Off Beat with Winnipeg Jets Nation

I caught up recently with Art, from the Winnipeg Jets’ blog, Jets Nation, to get his thoughts on the upcoming season and moves his team made this summer.

BR: Art, JetsNation has been incredibly welcoming to BluesRants over the last few years and we are extremely grateful for it, can you give our readers a brief reintroduction to who you are, what JetsNation is, and a little bit of your love affair with the Jets?

I am the managing editor of JetsNation.ca going into my third year in that role with the website that I’ve been part of for five years now. JetsNation is part of the Nation Network group of hockey sites that was started by a group of guys over at OilersNation.com well over a decade ago before they realized there were even better teams to cover than the Oilers and since branched out into having sites that cover the Flames, Canucks, Leafs, Red Wings and us as well as other hockey related resources like HockeyFights.com and PuckPedia.com.

As far as my fandom goes, I grew up in Alberta not wanting to cheer for the two clubs that everyone else in that province rooted for, so I gravitated to the 1.0 Jets. When they left, I drifted off into being a Stars fan for a handful of years before the NHL gift-wrapped the Thrashers to Winnipeg.

BR: First round exit was not what was expected of the Jets last year, but the series was pretty special for us, two years of being beaten by “destiny” teams have to feel like garbage for a passionate fanbase ready for the media to crown them as the team of “destiny”, what was your reaction to the early exit?

It might surprise a lot of outside fans, but that first-round exit wasn’t unexpected at all for a good majority of Jets fans. The entire season felt “off” from Hellebuyck’s early struggles, the injuries to Dustin Byfuglien, Laine’s prolonged slumps, rumors of infighting with the players, inconsistent play from the forward group and repeated blown third-period multi-goal leads that would end in regulation losses. Even the most optimistic of us near the end of the regular season felt that the writing was on the wall (https://jetsnation.ca/2019/03/29/these-jets-arent-going-past-the-first-round/). All that said, they actually had a pretty decent effort against St. Louis in that first round but I’d argue most fans felt a first-round exit was inevitable.

Not that it made it suck any less, it just somehow felt like a fitting end to a very disappointing season and Winnipeg sports fans are kind of used to that thing anyway.

BR: What were some of the needs that the Jets had to meet in the offseason?

Deal with the Jacob Trouba situation once and for all – which they did, not well granted, but at least it’s over and done with and we can all move on. They also needed a way to fit Patrik Laine and Kyle Connor under the salary cap with one eye to NEXT summer when Josh Morrissey, Jack Roslovic and Sami Niku all have expiring RFA contracts. That last one has yet to be resolved as I write this of course.

Losing Tyler Myers and Brandon Tanev hurt, but they are also replaceable by in-house options the Jets have available to them in their prospect system for much cheaper contracts.

BR: Lots of turnover and possibly some more soon, what’s the latest with Laine?

About two weeks ago Laine caused some waves by saying he didn’t know where he was playing this season and didn’t even think his agent and the Jets had even begun starting contract talks which obviously sounded a bunch of alarms until one realizes the Jets M.O. is usually to get these things done in the first part of September anyway. The feeling is the Jets would like to lock him in long term for a sweet Scheifele-like deal with the hopes that they lock in a future 50 goal player for less than $9 mil a season, but the Laine camp would prefer a two year bridge-type deal, bet on Patrik becoming a more all-around player and cash in big time in a few years.

BR: Thoughts about a possible floor or ceiling for the club?

I’ve already seen plenty of talk that the Jets could miss the playoffs outright and that certainly is possible, especially if Byfuglien continues to struggle to stay healthy, Kyle Connor and/or Laine miss any significant time due to contract issues, and Paul Maurice can’t figure out how to get production from more than just the top line. As far as ceiling though? The Jets are a team that could still contend for the top spot in the division if everything goes right for them. Despite all the struggles that I mentioned the team had earlier, it was still a club that led the Central division for a good chunk of the season and the roster isn’t that much different this season.

BR: Players to keep an eye on early in the year would be?

Sami Niku is going to be given plenty of chances to earn a top-four spot on defense and could be a great complement to Dustin Byfuglien. Jack Roslovic was rumored to be unhappy with how he was used last year so this could be a make or break season for him. Andrew Copp might also get some looks at a top-six forward spot on the roster. Patrik Laine of course – if he does make it to camp – will be the biggest player to watch though. In that same weekend he mentioned the contract issues, he also mentioned he was working on his upper body strength and being someone like his idol Alex Ovechkin who could use his size to his advantage.

BR: Any thoughts on happenings around the NHL?

I hope we all enjoy the last season or two that we have before we end up with CBA Armageddon II (Electric Boogaloo). There are so many NHL clubs with cap issues this summer and contracts still seem overly ridiculous (I love me some Brandon Tanev, but I have no idea on Earth how he was handed a six-year deal) that it sure feels like we could have a prolonged labor stoppage yet again.

BR: Who will win the division?

You asked me this last year and I foolishly picked my own team and thus cursed them. I won’t do that to my team this year, nor will I be a bad guest and jinx your Blues. Instead, I’ll pick the Avalanche to win the division and thus doom them to inevitable failure.

Art Middleton
Managing Editor – JetsNation.ca

E-Mail: jetsnationnhl@gmail.com

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