Backhand Shelf’s previews for the 2013-14 NHL season are going to work like a choose your own adventure novel, because fans only hear what they want to hear anyway, so we might as well embrace it.
You’ll get the flippant barstool prediction, the push-the-glasses-up-your-nose numbers take, the team is going to be good take, the team is going to be bad take, and then we’ll try to bring it back full circle at the bottom. Let’s get to it.
Added: Devin Setoguchi, Michael Frolik, Adam Pardy
Subtracted: Alex Burmistrov, Nik Antropov, Kyle Wellwood, Antti Miettenen, Ron Hainsey
The Jets are going to be good
The Jets are coming off a year in which they narrowly missed playoffs in a scenario that felt like they simply ran out of time. They were pushing. Their most important players are all young guys who are truly finding their NHL stride, from 30-goal man (and getting better) Evander Kane, to Blake Wheeler and and Zach Bogosian. They’ve locked up their core long-term, and have added nice complimentary pieces like penalty-killer extrordinaire Michal Frolik, and one-time 30-goal man Devin Setoguchi. With some solid defenders like Dustin Byfuglien, Tobias Enstrom and Bogosian, the Jets simply need a guy like the highly-touted Jacob Trouba to step in and eat minutes and they’re laughing. And hey, if Mark Scheifele can find his NHL stride, they’ll be a real force to contend with in a fairly weak Central Division.
The Jets are going to be bad
The Jets have Ondrej Pavelec in net for another hundred seasons at fifty million per ($3.9 per through 2017, actually), and he’s still terrible. In 44 starts last year, he posted a well-below league average .905 save percentage, and there’s not much reason to believe that’s going to improve. This is a team who’s talked themselves into believing its “top” players are on the same level as other team’s top guys, but what, Blake Wheeler is Crosby or Malkin, Kane or Toews, Datsyuk or Zetterberg? After Kane (who isn’t quite there either) is, Bryan Little? This team simply doesn’t have the horses to be a legit Cup contender, let alone a threat to make playoffs. The depth on D isn’t exactly encouraging either. Go Adam Pardy go.
Flippant barstool prediction
The Jets could make playoffs, seriously (I say trying to convince the guy beside me). It would have to be a scrappy, sneak-into-7th-or-8th-in-the-final-week type of thing, but don’t rule it out.
The numbers in 2013 were ugly for the Jets. They had an abomination of a powerplay (dead last in league, 13.8%), a poor PK (below 80%, 24th), a crappy 5-on-5 goals for/against ratio (0.90, better than only seven bad teams: Florida, Calgary, Colorado, New Jersey, Carolina, Philly and Minnesota), and they gave up 2.94 goals against (25th in league). Those numbers came with a 995 PDO (18th). Obviously, there is room for improvement in Manitoba.
Okay, but seriously:
This team is so fringe they’re dangling from the sleeves of my 1980s cowboy-style jacket. When a team is as middle of the pack as the Jets, a lot of the season comes down to injury luck. A healthy Jets team probably gets in, one with major injuries probably doesn’t. Pavelec is only 26 years old, so it’s not impossible to see him having a league average season which would save them a few goals, maybe earn them a few more points. It’s going to be close.
Your NHL.com round up: