With the NHL season a week away, it’s time to look at the newly realigned Central division. Each day, we will be looking at some of the teams that the Blackhawks will be facing in the Central. And hey at least, we are not in the Metropolitan division. Today, we look at the Winnipeg Jets.
Last year: 24-21-3, 51 points, second in Southeast Division.
Key Additions: Michael Frolik (RW), Devin Setoguchi (RW), Matt Halischuk (RW)
Key Departures: Kyle Wellwood (C), Ron Hainsey (D), Nik Antropov (C)
The skinny: It’s time for the Blackhawks formerly South, now Blackhawks north to make their way to the West. Ahem, I mean the Jets are now in the Western Conference after two years of being in the Southeast division after moving to Winnipeg. The Jets came very close to making the playoffs last year as they missed a spot by four points. While the Jets are making a move to a new division, they do get the benefit of decreased travel which will help. It’s a young team in Winnipeg but they are making great strides. Andrew Ladd is the captain and he has seen tremendous growth since being traded after the first Blackhawks Stanley Cup. There are other former Blackhawks such as Dustin Byfuglien on defense and Frolik. With the big shot of Byfuglien and Zach Bogosian, more is expected of the power play this season. It will be interesting to see if Frolik can fulfill his offensive potential that was expected of him with a bigger role in Winnipeg. Blake Wheeler and Evander Kane will need to continue their growth as well if the Jets are going to have a shot at making the playoffs.
Player to watch: Andrew Ladd- In the three seasons as part of the Thrashers/Jets franchise, Ladd has put up point totals of 59, 50 and 46. Last season was his lowest point total but he is becoming a point per game player and has only missed one game. He has become the leader for a franchise that is hungry to make the playoffs. Ladd has won two Stanley Cups already and his leadership has had a huge effect on the young team. Even though Ladd had only 46 points, it was his highest point per game total of his career. Now the question is can Ladd become a 70-80 point guy per season. If he can do that, Winnipeg will have a star to lead them as they enter new territory this year.
History: The Blackhawks and Jets don’t have much history. Besides the objections of Toews who was upset that the Blackhawks did not get to play the Jets in their first year back in Winnipeg, there is no history between the two teams. In their only meeting since the Thrashers became the Jets, the Blackhawks won 4-3 in Chicago and have gone 2-0 in the past three years against the Atlanta/Winnipeg franchise. The two teams are most known for the Blackhawks trading Byfuglien, Ladd and Brent Sopel after winning the Cup in 2010. The two teams play each other three times in November and should get fast acquainted with each other.