Stamkos scoring #60 or arguing over twitter that Pavelec isn't terrible.
Trevor: Ondrej Pavelec is our goalie, what's your excuse?
2. Who do you consider your most potent forwards?
Tim: While he has yet to lead the team in scoring, Evander Kane gets the nod as the Jets most potent forward. Kane plays like an animal and you guys will surely hate him. Even when he doesn't score his is constantly hitting and agitating opponents. That isn't to say Kane doesn't score. He has been near the top of the team point wise despite having next to no support via linemates. Kane creates a ton of chances on his own and finished 2nd to Ovechkin in shots on goal last year. It will only be a matter of time before he leads the Jets in scoring.
Our top line of Andrew Ladd, Bryan Little and Blake Wheeler (AKA Ladd's Little Wheeler, AKA LLW) is paradigm "whole is greater than the sum of its parts". Many pundits critique some or all of them as "not true first line players" yet consistently they line up against the league's best and usually outscore and outshoot them. It will be interesting if that carries over to the West against guys like you, where a lot of teams are built around a more two-way game, like LLW is.
However, Evander Kane though is a real treat to watch. He can be placed beside two pylon players and still make a line potent (see last year with Olli Jokinen and Antti Miettinen).
Trevor: The Winnipeg Jets' presently possess a trio of highly skilled forwards by the likes of Andrew Ladd, Blake Wheeler and Evander Kane. While both Ladd and Wheeler are reaching the pinnacle of their careers and could be on the downswing in the back-half of their respective contracts, the sky seems to be the limit for Kane who albeit has some "image problems" despite being a dominant force offensively. Should Winnipeg wish to clinch a post-season berth next spring, the players aforementioned will be tasked with most of the heavy lifting in the goal column.
3. Which player, if you could magically make him disappear, would you vaporize? Why?
Tim: Not a hard decision for me. If I could make one player disappear it would be Ondrej Pavelec. I don't blame Ondrej for being a bad goalie (although he does deserve blame), but the fact that he is on the roster and has a large salary has appeared to prevented the Jets from looking at other options. The Jets will struggle to make the playoffs without consistent goaltending and Ondrej simply doesn't appear to be cut out for that role.
One of our writers wrote up this excellent piece on Ondrej.
Garret: Hehe tough call...
Ondrej Pavelec for his consistently below average save percentage, Chris Thorburn for being useless, or Olli Jokinen who wasn't good (albeit not as terrible as some say) for his cap space.
Trevor: Ondrej Pavelec is clearly the Jets' player who garners the most money despite not earning it. And with another four years left on the books many feel that he is the one weak link standing between Winnipeg's opportunity at becoming a respectable NHL franchise and his .907 career save percentage isn't doing much to pump his tires.
4. How do you feel about your team's coaching staff? What would you consider your head coach's trademark?
Tim: I don't really have a feel for the Jets coaching staff. Claude Noel does some weird things. Simple things like resting a goalie on the 2nd night of back to back games, putting a good faceoff man in the faceoff dot or not playing bad 4th liners in the top 6 seem to be lost on him. Some would argue those - easily preventable - errors cost the Jets a playoff spot last year. That said, I thought he yielded solid results in year one.
Garret: Heh. Well I recently wrote an article titled: Claude Noel may have cost the Winnipeg Jets a playoff spot...
He's a decent strategist (no Hitchcock!), using similar zone specialization as AV (formerly of VAN and now in NYR) but he seems to pretty terrible
with player choices at times (see using Jokinen & Miettinen over Alexander Burmistrov and Kyle Wellwood).
He also apparently had issues with Burmistrov, causing Burmi to flee to the KHL for two seasons (ironically same length as Noel's contract...).
Trevor: You can't spell "dump-and-chase" without Claude Noel. I mean, you can, but fans of the Jets have had this brand of hockey so engrained into their collective memories that the two have become synonymous. To put it broadly, many in Winnipeg are worried that Claude Noel isn't the game tactician he was touted to be upon taking the reigns of this team after their move from Atlanta.
5. Goaltending controversies: would you say your team has one? If not, could you make one up really quickly? St. Louis media looooves them some goalie controversy.
Tim: The only goalie controversy in Winnipeg is about whether or not our goalie is any good. There are some out there who claim Ondrej is an elite goalie on a bad team. Others in the media have said he is better than Corey Schneider and the team has credited him as their MVP two years in a row.
Me vs. Team Pavelec (Ed. note: sense a trend?)
Trevor: There won't be any goalie controversies in Winnipeg unless you were to count their over-utlization of Pavelec a controversy. Should Al Montoya remain healthy this season, I would expect a 80/20 spilt in playing time.
6. What are some things you think your team does well? Needs to improve upon? Would you say that the team would agree with you?
Tim: What do the Jets do well? That is a tough one. The top line and Evander Kane are pretty good at 5 on 5 scoring, but they aren't prolific. Meanwhile both special teams units have struggled, goaltending has been bad and defensive play leaves something to be desired. The Jets are kind of average in just about every way. Many here argue the team still lacks an identity or style of play - I am not sure this matters, but they are probably right.
If I had to pick a biggest strength it would be about offence from the back end as Dustin Byfuglien, Tobias Enstrom, Zach Bogosian, Grant Clitsome and Paul Postma can all put puck in net.
Where can they improve? I'd say the forwards and in some cases defensive partners need to do a better job supporting the puck carrier on breakouts. Far too often the man with the puck is left zero breakout options.This can result in turnovers and these need to be minimized - especially given the goaltending concerns that we looked at above.
Team would probably agree on both counts.
2) Centre depth (Mark Scheifele, you're our only hope)
3) D-men injuries <= less of them
Trevor: I suppose forming the scoring trio of Andrew Ladd, Bryan Little and Blake Wheeler could be considered as on of the things that Winnipeg has done well in the past two years. They have been a team who frequently outshoots their opponents -- albeit while missing the net far to often -- which has help them control the play. Their special teams in general and consistency in net will be monumental in this team's success moving toward the NHL's Central Division, however the jury is still out on whether either or both will come to fruition.