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September 30, 2013 | 11:56pm ET
2013-14 Season Preview: Winnipeg
By David Brown, TheFourthPeriod.com

The Winnipeg Jets are finally out of the Southeast Division. Good news -- they donít have to lead the league in travel miles anymore. Bad news -- they are in a division with the St. Louis Blues and Chicago Blackhawks and donít get to travel the beaches as frequently.

The Jets lost their final two games of last season and finished just four points shy for the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs. After the nice honeymoon first season back in Winnipeg, the Jets entered last season with playoff expectations and came up on the outside looking in.

After signing goalie Ondrej Pavelec to a five-year, $19.5 million contract, he responded with a subpar season. He finished out of the top-30 in save percentage and goals against average -- highly disappointing.

The Jets last place power play didnít help hide any goalie deficiencies either. The Jets finished just out of the top half in scoring, but their goals against per game ranked in the bottom six. There was just three teams in the bottom half of goals against per game that made the playoffs, the two eight seeds Minnesota Wild and New York Islanders, and the high flying Washington Capitals that surged in the second half of the season thanks to Alex Ovechkin. The Jets donít have an Ovechkin.

This season, the Jets added to their scoring core of Evander Kane, Bryan Little, Blake Wheeler and Andrew Ladd, but again, defense and goaltending is their biggest need of fixing if the Jets want to make the playoffs.

FORWARDS

The Jets added former 30-goal scorer Devin Setoguchi, another former Blackhawks forward Michael Frolik and 25-year old Matt Halischuk. Setoguchi finished a disappoint tenure with the Minnesota Wild when he was traded to the Jets for a second round pick this summer. Thereís no doubt Setoguchi has the potential the make the Jets power play better this season -- potential is Setoguchiís modus operandi.

Wheeler, Little and Ladd have become a highly underrated top line in the NHL. Fun facts, the Jets top line scored almost double the goals of this yearís Stanley Cup Contender, St. Louis Blues top line.

Then thereís the second line with Kane could be looking at his first 60-plus point season. Kane has the same amount of goals as Los Angeles Kings winger Jeff Carter in the last two seasons. 20 year old Mark Scheifele and Olli Jokinen will be the second and third line centers; time will tell where they will be respectively.

The second line and power play can be much better with the addition of Setoguchi.

Key Losses: Nik Antropov, Alex Burmistrov, Ron Hainsey, Antti Miettenen, Kyle Wellwood
Key Additions: Setoguchi, Frolik, Halischuk

Top 3 Forwards to Watch

Blake Wheeler: Wheeler scored the most goals in a season for himself since his rookie year -- in 48-game lockout shortened season. He landed a six-year, $33.6 million contract this season. How will he respond?

Devin Setoguchi: The first time Setoguchi got traded it was a blockbuster with Minnesota. This time it was a second rounder. Setoguchi might be running out of teams willing to take a flier on him, especially considering this is a contract year for the 26-year old Canadian currently making $3 million per year. Heíll get the ice time and power play minutes to put up the stats.

Mark Scheifele: Can the 20-year old breakthrough in his first full NHL season and take the Jets scoring depth to a whole new level?

DEFENSEMEN

Former third overall pick Zach Bogosian has to stay healthy and 2012 ninth overall pick Jacob Trouba will make his NHL debut. The two will be paired together.

Dustin Byfuglien has come into this season in much better shape and appears to have something to prove to all his critics in this 2013 Olympic season.

Goaltending is a major concern for the Jets, but frankly goaltending has a lot to do with the guys playing in front of you. If Trouba and Bogosian can take their game to a high level, the Jets might really sneak up on the their new conference and division.

Key Losses: --
Key Additions: Adam Pardy

Top 3 Defensemen to Watch

Dustin Byfuglien: Byfuglien is coming into this season reportedly 40 pounds lighter than he finished last season. Whether or not his weight was ever an issue for his on ice effectiveness, it says a lot of about his motivation for this upcoming season.

Zach Bogosian: Even though Bogosian has been playing in the NHL since 2008, heís still only 23 years old, but pretty soon that will be written the other way. This could be the year he takes his game to what they hoped for when they drafted him.

Jacob Trouba: Many will watch Troubaís first full season with the Jets closely -- finally he provides their defense with new hope.

GOALTENDING

Pavelec was the leagueís worst goaltender last season, rebound control is a major concern for him, but the Jets and head coach Claude Noel are hoping for a rebound season from their guy between the pipes.

Former sixth overall pick Al Montoya will be in his first full season with the Jets and if Pavelec cannot become more consistent, perhaps the Jets turn to Montoya.

SPECIAL TEAMS

The Jets power play ranked dead last in the lockout-shortened season. Evander Kane only tallied two of his 17 goals on the power play. Setoguchi has 38 career power play goals and they will definitely give him the chances to not only resurrect his career, but the Jets power play as well.

The Jets penalty kill wasnít much better coming in ranked 24th in the league last season. That was one of the main reasons they brought in Frolik from Chicago, hoping he can take over the reigns and help their goals against average by killing penalties.

PREDICTION

10th in West, 5th in Central

The Jets have to find a way to defend better, especially in their new division. Their new division is filled with defensively sound teams and you wonít be able to outscore the Chicago Blackhawks. Their second line has to emerge as a top scoring line and their power play has to be better.

Most teams are looking for scoring help in the NHL, but itís the Jets that need better goaltending and defense to give them a shot at their first playoff berth in six years.

Realignment will put the Jets in an entire new division. Facing the Blackhawks and Blues will be a completely new experience, but games against the Predators, Stars and Avalanche could feel similar to their old Southeast Division games.

The Predators finished second to last place in the West last season, but added a variety of new players this summer, including highly touted second overall pick Seth Jones.

The Colorado Avalanche joins the Jets in the new Central Division. The Avs finished last place in the Western Conference last season, but have a new head coach, former goaltender Patrick Roy. Colorado drafted Nathan Mackinnon with the first pick in this summerís draft.

The Blues will also play against the Dallas Stars. The Stars made a blockbuster trade this summer acquiring Tyler Seguin from the Boston Bruins.

St. Louis and Minnesota will make for a much easier travel schedule, but the rivalry that could build in those two cities for Winnipeg will certainly leave more bruises for everybody.

David Brown is the Minnesota Correspondent for The Fourth Period.


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