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Jets' so-so pre-season provides some surprises

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Phil Hossack / WInnipeg Free Press

Winnipeg Jets defenceman Dustin Byfuglien keeps Nino Niederreiter of the Minnesota Wild out of the play during the first period of Thursday night's game at the MTS Centre.

There’s no point in sugar-coating this -- the Winnipeg Jets were lousy Thursday night.

Just ask them.

"We played terrible," was how forward Evander Kane saw it.

Jets head coach Claude Noel was no more complimentary: "I don’t think there would be too many players -- or anybody -- that would think that it’s something to be proud of being part of that game."

The Jets sent out their deepest and most experienced lineup in four games this pre-season at the MTS Centre last night against a lesser Minnesota Wild team missing some key stars. And what Noel got from his Jets in return was a frequently disjointed -- and sometimes even distinterested -- effort in what went into the books as a 4-1 pre-season loss to a new division rival.

"I thought we were outworked for most the game," said centre Bryan Little, who had Winnipeg’s only goal. "Hopefully, it’s a wake-up call that we need to get it into full gear. There’s not many games left before the first game of the season and we can’t start off the season playing like that."

The defeat dropped the Jets pre-season record to 1-2-1 as the club officially reached the midway point of their 2013 pre-season, with just four more exhibition games remaining before Winnipeg opens the 2013 regular season on Oct. 1 in Edmonton against the Oilers.

And so with halftime seeming like as good a time as any to reflect on what we’ve learned so far about these 2013-14 Winnipeg Jets, here are a few observations:

The top line is still the best line -- by far

While there’s all kinds of optimism that this is the season the Jets finally find a reliable second-line centre and start getting the secondary scoring that was missing in the the first two years of this team’s reincarnation, at the moment it’s still Ladd-Little-Wheeler -- and everyone else.

The Jets chosen trio is instantly noticeable anytime they’re on the ice and while they haven’t exactly been burning out any red lightbulbs this pre-season, they are still clearly the most potent offensive threat the Jets send out, including again last night.


Jokinen vs. Scheifele


The battle for the second-line centre position features the club’s most grizzled veteran in Olli Jokinen against the greener-than-green Mark Scheifele -- and nothing has been resolved at this point.

Noel would love it if Scheifele would simply make this decision for him, but the youngster has been uneven and has yet to close the deal, leaving Jokinen still very much in the conversation.

"I feel more confident every game that passes and every day that passes," Scheifele said last night. "I just want to continue to build on that."


Frolik can frolic

Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff’s acquisition of winger Michael Frolik on draft day in exchange for a couple of draft picks might yet prove to be a home run.

Frolik is versatile, a solid two-way player and has already shown the kind of offensive upside the Jets so desperately need. The third and fifth-rounders Cheveldayoff shipped to Chicago for Frolik may prove to have been a very low price to play for exactly the kind of player Winnipeg needs.


Trouba needs to show more, Morrissey has shown a surprising amount

The hope that 19-year-old defenceman Jacob Trouba would seamlessly make the transition this fall to an NHL-calibre player was probably wishful thinking, even for a player of Trouba’s exceptional skill level.

While Trouba looked much more comfortable in his second game this week than he did in his debut last weekend in Belleville, he’s going to have to show he’s further along on the learning curve than he has to this point if he’s going to avoid that long flight to Newfoundland at the end of the month.

Morrissey, meanwhile, has already exceeded the lower expectations set for him coming into camp. At the tender age of 18, the Jets 2013 first-round draft pick has looked more comfortable than anyone was expecting, including in Thursday's  performance that earned him the game’s third star.

"I think I’ve done everything I can so far and I’ve worked my hardest," Morrissey said Thursday. "No matter what happens, I can leave here knowing I’ve given it my all."


Up next

The Jets now head out on the road for a pair of pre-season games, taking on the Wild in the rematch Saturday night in St. Paul before moving on to Edmonton Monday night to take on the Oilers. The Jets finish up the week -- and the pre-season -- with a pair of games against the Boston Bruins next Thursday at home and Friday in Saskatoon.

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