Could Winnipeg Jets Make the Playoffs Playing in a Tougher Southeast Division?
Over the last couple of weeks, The Hockey News has been putting together their predictions on where teams will finish in the standings at the end of the 2012-13 regular season. The Winnipeg Jets had a respectable first season in Manitoba, staying in the race until April. They ended up finishing eight points out of the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference with a grand total of 87. The Ottawa Senators and Washington Capitals needed 92 points each to lock down the seventh and eighth seeds. The Jets finished 11th.
Where does The Hockey News have Winnipeg finishing the upcoming season? THN pegged the Jets a lowly 14th in the conference, with only the New York Islanders fairing worse.
Why would a team that had an outside shot at a playoff berth last season that didn’t lose any key players and added a little bit of scoring depth be slated to have such bad season?
You can check out THN’s reasoning here, but it could have a lot to do with what other teams in the Southeast Division did over the offseason.
The Florida Panthers won the division after adding a lot of new faces in the summer of 2011, including Brian Campbell, Kris Versteeg, Thomas Fleischmann, Ed Jovanovski and Scottie Upshall. Even though they lost Jason Garrison through free agency, most of their team was kept intact and will be out to prove their winning ways weren’t a fluke last season.
The Washington Capitals have always had firepower as long as Alex Ovechkin and Niklas Backstrom have been around and gave the New York Rangers a run for their money in the playoffs. Mike Ribeiro gives them scoring depth at center and they’re hoping Wojtek Wolski can finally figure it out with his fifth team. As dysfunctional as the Caps have been over the last few seasons, they have too much talent to miss the post season.
Steve Yzerman was aggressive in improving the Tampa Bay Lightning this summer, addressing needs on defense and in goal. Anders Lindback, Matt Carle and Sami Salo will join a Lightning squad that was one win away from advancing to the 2011 Stanley Cup Final. After a down season in 2011-12, finishing one spot ahead of the Jets, Tampa looks ready to jump back into the playoffs.
Last but certainly not least the Carolina Hurricanes made one of the biggest trades of the summer in acquiring Jordan Staal from the Pittsburgh Penguins. They also brought in the enigmatic Alex Semin who is capable of putting up huge numbers when he wants to. Add those guys to the likes of Eric Staal, Jeff Skinner, Jussi Jokinen and Tuomo Ruutu and Carolina looks pretty dangerous up front. Things look a little sketchy on the back end, but Cam Ward can iron out some of the mistakes the defense will make.
THN has the Capitals and Lightning in the playoffs with Carolina and Florida right on the bubble.
Can the Jets, who were a bubble team last year, have a better season just by adding Olli Jokinen and Alexei Ponikarovsky to the forward corps? If they manage to get Evander Kane locked up, will he have a big year? Can Ondrej Pavelec and his new contract be counted on?
The situation on the blue line looks stable at least and is still very much the strength of this team. The questions in the previous paragraph probably all have to be answered with a “yes” if the Jets are going to make the playoffs in what looks to be a much tougher Southeast Division.