Hot August Nights: Winnipeg Jets

by J.R.

06659_show_landscape_03This week, III Communication presents “Hot August Nights.” At one minute past sundown local time we’ll be reviewing the off-seasons of each Conference III team using the songs of American legend Neil Diamond.

Tonight, we wrap it up with a review of the Winnipeg Jets.

As suggested by Arctic Ice Hockey‘s Ryan Blight, the wildly optimistic “Captain of a Shipwreck,” from Neil’s 12 Songs album, recorded with Rick Rubin.

I was lost until you found me

Winnipeg — in addition to being the lone Canadian Conference III comrades — are also the only team jumping from East to West. There was apparently some concern that they’d be “too small” for the West. That concern turned out to be stupid (in part because the average team size in the West is smaller than the East).

That if your goldmine comes up empty

Surprise! Surprise! Surprise! Alex Burmistrov — a skillful Russian who could never quite get going in the NHL (some of which was the organization’s fault) — signed with Ak Bars Kazan in the KHL as his agent sought an NHL team to submit an offer sheet. One not being forthcoming, it was back home with Burmy, perhaps because Olli Jokinen was getting more ice time.

I’ll be there to work the claim

The Jets had five players file for arbitration — including three significant contributors in Blake Wheeler, Bryan Little and Zach Bogosian. They ended up re-upping all three — Wheeler for six years, Little for five, and Bogo for seven. Those three were part of a broader group of nine restricted free agents on the Jets roster. All of this arbitration shenanigan and RFA slow-walking didn’t engender feelings of positivity among the Jets faithful:

So let me get this straight: True North Sports and Entertainment bought a sad-sack franchise in the summer of 2011 that had never won a playoff game in the entirety of its existence and here we are three years later with the exact same core still meandering on the ice? Huh.

While the words may have never been uttered by the Jets themselves, a lot of talk in and around town was that this summer was the time when Kevin Cheveldayoff would put a stamp on this team. Well, he did, but that stamp belonged to Rick Dudley. This is the same team, give or take, that the Jets inherited from the Atlanta Spirit Group.

Stand by you where I belong

The biggest adds for the Jets were added via trade. Michael Frolik came over from the Blackhawks and Devin Setoguchi up from the Wild. Both should provide some scoring — though scoring goals doesn’t seem to be Winnipeg’s problem. Perhaps addressing a goaltending situation that is centered on Ondrej Pavalec being, ya know, adequate consistently would have made more sense.

Anyway. The Jets also signed Matt Halischuk, getting him away from a situation in Nashville where he was constantly confused for Nick Spaling.

I will soothe you with my song

As mushmouthed as free agency was, the Jets actually drafted great, according to people who understand such things (ie: not me).

The Jets had ten picks (which is why they were willing to ship futures to the Hawks and Wild) and opened their day with Josh Morrissey — which looked a little off-board at the time, but has increasingly been considered a solid choice. Nicolas Petan at 43 was a huge steal, as many observers had him ranked in the Top 20. Jimmy Lodge was ranked in the 50s by nearly everyone and fell to the Jets at 84.

If the immediate future is cloudy, the long-term looks great.

Flesh and blood, I’m yours forever

We here at III Communication make fun of the term “Atlanta effort” a little bit. There persists an idea among the Manitobans that sometimes their team plays poorly because “no one” cared about them in Georgia (these people who didn’t care threw a bunch of Thrashers jerseys on the ice at a Nashville-Winnipeg game once). The fact is sometimes the Jets play poorly not because they are infected with some kind of Dixie plague, but because they aren’t very good.

I like a good number of their forwards — Kane is great (though not a great assessor of basketball, he is ready to win) and I am a huge fan of Blake Wheeler. Same for Bogo. The additions of Frolik and Setoguchi were smart — in part because it moves scoring from a Conference III opponent (not that Chicago needed more scoring).

But Pavelec needs replaced (apologies for my Scots-Irish need+V-en construction). They may be in the mix for the 3rd-plus-crossover spot (I’m not nearly as bullish as Lozo here). But they could just as easily be down with the Avs, scraping the barrel.