Do the Winnipeg Jets need to reassess how they are building their team? Obviously, GM Kevin Cheveldayoff and company are doing a fine job as is; the Jets finished with the second-best record in the NHL last season and boast one of the league’s youngest lineups. However, Paul Wiecek of The Winnipeg Free Press makes a valid point that with a cap crunch coming for the talented squad, the team would be better off shifting their focus away from the blue line and onto the forward corps. Wiecek cites the contract disputes with Jacob Trouba – who will be a restricted free agent once again next summer – and the still unsigned Josh Morrissey as situations that the Jets could move on from in the near future. Tyler Myers and Ben Chiarot will also both be unrestricted free agents next off-season and the team will have to figure out what do there as well. Instead of continuing to devote precious cap space to the blue line, like the Jets’ Central Division rival Nashville Predators, Wiecek feels the team would be better off focusing their efforts and expenditures up front. With Patrik Laine and Kyle Connor, as well as several other young depth forwards, headed to restricted free agency in 2019, it may be in Winnipeg’s best interests to sign their talented homegrown forwards to long-term deals and look at other options on the blue line. The same goes for re-signing captain Blake Wheeler, an impending UFA would draw considerable interest if he hit the open market. Wiecek suggests the team look at the recent Stanley Cup winners, the Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins, who were far more invested in star power and depth up front than on the back end. With that talent already in place among the Jets’ forwards, and some dissent and long-term questions on the blue line, this may be an idea that would work out very well in Winnipeg’s favor.
- Another team making changes to their structure are the New York Islanders. However, this adjustment is one of strategy and culture under new head coach Barry Trotz. The Athletic’s Arthur Staple sat down with the recent Stanley Cup winner and learned about the whirlwind first couple of months for Trotz with the team. Trotz was not short on feelings about the club and its future:
“There’s going to be change. It’s going to be structurally, on and off the ice, expectations are going to change… On the ice, I have a vision of how we can play to be better. This team can score, with John Tavares or without John Tavares. The area it’s failed in maybe the last year and a half is on the defensive end. Just looking at the trends over the last four years, it’s clear that’s an area we need to fix. The great thing about the game, one of the hardest things to do in this league is create offense and score goals. This team has been able to do that in the last four years. One of the easiest things to correct, if there’s a commitment and a buy-in, is keeping the puck out of your net. We’ll need a bigger buy-in, we’ll put some structure, we’ll make sure the details are there and we’ll make players accountable. If they’re not, we’ll get someone who can be accountable. And we’ve got to build our players. We’ve got some unfinished products who can certainly be better. Get them to play to their capabilities, that’s all we ask. We want them to be consistent and play to their capabilities, we never ask guys to do more than they’re capable of.”
To say it has been a difficult summer for the Islanders and their fans, given the loss of Tavares and the lack of improvement elsewhere on the roster, is an understatement. However, they still obtained a successful and well-respected coach and hearing that he has a clear plan and is open about his expectations has to be a boost to the morale of the team and its supporters.
- Another new head coach has his players excited for the coming season. In speaking with Mike Zeisberger of NHL.com, Dallas Stars defenseman John Klingberg expressed his pleasure with the team’s hiring of Jim Montgomery as their new coach. Montgomery recently visited Klingberg at his home in Sweden and the talented defender came away very impressed with their first real interaction. Not only was Klingberg very appreciative of his new bench boss’ willingness to make the long trek to visit him, but also connected with Montgomery about his plans for the team and his own individual development. Klingberg feels that Montgomery can help him transform into a true No. 1 defenseman and that his plan for the team will play to the elite puck-movers strength. Klingberg summarized his excitement for the new campaign nicely, telling Zeisberger that he and Montgomery “have the potential to do some big things.”