Paul McCann: Deconstructing the Central – Winnipeg – plus some Pred notes…

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Summertime, so while impatiently waiting for September 25th to come, I’ll be taking the next few blogs to concentrate on the Central Division and attempt to evaluate the moves made by each team. Did they address their needs effectively? Are they better or worse after the moves made? Writing this in July makes this a dicey proposition but what else am I gonna do… watch indoor lacrosse?

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The first team I want to look at is the Winnipeg Jets, beginning their fourth year in Manitoba. The bloom is definitely off the rose after finishing seven points out of a playoff spot. The Jets are competing in the toughest division in the NHL and they needed to make some moves to upgrade in several key areas considering their middle of the pack performance offensively and their sub standard performance defensively since their move from Atlanta. The pressure is definitely on to perform for this historically underachieving franchise.

The key addition to the Jets comes via free agency, signing center Mathieu Perreault. Perreault is coming off of a decent season with Anaheim, posting 43 points (18g, 25a) in 69 games. Perreault effectively replaces Olli Jokinen and may have some upside given that the forward is only 26. It’s a nice signing, but it isn’t near enough to keep up.

Let’s start in goal. Ondrej Pavelec begins his eighth year for the franchise between the pipes and it needs to be said that this goaltender may not be the answer for this team… and that’s a problem. With a career GAA of 2.96 (3.01 last season) and a career save % of .906 (.901 last season), his performance has been on a downward path since his career best season during the Thrashers last year in Atlanta in 2010-11 (GAA – 2.73, Sv% – .914). Pavelec needs to much better for this team to be a contender.

Defensively, Zach Bogosian, Jacob Trouba and Mark Stuart are clearly NHL quality, Trouba has the capability to be a stud defenseman, Tobias Entrom and Grant Clitsome are serviceable. But for some reason this blueline struggles. There does seem to be a theme developing here.

Offensively, the Jets have improved slightly with the Perreault add, that’s assuming that the rest of the forward corps remains the same. That’s a big assumption to make given the drama over Evander Kane and his status with the team. There are solid pieces on this team in Andrew Ladd, Dustin Byfuglien, Eric Tangredi and Blake Wheeler. Mark Scheifele is an up and comer, But for some reason, the offense disappears in critical situations and doesn’t seem to be getting the job done.

To sum up the Winnipeg Jets… the sum of the parts on this team never seems to add up. They should be better than they have performed over the past three season… and coming to the hyper-competitive Central Division did not help this team at all. The plan for this franchise since the move to Winnipeg has always been to develop from within, get better by developing their own draft picks. The problem is, the team hasn’t been bad enough to get one of the top picks over the last five drafts. Their selection numbers over the past four drafts have been… 2014 – 9th Nikolaj Ehlers… 2013 – 13th Josh Morrisey… 2012 – 9th Jacob Trouba… 2011 – 7th Mark Scheifele. You have to give the franchise credit for decent drafting… their first picks have been, for the most part, solid with Trouba and Scheifele already making significant contributions.

My take… this team is treading water. For an impatient fan base… the future is now. In reality, the plan for this franchise seems to be working… the big question for Winnipeg is patience. Three years into a five year plan, has there been enough progress to warrant waiting the next two? Well… if it puts the Jets front and center in the Connor McDaniel sweepstakes… perhaps dealing with another year at the bottom of the division would be easier.

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Random Notes

– The Evander Kane argument has been joined in the media… some saying that the disgruntled Jets forward would be a great fit in Nashville… others saying that he would not. To me, if you have a chance at that kind of talent for a reasonable term/cost… you go for it.

– Kinda cool what the Predators did with the ice this summer… the “coloring book” effect works…

– Elliotte Friedman, in his last “30 Thoughts” column (this one actually has 54… but who’s counting) of the season, confirms that the proposed deal for Spezza would’ve been the same one that GM David Poile executed for James Neal.

– The National TV Schedule is out for the US and the networks of NBC Sports will be filled with hockey! The Predators only US national TV date is at Bridgestone Arena on 2/26 vs. Minnesota on NBCSN.

– Canadian networks will be carrying the following Predator games… 10/29 @ Edmonton on SportsNet, 11/15 & 3/7 vs. Winnipeg on Hockey Night in Canada and 12/6 vs Chicago on HNIC. The Hockey Night crew loves to come to Nashville… we’ll alert Tootsie’s to lay in some extra booze.

– The arbitration between Colorado and Ryan O’Reilly looks to get nasty. They are far apart in money and a hearing would only drive the two sides further away from each other. This will not end well… imagine this, the Av’s let Statsny for nothing as a UFA, will they do the same in this case?

– Don’t think O’Reilly is worth it on the open market? Riddle me this… Do you think he would get what Thomas Vanek got?

– Speaking of Vanek… there are reports swirling that he may be part of a federal gambling investigation taking place in New York. He is not being implicated and appears to be simply a witness.

– Dallas has avoided arbitration with Antoine Roussel, agreeing to a four year contract worth $8 million.

– NHL Referee Tim Peel is on Twitter … wait… no he isn’t. About 18 hours after establishing a Twitter account… this got posted…

Sorry hockey fans..gotta shut it down#Passionate hockey fans!

— Tim Peel (@TimTpeel) July 22, 2014

See… this is why we can’t have nice things. Although, to be honest… that had disaster written ALL over it!

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You are invited to follow me on Twitter. Search for @PredPAPaul… Not only will I be updating when I get news or updates, but we are having a bit of fun by getting your input on Gnash introductions, weigh in on Twitter and who knows, we may use your introduction for the best mascot in the NHL at the next Preds game! You can also keep up with all the goings on with SlapShot Radio by following the show on Twitter @SlapShotRadio1

Also… make sure to “like” SlapShot Radio on Facebook… here’s the link.

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The SlapShot Radio Road Trip is back!!! Go to our Facebook page for more information and join us as we hit the road to Big D!

We need to nail down tickets quick gang… so head on over!

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This post originally appeared on www.hockeybuzz.com and we thank them for permission to rebroadcast it here.