Getting to Know the New Central Division: The Winnipeg Jets

Bruce Fedyck-US PRESSWIRE

Time to get to know new division foes: The Winnipeg Jets

We continue our look at the Stars' new division today with a truly new face to the conference: The newly reanimated corpse of the Atlanta Thrashers re-formed Winnipeg Jets.

The young Jets earned more points (51) than the Stars did last year (48) but did so in what was, by a wide margin, the worst division in hockey with the Hurricanes (42), Lightning (40) and Panthers (36) all finishing beneath them. They were the only second place finish in a division to miss the post-season.

Now they'll try their luck in what should be an unquestionably stronger set in the Central.

Here's a look at their off-season...

Additions:

RW Devin Setoguchi, RW Michael Frolik, RW Andrew Gordon, RW Matt Halischuk, D Adam Pardy

Subtractions:

C Nik Antropov, C Alexander Burmistrov, LW Antti Miettinen, C Aaron Gagnon, D Derek Meech

Re-Signed:

Blake Wheeler, Bryan Little, Zach Bogosian

***

It would be easy to overlook the Jets given the franchise's futility, whether in Atlanta or Winnipeg, but they possess a talented forward group that scored plenty last season.

Kane, Little, Wheeler, Ladd, Frolik, Setoguchi, Clitsome, Wellwood, Olli Jokinen and a young hopeful like Mark Scheifele give them more than enough pieces that can put the puck in the net and threaten with regularity.

The question mark for Winnipeg is the same as it is for Dallas. Can they keep the puck out of their net? It's an interesting question to have when their only free agent add on defense was Adam Pardy. Their defensive depth as it stands now goes something like this:

Tobias Enstrom Dustin Byfuglien
Grant Clitsome Zach Bogosian
Mark Stuart Paul Postma
Adam Pardy Jacob Trouba
Arturs Kulda Zach Redmond

The first two pairings look solid, yet were part of 25th place GA/G last season (Matching Dallas' exactly at a putrid 2.94). Jets fans hope highly touted draft pick Jacob Trouba will challenge for a spot in camp, increasing their depth and making an impact nightly.

On paper their goaltending might be a bigger problem. Andrei Pavelec appeared in 44 of 48 games last season while recording a 21-20-3 record, a 2.80 GAA and a .905 save percentage. They'll need more from him if the defensive part of their game is to match a talented forward group.

The most publicized part of the Jets' offseason was the departure of Alexander Burmistrov, 2010 first-round pick (8th overall) who parted ways with Winnipeg to play in the KHL. Burmistrov scored just four times last season but positively influenced play while still searching for his potential at only 21 years of age.

Our friends at Arctic Ice Hockey on the loss:

His role continuously changed throughout the season; he ended the season averaging the seventh most difficult quality of competition, sixth in percentage of offensive zone starts, seventh in 5v5 TOI and seventh in 5v4 TOI. Burmistrov's underlying numbers pointed towards him tilting the ice severely in favor of the Jets as they had their best shot attempts +/- when either he or captain Ladd were on the ice.

Currently out chancing opponents is the strongest statistic we have that correlates to wins and getting into the playoffs; with the Jets losing their second and third most effective players in that regards with Burmistrov and Wellwood, as well as tough minute defenseman Ron Hainsey, it is highly possible the Jets have taken a step back this offseason. [Arctic Ice Hockey]

Over at HFBoards they project the Jets lineup to be something like this:

Andrew Ladd-Bryan Little-Blake Wheeler
Evander Kane-Mark Scheifele-Devin Setoguchi
Eric Tangradi-Olli Jokinen-Michael Frolik
James Wright-Jim Slater-Matthew Halischuk
Chris Thorburn-Eric O`Dell-Anthony Peluso

This is truly a new beginning where a rivalry is concerned. None exists. Not even a hint. The Stars are 11-2-1 all time against the Jets' franchise dating back to the Thrashers' inaugural campaign in 1999-2000, and have seen the Winnipeg version only once - A 5-2 shellacking by the home team at the MTS center in March of 2012.

We won't have to wait long to see them in person for the first time. October 26th marks their first visit to the American Airlines Center following an October 11th meeting up north early in the year.

Stars fans don't know much about disliking the Jets and their fanbase yet, but the acquaintance will be made quickly.

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