When the Jets returned to Winnipeg in 2011, they hoped to one day bring a Stanley Cup to their city. When attempting to build a team that can compete for the Stanley Cup year after year, it takes proper development of prospects and keen moves by a team’s general manager. After 7 years and 1 playoff appearance before this year, it’s finally paying off for the Winnipeg Jets.
After missing the playoffs for the second straight season the Winnipeg Jets were trending in the right direction and proved they were one of the best teams in the league in 2018. Finishing the year with their best record in franchise history, the Jets amassed a 52-20-8 record which was good for second in the Central Division and overall league standings behind the Nashville Predators. Along with having an excellent regular season, the Jets made quick work of the Minnesota Wild, beating them in 5 games and winning their first playoff series in franchise history. With their second round series against the Nashville Predators beginning in just a few short days, let’s take a look at the lineup that the Jets have created to hopefully help them make a deep playoff run.
If you’re going to be a consistent contending team in the NHL you need to be able to build a strong lineup from within. This includes mixing together smart drafting along with proper development of a team’s prospects. For a long time the Jets were considered to be one of the deeper teams in terms of prospects, and things are finally paying off in terms of success on the ice. To show what I mean let’s take a look at the Jets’ Game 5 lineup that helped them close out their first round series against the Wild.
Hellebuyck starts in net.
— Winnipeg Jets (@NHLJets) April 20, 2018
After taking a closer look there are only two players in this lineup that were signed as a NHL free agent. All other players were either drafted and developed into the NHL or were acquired in a trade. Let’s break the roster down in terms of trades and drafting.
Draft – Draft – Draft
Draft – Trade – Draft
Draft – Draft – Draft
College FA – FA signing – Draft
Trade – Trade
Trade – Draft
Draft – Draft
Although Wheeler, Byfugilien, Little and Enstrom (although not in the lineup that night) weren’t technically drafted by the Jets since they came over when the Thrashers relocated to Winnipeg, the Jets have a very deep home grown lineup. Along with the prospects and smart trades, Winnipeg doesn’t have any risky, long term free agent signings in their lineup. Matt Hendricks and Michael Hutchinson are essentially depth pieces along with being signed to short term, cheap contracts. This allows prospects and players who are proving themselves in the AHL or overseas to come up and make a smooth transition into the NHL without causing a logjam and thus stunting player development.
Players such as Patrik Laine and Kyle Connor have been able to transition incredibly well into the league and have already made names for themselves producing at high levels while both being 21 or younger. Along with these two, players such as Josh Morrissey and Jack Roslovic are able to continue their development and step into bigger and more important roles with the team. The Winnipeg Jets are an excellent blend of both veteran leadership and fast, skilled youth. In terms of age, only 8 players on the Jets are 30 or older with 4 of those players have expiring contracts at the end of the season. Not only have they been able to draft and/or trade for all of the players in their top six, but they were able to draft Connor Hellebuyck who looks to be their franchise starter in net after having a Vezina like season this year.
Since being named the General Manager of the Jets in 2011, Kevin Cheveldayoff has done an incredible job with drafting players, making trades and not overpaying any players signed during free agency. Cheveldayoff has also done an excellent job managing the team’s cap salary with Winnipeg currently having just over $5 million at the moment. However, the Jets have all of their superstar players (Wheeler, Scheifele, Byfuglien, Ehlers, etc.) locked up under long term deals that will only look better as the cap continues to rise each and every year. Having your most important players locked up long term helps maintain a quality team without the over payment of players that aren’t actively contributing. This also gives Cheveldayoff plenty of cap to re-sign younger players as their entry level deals expire such as Patrik Laine or Kyle Connor.
In the 8 years of their existence again in Winnipeg, the second round is the farthest the Jets have got in their hunt for the Stanley Cup. There’s no way of knowing how this season will turn out or how far the team will go, but one thing that’s for sure is that this lineup is built to last and built to compete. Winnipeg has officially turned the page and has a lineup that will be able to compete for hockey’s greatest prize for years to come.