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Jets ready for 2013/14 flight: Taking a look at the lineup

What we should expect from each player

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BANFF, Alta. -- The Winnipeg Jets have given some appearance of dithering as they bring a revamped lineup to Game 1 of the 2013-14 NHL season.

A rocky, uneven pre-season didn't help. It took all the way to Sunday's practice to inch towards apparent decisions, but the starting point for Year No. 3 in Winnipeg is a little clearer.

In a major play towards finding secondary scoring -- which beyond Evander Kane's contributions was one of the team's major weaknesses -- the Jets have arrived at rookie centre Mark Scheifele between Kane and new right-winger Devin Setoguchi.

Their chemistry and contributions in support of Bryan Little, Andrew Ladd and Blake Wheeler will be key.

But if not Scheifele and company, then somebody. Odds are this week's choices are not permanent, simply because they rarely are anywhere in the NHL when it comes to lines and pairings.

Here's a closer examination of the pieces the Jets will start with on Tuesday night:

tim.campbell@freepress.mb.ca

FORWARDS

16 Andrew Ladd

What's done: Has only won two Stanley Cups. Enters fourth season as captain of this team. 2013's 18 goals and 46 points -- leading the team in points for the second time in three seasons -- was a leadership performance in spades. For those of you who like math, those numbers translate to 30 goals and 78 points in an 82-game campaign.

To-do list: To expect Ladd to do even more seems almost unfair, maybe unrealistic, yet somebody's going to have to pull this team higher and into the playoffs if that's their true goal.

18 Bryan Little

What's done: Seven goals and 25 points in the shortened season, Little's fifth as a full-time NHLer, seemed just a little off. Nevertheless, given that he's not the biggest body on the ice and that he and his mates attracted serious checking attention last season, there's more plus than minus here.

To-do list: One of the best aspects of Little's 2013 was his plus-eight on a team with many minuses and he needs that trend can continue.

26 Blake Wheeler

What's done: Has become widely regarded as an NHL power forward, more due to his speed than sheer strength. Wheeler, who led the team with 19 goals last season, has become a force that many opponents have difficulty handling on many nights.

To-do list: Wheeler's pro-rated points total would have been a career-best 70 last season and you'd expect this to be higher in 2013-14 if the Jets are going to be a post-season qualifier.

9 Evander Kane

What's done: Hampered by a variety of ailments and a fair level of attention from opponents in 2013, he managed to score 17 goals, third-most on the team. Kane also seemed to go up a level in terms of trust from his coach and most teammates, a signal of ongoing maturity.

To-do list: Finding a permanent set of linemates, or at least one constant partner, which is often more important, will be key. The opportunity would appear to be present for the 22-year-old Vancouverite this time around. The Jets, and many around the NHL, expect Kane to blossom even further when some chemistry takes effect.

55 Mark Scheifele

What's done: Steady progress for two years in the Canadian Hockey League and at the World Junior, plus a stint in the playoffs last spring with the AHL's St. John's IceCaps, have all enhanced the young centre's base game. His training camp has been steady, less flashy, which could be a sign of a maturing player.

To-do list: More than offence, which seems to be a gift with Scheifele, the rookie must earn the trust of his coach. This is the path to everything else, including a better match of linemates, more power-play time, more points and more confidence.

40 Devin Setoguchi

What's done: He's an upgrade at right wing behind Wheeler, and his level seems to be in the 20-plus goals range. Setoguchi had 13 in the shortened season with Minnesota, but the 26-year-old has bounced between 31 and 19 in his career.

To-do list: The consensus of Jets watchers seem to think he'll wind up long-term with Kane on the other flank. Production from Setoguchi in the first 30 games will be important.

17 James Wright

What's done: Two goals, five points in the shortened season wasn't a whole lot but Wright is clearly a waiver claim that has been worth it. He's an excellent skater and helped the Jets' penalty killing on a steady improvement last season.

To-do list: Important year for Wright to establish himself as an NHL regular and based on training camp, it looks like he'll begin in a third-line role. That will require a bit more offence.

12 Olli Jokinen

What's done: Jokinen would mostly like to forget the lockout-shortened season, but you can't erase the past. His production sagged (7 goals, 14 points) and his plus-minus team-worst minus-19. We'll soon find out if the lockout was to blame.

To-do list: The Jets paid up for the free agent in the summer of 2012 so there are some makeup contributions in order. One of coach Claude Noel's biggest puzzles to solve this season is to find the right slot for him.

67 Michael Frolik

What's done: Fresh off a Cup ring in Chicago, the 25-year-old didn't have a big regular-season contribution on wildly talented team, but when step-ups are required in the playoffs, he was a factor with the same number of points, 10, in the post-season. Reached 20-goal plateau twice with Florida.

To-do list: Catalyst or follower? The Jets are in big need of more of the first but it remains to be seen if that's Frolik's strong suit.

27 Eric Tangradi

What's done: Acquired as a castoff of the Pittsburgh Penguins, Tangradi brought some size to smallish lineup last season. He produced just one goal and four points, but generally didn't receive an abundance of opportunity. You can never fault his enthusiasm.

To-do list: In Tangradi's case, he must be more committed defensively as a fourth-line skater.

19 Jim Slater

What's done: Slater's been the reliable centre who found himself pushed higher in the depth chart in the past, resulting in his career-best 13 goals in the first season in Winnipeg. His 2013 was cut short by a hand injury so his return to full-time play this year will be welcome, considering he is looked to as a key faceoff man.

To-do list: He now looks to be penned in to centre the fourth line. The likelihood of "chip-in" contributions from that unit is higher with him.

22 Chris Thorburn

What's done: Has more than proven to be an honest player and a great teammate, with toughness and size NHL teams require. Found his icetime declining as last season wore on.

To-do list: That icetime issue leads to something new to prove, and that's reliability. However he will do it, Thorburn must find a way to be an asset to the cause of defensive improvements.

14 Anthony Peluso

What's done: Another waiver claim by the Jets, Peluso got into his first five NHL games last season before injuring his hand in a fight. The fisticuffs are what has created the attention.

To-do list: It's the most monumental of tasks, a tough guy proving he can play more than two or three shifts a game. There's some raw material here and the Jets are trying to figure out how to work with it.

15 Matt Halischuk

What's done: Halischuk is not an imposing individual but more importantly, he's been exposed to two franchises that have done defence right in the past, New Jersey and Nashville. It's the kind of thinking the Jets must adopt.

To-do list: Has a personal high of 15 goals but it's his attitude and his energy that figure to help the Jets more with their defensive Rubiks Cube.

DEFENCE

39 Toby Enstrom

What's done: Enstrom's 2013 was cut in half by injuries, severely diluting his effectiveness at four goals, 15 points and minus-eight. Also lost 20 games to injury the first season in Winnipeg. A proven skater and puck-mover who can quarterback a power play.

To-do list: His dynamic skating and puck-moving abilities are weapons that need to hurt other teams and keep them wondering and worrying. The jury remains out as for durability.

44 Zach Bogosian

What's done: He was a horse when healthy last season, averaging more than 23 minutes per game, but lost 15 games to injury. FYI, the Jets had their big three defencemen, Bogosian, Enstrom and Byfuglien, together for less than nine full games last season. Plays physical, skates well above average and makes plays.

To-do list: Health, again, is paramount. Also high on the list is getting it right with his new partner. Bogosian can do the heavy lifting, now his progress to being considered a true elite defenceman will come with consistency and discipline.

24 Grant Clitsome

What's done: The Jets have liked him since claiming him from waivers in 2012, so much so that they rewarded him with a three-year deal worth $6.2 million. He has proven versatile and heady enough and contributed 16 points in the shortened season

To-do list: Clitsome is the kind of players essential on a team -- not everybody can make the big coin but everyone must contribute. The Jets think enough of him that they will start with him as Byfuglien's partner, so a level of smarts is going to be important.

33 Dustin Byfuglien

What's done: Byfuglien is rarely not noticeable, for many reasons. On the positive side, he gets his points -- second in the NHL for defencemen to only Ottawa's Erik Karlsson over the last two seasons. Has been a minus player four seasons in a row, though it might be considered splitting hairs over last season's minus-1, considering his team-leading 24-plus minutes per game of icetime.

To-do list: Jets coaches have made Byfuglien realize less risky is better, but it needs to go farther. The hope is that Byfuglien's obvious improvement in conditioning at camp and the Olympic carrot that's in front of him will get him on the right track for bigger positive impact.

5 Mark Stuart

What's done: Plenty of shots blocked and bodies belted; what's not to like about Mark Stuart? Because of Jets injuries, he has been unavoidably overused at times, but whatever limp or tape-job he's got, you'll never hear him complain.

To-do list: Stuart will need to keep banging with the move to the Western Conference, all the while in something of a mentorship role, at least early, with rookie Jacob Trouba.

3 Jacob Trouba

What's done: One year of college (NCAA) hockey and a gold medal at the world junior yielded a team MVP award at Michigan as a freshman, first-team CCHA all-star and top defenceman at the world junior. Pretty good basis on which to turn pro.

To-do list: Trouba will be getting a lot of scrutiny and advice. Main ideas for the 19-year-old will be to a little less of a swashbuckler (either for the big hit or big play) than he was in college/junior and when he hits the wall this season (and he will), it won't be too disruptive or injurious to his confidence or his health.

4 Paul Postma

What's done: Has excelled at the AHL level and the Jets have been rewarded with their steady faith in the 24-year-old with the big shot. In 34 games last season he had four goals and averaged 15 minutes of ice.

To-do list: Slow and steady will win the race, so incremental improvement will keep Postma on track to more ice and more responsibility.

25 Zach Redmond

What's done: As a rookie in 2013, had eight more-than-decent games before suffering the grave skate cut on his leg. He was active and playing in the AHL before the season was over, making it a double feel-good story -- both for his recovery and his game on-ice attitude before and after the accident.

To-do list: There appears to be no lingering effects to the accident but all signs point to Redmond being asked to re-prove his level. It could mean a demotion to the AHL but few believe that will last long.

GOALTENDERS

31 Ondrej Pavelec

What's done: Yes, the stats can lie, so Winnipeg's defensive troubles can't all be on him. But his numbers are somewhat consistent and last year, from 44 starts and a mark of 21-20-3, his GAA (2.80) and save percentage (.905) are consistent with his past, keeping him in the lower echelon of No. 1 goalies in the NHL.

To-do list: The numbers simply have to improve. Pavelec, in addition to more saves, needs to reduce the number of cheesy goals that seem to get by him.

35 Al Montoya

What's done: With the Jets, appeared in just seven games last season, with a record of 3-1. Had a couple of exceptional performances but didn't get much of a chance to show his level.

To-do list: If it's the Jets' goal to be a better defensive team, that should translate into more trust in playing Montoya. Importantly, he seems to have the right mentality to be a successful back-up, so more of that please.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition September 30, 2013 C3

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