By Tim "Bones" Bonnar
Tonight’s game, against the Washington Capitals, is worse than a do or die situation. Even with a win the Jets will not control their own destiny and their season very well may die in short order. Call it negative. Call it realistic. It is what it is. The Jets playoff hopes are on life support. It’s disappointing, but it’s also not the end of the world. Truth be told I’ll be perfectly content if the Jets get passed by the Hurricanes (and Ducks) as the season come to a close. One more top shelf draft pick will do a lot for this squad.
As I’ve stated before the cupboards on the farm are relatively bare and I would love to see them restocked. At this point, one of the Jets greatest needs is offence and the system simply isn’t flush with players that project as offensive weapons at the NHL level. There are a number of bottom six grinders in the system and there are some solid two way players in there too, but the system needs help.
All that said, there have been a few pleasant surprises this year. A few players stepped their game up and this will impact how the Jets’ approach the draft and free agency moving forward. Let’s take a look at some Jets / Jets prospects that out performed expectations this season. This is may seem bleak, but this is “bright side” stuff folks! :)
Bryan Little: Little is still very inconsistent offensively. I’m not sure there’s a streakier player around, but he does everything else a centre should and he does it well. Solid defensive play coupled with solid faceoff ability makes him a very good 2nd line centre on a lot of teams. Coming into this season, nobody would have said face-offs were among Little’s strengths. The improvement on the dots makes this 24 year old immensely more valuable.
Blake Wheeler: Blake got off to a slow start, but once he got rolling he was a freight train. Wheeler found his wheels! He figured out how to make proper use of his speed and size and defenders couldn’t figure out how to stop him. Wheeler still has room to improve his game, but he proved himself to be a legit 1st line talent. He made Little and Ladd look better.
Zach Bogosian: In my opinion Zach is still a project, but he’s a project with far less question marks. Bogo has found some balance and some control in his game and looks poised to take a big step forward in the coming years. He is not yet a shutdown D man, but it seems he has it in him.
Spencer Machacek: Spencer has seen very limited action in Winnipeg, but he hasn’t looked out of place at all. He has also been a dominant force for the Ice Cap this season and he led the team in scoring for much of the year. He may never be a game breaker, but in a 3rd or 4th line role he could be very solid. Look for Spencer to start next season in the big.
Carl Klingberg: As a junior Carl was often credited for his offensive upside, but until this year it hadn’t materialized on the ice. Much of his slowed output was to do with circumstance and coaching, these weren’t issues this year and it showed. It was great to see him finally put some numbers up. Klingberg may need another season before he becomes a regular NHLer, but he looks like a fun third line winger.
Ivan Telegin: The Russian Roadrunner battled through some early season injuries and exploded with offence late in the season. Lining up next to Scheifele surely didn’t hurt his production, but he actually managed to out produce his linemate down the stretch. Last season Telegin put up 20 Goals, 41 Apples and 61 points last season. This year he put up 35 Goals, 29 Assists and 64 points, but he did so in 13 fewer games. While I suspect TNSE will ship Ivan out to the coast for a year before he joins the Jets, I am hopeful that he can slot into a 2nd line role in a couple years.
Whether the Jets win tonight of not, we have a lot to look forward to.
For starters, we still have NHL hockey back in flippin Winnipeg! As fans we’ve been treated to a very exciting season full of highs and lows. We also witnessed fast paced, exciting hockey and number of highlight reel saves. The fact that the games have all mattered until this point is a major win. The team rewarded the fans with a ton of wins on home ice, the core players are still young, the future is still bright and we will in all likelihood be watching home playoff games before Leafs fans. Win or lose, keep your head up!
Go Jets Go!