Playoffs! Did I actually think this summer the Winnipeg Jets had a shot at making the NHL playoffs? While I had a few qualifiers to get them to that point, there were also a number of teams I believed would either regress or not improve, leaving the door open. Maybe the heat got to me.

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This article was published 13/10/2016 (1838 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Playoffs! Did I actually think this summer the Winnipeg Jets had a shot at making the NHL playoffs? While I had a few qualifiers to get them to that point, there were also a number of teams I believed would either regress or not improve, leaving the door open. Maybe the heat got to me.  

Last week, I mentioned the only "somewhat" important exhibition games were the final two — and the results were frightening for the Jets. They were pounded by the Edmonton Oilers 5-2 and the Minnesota Wild 5-1, but the scores aren’t important here, it’s what happened in those games that really matters.

The lack of offence was obvious, and the goaltenders were hung out to dry by their teammates’ poor defensive play. (Goalies Connor Hellebuyck and Michael Hutchinson were far from perfect as well.)

There were some good things, but it’s the bad stuff that will destroy playoff hopes. While it was only the pre-season, things need to change fast or the hole the Jets dig for themselves in a tough Central Division could be fatal.

Head coach Paul Maurice has had to do a lot of teaching the last few days, while at the same time cutting down to the final 23-man roster.

There was quite a celebration on social media when the Jets included former No. 1 goaltender Ondrej Pavelec among those cuts. They might be throwing Hutchinson and Hellebuyck under the bus considering the way the team recently played so loosely in front of them, but in my mind, it’s time to make this move and give the younger guys a chance. If Maurice hasn’t been able to get this team structured in a much better way in the last few days, we’ll either see greatness in net, the reappearance of Pavelec or the emergence of 21-year-old Eric Comrie.

The choice between Pavelec, in the final year of his contract, and the guy with all the potential (Comrie) would be a telling sign of how the Jets feel about the rest of the season. Would you try to stop a string of losses with "Three Shutouts In a Row" Pavelec or just commit to youth and maybe grab another top pick in the 2017 NHL Draft?

Marko Dano was the only skater sent down that surprised me, but as I said last week, a coach’s trust comes into play. It’s likely a lot of movement occurs during the first part of the season as Maurice looks for the right mix, and Brandon Tanev had a good camp and was tough to leave off of last week’s list.

While the defence was not good (missing Jacob Trouba is hurting a lot), there may be a silver lining. When the Jets made the playoffs (2014-15 and 99 points) they had a major transition on defence when Maurice was forced to play winger Dustin Byfuglien on the blue line because of injuries. That worked out well and Trouba’s absence opens the door for Josh Morrissey. He’s shown he has the talent to play, but consistency will be the key.

One of the wild cards for the Jets could be putting two stone-cold rookies — Patrik Laine and Kyle Connor — in significant roles in the lineup.

Laine’s non-production in limited games has some fans panicking for no reason. He’s going to produce well: the only concern is how long it takes to find his comfort level with the smaller NHL rink and tougher competition. Connor produced at times, but is also subject to an unknown learning curve.

There were so many questions heading into Thursday’s season opener against the Carolina Hurricanes, it would be foolish to pretend I know where this is headed in the short term. Let’s see if the Jets can give us some hints in the next week or so.

Looking ahead

I’m very excited to be in Winnipeg for the Heritage Classic weekend, courtesy of Jets owner Mark Chipman’s generous alumni package. I’m also staying a few extra days to make sure I fully enjoy the city where I spent my most successful professional years as a hockey player.

Winning the World Hockey Association’s last Avco Cup in 1979 was the ultimate experience because it was a struggle, I believe, all players appreciate to this day. When the Houston Aeros folded in 1978, many of the team’s players were blended into the Jets roster. Welcoming our hated rivals wasn’t easy, but we worked it out.

I was also chosen by general manager John Ferguson as one of the two skaters the Jets protected from that WHA team when entering the NHL (with Morris Lukowich).

Winnipeg, Edmonton, Quebec and Hartford were allowed to protect only two skaters from their teams, allowing players owned by NHL teams to be reclaimed by the teams that owned their rights, seeing far too many great players leave Winnipeg.

Being named captain of the Jets after the awesome defenceman, the late Lars-Erik Sjoberg, retired was an honour I appreciated at 23 years of age, but probably didn’t fully comprehend until years later.

I’m looking forward to seeing old friends and teammates. There are a considerable number of players I played with (from both the WHA and NHL) who are attending — and getting a chance to join fans on different occasions rounds out what should be one fun-filled weekend.

Yes, Winnipeg, I’ll see you soon.

Chosen ninth overall by the NHL’s St. Louis Blues and first overall by the WHA’s Houston Aeros in 1977, Scott Campbell has now been drafted by the Winnipeg Free Press to play a new style of game.

Twitter: @NHL_Campbell

 

Scott Campbell

Scott Campbell
Columnist

Scott was a member of Winnipeg Jets 1.0 for a couple of seasons and also played for the WHA Jets team that won the last Avco Cup in 1978-79.

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