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Winnipeg Jets 2023-24 Season Preview

Oct 2, 2023; Calgary, Alberta, CAN; Winnipeg Jets defenseman Josh Morrissey (44) skates with the puck against the Calgary Flames during the second period at Scotiabank Saddledome. Mandatory Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

The Winnipeg Jets are kicking off the 2023-2024 NHL regular season on October 11 at the Saddledome against the Calgary Flames. Prior to the season starting, we would like to recap what was a fairly typical Jets offseason in preparation of the new season.

Key Additions and Subtractions

The Jets have not had any key subtractions thanks to trades that did not happen. Both Connor Hellebuyck and Mark Scheifele wanted to be traded, but Kevin Cheveldayoff did not move them as there were no trades that were advantageous for the Jets at this time. That could change closer to the trade deadline, but as of now both players are in Winnipeg for the season.

The Jets did lose their former captain Blake Wheeler to a buyout, but he has been struggling as a player for a long time. That move should help the Jets as the weight of Wheeler is no longer there. There should be less pressure on Wheeler in New York City as well, but the Jets should still benefit from not having Wheeler on the team.

Strengths and Weaknesses

The Jets biggest strength is goaltending. Connor Hellebuyck is one of the best, if not the best, goalie in the league and the Jets are lucky to have him. Outside of Hellebuyck, the Jets strengths few and far between. They did pick up some solid players in Gabriel Vilardi and Alex Iafalo amongst other pieces from the Pierre-Luc Dubois trade. However, the Jets always get dinged with injuries at the worst times and it hurts them in a big way depth wise.

The Jets biggest weakness is their defence. Since Toby Enstrom and Dustin Byfuglien retired, the Jets have struggled to form a competent defensive group. Josh Morrissey has hopefully made progress in filling that void. The concern with Morrissey is consistency as he had an uneven start to his career. The hope is last season was a breakout and he can continue his play. Otherwise, the Jets blueline will once again be in dire straits. Well, even more so than if he repeats last season.

Biggest questions

The obvious biggest question is who will finish the year on the team. Will Mark Scheifele and Connor Hellebuyck still be Jets by the end of the season? That is a very valid question, as both players are on the last year of their contracts and have already asked to be traded. They are back with the Jets, but for how long?

Outside of that, it is the performance of the defence. If the defence can punch above their collective weight, the Jets could be better than expected. If they cannot, things could get ugly fast.

Star players

When talking about the Jets, one can start to sound like a broken record when it comes to Connor Hellebuyck. So we are going to almost ignore him when it comes to star players because he has been talked about so much.

First we have Joshua Morrissey who had a breakout season last season. If Morrissey’s play continues this season, he will have cemented himself a star for the Jets and a top defenceman in the league. If that is the case, he will once again be a player to watch.

The other player is Kyle Connor who gets a lot of flack for not being a complete player, but consistently puts up 30+ goals in his sleep. Bad defensive play is only unacceptable if you are a middling player. It is not Connor’s fault that coaches see him as a good defensive player when he is not one. Instead, just let him focus on offence and let the good times role.

Under the radar player

When someone says underrated and Winnipeg Jets in the same sentence, minds should go to Nikolaj Ehlers. Ehlers is the Jets best forward, but you rarely hear him mentioned outside of some Jets fan circles. He has been the Jets best player for zone entrances for a while and was held back by Blake Wheeler being played ahead of him by the coaches for no apparent reason. This season is his season (hopefully).

Key young players

Every year some Winnipeg Jets fans ask the question: is this the year Ville Heinola makes the Jets? and every year those fans are left disappointed. Heinola is out long term because he got injured in the Jets final preseason game on October 6. Such is the life of the Jets. The other key young player is Cole Perfetti who has offensive skills which the Jets sorely lack. Okay, they lack a lot of things, but mobile defenders and offensive skill are two major things.

The Jets could be a lot of things this season. They might be in a rebuild, they might be in a retool, but they also might end up just adding and being fine. They are like a box of chocolates every night. You never know what you will get.


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