Ladd eagerly shows off his Kane autograph to fellow teammates. Buff is disappointed he didn’t get one. Photoshop by Joe Kremel of BlackhawkUp.com
The Jets ended their time in the east with a season that fell just short by placing 9th and winding up just outside the playoff bubble. The problem the Jets have with this move is that they are going from the South East division to the Central division. The competition just got even tougher for the Jets of Winnipeg. The Jets have a little over 2 million to spend, but they have 5 players to spend it on. One of those five is Alex Burmistrov. The youngster has been unhappy with his ice time and has already threatened to pack up his gear and go play in the KHL. The Jets have some decisions to make on some of their players. 2014 will be an important year for this team, and they will get a chance to see if having faith in some of their players will pay out after handing out some sizable contracts.
The Leader – Andrew Ladd (4.4 mill): Andrew Ladd has always been a competitor, and he continues to be just that for the Jets. He led the team in assists with 28 and was second in goals with 18. His willingness to do whatever it takes to win has been a major key to the Jets’ success. His team leading +10 in plus/minus is a testament to the difference he makes when he’s on the ice. That stat becomes even more impressive when only 6 other players were a plus. On top of all that, he stayed out of the box which helped keep him in the thick of things and lead his team. Ladd is an extremely reliable player, and his value to the Jets can’t be stated enough.
The Weak Link – Ondrej Pavelec (3.9 mill): I will start off by saying that I like Pavelec, but I won’t let that stop me from being objective. Pavelec shouldn’t be a starting goaltender in the NHL, or at least he shouldn’t be getting paid the amount that they are paying him for being their starter. His international numbers look pretty good, and that’s where I first started watching him play. Unfortunately, those numbers never followed him into North America. His career save percentage is .907 which isn’t anything to get excited over. Yet the Jets seem content with his performance, and he’s the guy the Hawks will be seeing in net this upcoming season. He has potential, and if he could just work on those soft goals, he’d really give his team some added confidence. Maybe it’s the perfect time for a fresh start and a career year in the Western conference for Pavelec.
The Warrior – Evander Kane (5.2 mill): Kane had a rough start when he headed into the Peg. The media decided to scrutinize everything the kid did. Rumors started popping up that he wanted out, and I got a bit excited that he could potentially come to Chicago. That didn’t end up happening, and Kane continues to be a strong addition to the Jets. Last season Kane set a career high points-per-game average while hitting everything that moved. He had 147 hits in 48 games which trumps his 173 in 74 games from the previous season. The guy is simply fun to watch. With the move to the Central division, the team will need more from him defensively if they want to make the playoffs.
Prognosis: Not good. The West is already jam packed with playoff teams and the Jets won’t have too many easy wins in their new division. With teams like the Wild and the Preds who will be looking to fill out the playoff bubble behind the Hawks and Blues, there simply isn’t enough room. Another cause for my lack of faith comes from the play style of the west vs the east. In general, the West had a lot more close, one-goal, and/or tightly defended games. The East had a lot more high scoring games with the focus purely on scoring. This could be a complete non-factor, but it still is something to keep in mind. The Jets will have it tough, but that doesn’t mean that they won’t succeed in their new conference. They have a lot of solid players; they just need to get everyone on the same page.