Less than 10 games into the Winnipeg Jets’ 2014-15 campaign and already a team revamped in the off-season poses more questions than it does answers. Aside from the question of whether the Jets will compete in the post-season for the first time since arriving in 2011, there are a variety of talking points regarding their momentum for the remainder of the season.
Winnipeg began the season with a memorable 6-2 destruction of the Arizona Coyotes, but has been ineffective, if not inconsistent since. This begs the question: what do the Winnipeg Jets have in store for the 2014-15 NHL season?
How will Ondrej Pavelec perform?
The Jets’ number-one goalie has posted average, unspectacular numbers since inheriting the position in 2011. He proved, however, that he was capable of performing under pressure during close wins against Carolina and Colorado. If Pavelec wants to be an elite goaltender in the NHL, now is his opportunity to rise up the challenge. At 27, time is on his side for now.
Will Tobias Enstrom live up to his large price tag?
With seven points in his first nine games this season, it appears that the Swede is justifying his $5.75 million a year contract, and could produce upward of 50 points this season. Dustin Byfuglien’s transition to forward means the Jets will need some attacking firepower from the back end. In addition, the “A” was removed from Enstrom’s sweater in the off-season, meaning that he can focus on fulfilling his duties without those added by the alternate captain position.
Will Trouba and Scheifele break out or slump?
Mark Scheifele proved last season that he can be an offensive leader and one day a point-per-game player in the NHL. Entering just his second season, the question is how many points he will produce, working on the top two offensive lines.
His two points in nine games to start the season is nothing out of the ordinary. In his Ontario Hockey League career, Scheifele’s opening month of the season was always his slowest. If the 21-year-old continues on this trend, point production should pick up by mid-November. It shouldn’t be a surprise if Scheifele more than doubles his offensive output from his rookie year, if he can remain healthy.
Jacob Trouba impressed last season, fulfilling a two-way role with the Jets, while rivalling Nashville’s Seth Jones as the league’s best rookie defenceman. His size, strength, and overall play as rookie drew a comparison to the Buffalo Sabres’ defensive tower Tyler Myers and his Calder-winning performance as a rookie in 2009-10.
The danger for Trouba is avoiding a similar sophomore slump to Myers’ in 2010-11. It’s clear that the former World Junior gold medallist will one day be a complete two-way NHL defenceman, but stepping into that role at age 20 is too soon. Though mustering just one point in his first nine games this season, Trouba should score in the range of 40 points by the end of the season.
How will Kane’s injury impact his performance?
Evander Kane gave quite a scare with his opening night injury. Taking into account that he is coming off an injury, only 23, and still developing, Kane should be able to shrug off the injury bug and score 25 to 30 goals along with tallying close to a point-per-game ratio for the season.
If Kane is unable to continue to match the expectations of being a developing power forward, though, his behaviour off the ice will certainly overshadow his performance on it, and that is his biggest liability.
How will Mathieu Perreault and Adam Lowry perform?
Perreault’s two-way game and versatility is suited for any type of situation. Although not known as a dominant offensive forward, the Capitals’ draft pick has an offensive upside and could see time on the top two scoring lines. He’s still settling into the Jets lineup, but should snatch a point every two games once he starts getting into the rhythm.
Only a rookie, Lowry is drawing early comparisons to Milan Lucic, who’s fearless on the forecheck. For a player with such a commanding stature, Lowry also features incredibly soft hands, and could discover a frequent nose for the net. His on-ice consistency should prove him a valuable 82-game rookie, and earn him consideration for the Calder.
Will the Jets make any major trades (or any trades at all)?
At the moment, no one’s job is safe with the exception of Trouba and Scheifele’s. This may be the season GM Kevin Cheveldayoff pulls off his first major trade.
Key veterans such as Andrew Ladd, Blake Wheeler, Dustin Byfuglien, and Tobias Enstrom are reaching their prime. If they underperform, it might be time to reboot. The Jets don’t have any player out of contract this season, but the contracts of Michael Frolik, Jim Slater, Matt Halischuk, Adam Pardy, and Peter Budaj do expire at the end of next season.