Central Division 2014-15 Preview: Winnipeg Jets
COACH: Paul Maurice
2013-14 RECORD: 37-35-10, 84 points (seventh in Central; missed playoffs)
VITAL SIGNS: 2.67 goals per game (15th); 2.82 goals-against per game (22nd); 15.4 power play pct. (25th); 83.2 power play pct. (10th); shootout record: 8-6 (8th)
PROJECTED DEPTH CHART:
Tobias Enstrom - Zach Bogosian
Jacob Trouba - Grant Clitsome
Mark Stuart - Adam Party
OUTLOOK: There were plenty of holes for GM Kevin Cheveldayoff to fill in his roster during the offseason, and he didn't fill any of them in a significant way. Instead, he'll rely on the majority of last season's crew, a new emphasis on physical conditioning, the continued development of the team's top prospects (keep an eye on 2014 first rounder Nikolaj Ehlers), and a full season of coach Paul Maurice to get the Jets to their first playoff appearance since the franchise's Atlanta days in 2007. After taking over for Claude Noel last January, Maurice led Winnipeg to nine wins in 11 games and and lifted them into postseason contention before the injury ninja lopped the wings off. Maurice's work will be cut out for him this season as he'll helm a team with a middling offense, a thin defense, a woeful power play and sub-par goaltending. Don't expect a Cup parade in Winnipeg anytime soon, but some progress isn't out of the question. There really isn't anywhere to go but up, and that will largely depend on youngsters such as forward Mark Scheifele and defenseman Jacob Trouba continuing to improve and goalie Ondrej Pavelic finally proving his worthiness as a No. 1—a tall order unless the defense improves. Like the Predators, the Jets can't afford a slow start or lengthy losing skid if they hope to see the postseason.
PLAYER TO WATCH: Evander Kane
To say it was a tumultuous offseason for Kane would be an understatement. He did nothing to squash offseason trade rumors and his contentious attitude with the media has caused even the most harmless of his tweets to be taken in the worst possible way. Despite being just 23 years old, Kane is in his sixth NHL season and young scorers with 30-goal potential are in short supply. If he really wants out of Winnipeg, as many people believe he does, a strong showing early in the season will likely help earn him a ticket to a contender at the trade deadline.
PREDICTION: 85 points; seventh in Central