2011-12 NHL Season Preview: Winnipeg Jets

Offseason Losses: Anthony Stewart, Rick Rypien, Radek Devorak

Offseason Additions: Derek Meech, Eric Fehr, Tanner Glass, Randy Jones

Last Season Ranking: 12 in the East

Offense: The team formerly known as the Atlanta Thrashers moved north for greener pastures and is now the Winnipeg Jets. The team will play in the Eastern conference and the Southeast division this season before transferring to the West for 2012-13. In the mean time, the franshise underwent a complete overhaul. The only remaining pieces seem to be are the players on the ice. Just about everything off the ice is new, from ownership to general manager to the coach.

On offense, they don’t have the personnel of an expansion team. However, they do have one of players that haven’t seen playoff action in a very long time. They have decent numbers on offense, their problem is that the second and third leading scorers in regards to points are defensemen. They have to get more production from the offense. Andrew Ladd, Blake Wheeler, and Bryan Little are expected once again to be the top forwards. They lost young prospect Anthony Stewart to Carolina, but Evander Kane and Alexander Burmistrov have star potential in them. Look for them to spend time with the top live should anyone above them on the depth chart struggle.

Defense: For what the Jets lack on offense, they make up for it on defense. They have the league leader in goals among defensemen in Dustin Byfuglien. Since he made the change from forward to defense when he came over from Chicago last season, his offense has blossomed into one of the more deadlier players in the league. Along with Tobias Enstrom, the two All-Stars will anchor a unit that has the potential to light the lamp on ┬ánights when the forwards aren’t doing so.

The Jets also have experienced defensemen in Johnny Oduya, Ron Hainsey and Mark Stuart who is expected to bring toughness and physicality to the team. The X-Factor is Zach Bogosian. He currently doesn’t have a contract for this season but is a restricted free agent. He has Norris Trophy potential, but he hasn’t shown that type of consistency shown by some of the best in the league.

Goaltending: Their defense and goaltending was among the worse in the league. Only Colorado averaged more goals allowed per contest, as the team allowed an average of 3.2 goals per game. One stat you probably can’t fins anywhere else is they allowed a league-leading 15 empty net goals. They return Ondrej Pavelec and Chris Mason in goal and should see an improvement over last season. Pavelec is 24 years old and has given the new franchise a goalie that can be with the team for many years should they be able to re-sign him. Both Pavelec ad Mason are free agents at the end of this season (Pavelec restricted and Mason unrestricted), and it will be interesting to see how they play considering they don’t have a contract for 2012.

HWB Playoff Prediction: Not playoff bound. They will be exciting to watch in the first season in Winnipeg, but there are simply too many good teams ahead of them in the conference. When they move to the West next year, they could be a playoff contender should they continue to get better.

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