Holy shit. All the other teams have gotten better. Dallas traded for Patrick Sharp and signed a goalie who's actually okay. Edmonton finally drafted Connor McDavid, Calgary added Dougie Hamilton and pried even our very own Michael Frolik away from us. Other teams have done other crap.
Meanwhile the Jets have done seemingly nothing.1
As Jets fans, this is concerning and leads us to wonder if our inevitable rise to become Stanley Cup Champions in 2019 will entail more hardship in the short term. After their long-awaited first playoff appearance, the few moves that the Jets have made can be summed up as "lateral" - and even that probably requires some optimism. Then again the Jets were considered a strong team on the rise as last regular season drew to a close.
Which teams will miss?
For starters, we'since the Western Conference has only 14 teams we'll work at the question from it's negative: "Will the 2015-16 Winnipeg Jets miss the playoffs?" Six teams in the West will miss the playoffs. Same as last year. And... y'know... could be anyone, right, San Jose, Dallas, and LA?
"Very, very Likely" To Miss:
Shit it starts getting close already... after one team!?!?
"Could make it but let's allow ourselves to pencil them in as missing":
Colorado Avalanche. They weren't off by that much last year and their goalie is crazy good and have some high-end young forwards.... but they only signed Carl Soderberg, Francois Beauchemin. They traded away more "now" than they got back in the Ryan O'Reilly trade. Let's say they'll miss!
Edmonton Oilers. Also signed some help for the blue line this summer. They don't have a crazy good goalie but they actually have a good coach now oh and Sidney Crosby scored 102 points in his rookie season... Connor McDavid will make a difference. But not enough. Let's say they miss!
Vancouver Canucks. Same goal differential as the Jets last year and had two more points. Thankfully for us they've had a bad off-season so far. The Canucks traded Kevin Bieksa and Eddie Lack for draft picks, Zach Kassian for Brandon Prust - all amounting to a likely downgrade this year. Still, not a bad team or anything... but man it would be so sweet for Jets fans for this team to finish 10th or 11th. Let's say they miss!
Hell no I'm not putting the Jets here!
"Unfortunately one of us is going to miss the playoffs: Pacific edition!":
Calgary Flames. They were supposed to be the easy pick for "team that made the playoffs last year but won't this year" but then they added Dougie Hamilton and Michael Frolik which are pretty nice. Still, they made the playoffs with really bad underlying stats. Who knows?
San Jose Sharks. They were supposed to win the Stanley Cup the last few years but instead had no success. They're taking a risk on their new goalie, Martin Jones, but risks can pay off. Also they signed notable "good players" Joel Ward and Paul Martin. Who knows?
LA Kings. They did win the Stanley Cup the year before last but last year the drugs got out of hand and their second-best defenceman was suspended by the league for some pretty horrible shit (violence against his wife). There's a few things up in the air with this team (what happens with that defenceman, if they can get out of Mike Richard's contract, etc) and the fact remains that they were below average last year - but it won't take much to get them into a playoff spot. Who knows?
"Unfortunately one of us is going to miss the playoffs: Central edition!":
Dallas Stars. Let's see: They added Patrick Sharp, Johnny Oduya, and Antti Niemi, who are good. They lost... not that much. Damn. They're probably going to be better. Especially considering that they received a .903 save percentage from their starting goalie last year. That's Pavelecian... and therefore scary for Winnipeg Jets fans for two reasons....
Winnipeg Jets. Michael Frolik, out. Alex Burmistrov, in. The Jets would have to be pleased if Burmistrov equalled Frolik's 2014-15 level of play. The rest is a mess as far as predictions go: Evander Kane? He only scored 10 goals in 37 games for the Jets before the injury/trade. Drew Stafford - who is still ultimately a downgrade on even crappy 2014-15 Evander Kane - will probably at least replace that unimpressive level of offensive production. The bottom six has question marks, such as will Nikolai Ehlers make the team and will he be any good in his first year? What else... a full season of Tyler Myers is an upgrade over Zach Bogosian. But all this doesn't matter unless the Jets get goaltending very close to Ondrej Pavelec's .920utlier save percentage last year; he had a .905 and .901 the previous two years. Thankfully rookie Michael Hutchinson posted a respectable .914, meaning the Jets' goaltending situation is better heading into this season than any other, although that isn't saying much.
Those other teams that we will pencil into making the playoffs:
Now we return to our stunningly detailed league-wide perspective. While it would be awesome if one of the remaining teams had a shitty year and missed - and it is possible - it's not exactly the likeliest thing in the world. Winnipeg could finish better than Chicago, Nashville, Minnesota, or St. Louis....(Anaheim doesn't really matter to us) and it wouldn't take a surprise team-wide cocaine addiction to make it so. One of these teams may miss. Still, once we get to the point of picking these teams to miss the playoffs, things just start to feel a little more unlikely. Cross our fingers and hope for a Cup hangover or a lengthier Pekka Rinne injury I suppose.
In order to make the playoffs, the Jets need to finish at least 5th in the Central Division. According to the borderline infallible logic above, that means being better than Dallas, Colorado, and one of LA, San Jose, and Calgary. The mix could be different - Chicago or Nashville instead of Dallas, say. Or if a team from the Pacific Division takes one of the Wild Card spots, the Jets would need to finish 4th or better in the Central. This shows that the playoffs are attainable once again but will require being better than a team like Dallas, which seems likely to rebound.
As a Jets fan, this would be far easier if the Jets had added Patrick Sharp or a legitimate top-4 left-handed defenceman. Put differently, if we had been handed an easy "yes" to the "will the Jets be better than last year?" question we could at least pencil them in to a playoff spot based on the fact they made it last year... and improved. Instead, the Jets replaced a good player (Michael Frolik) with a potentially good player (Alex Burmistrov). Youngsters Nik Ehlers, Joel Armia, Nic Petan, and Josh Morrissey might improve the Jets' depth. Perhaps most importantly, the specter of a return to Pavelec's career average save percentage (very bad) haunts any prediction involving the Jets returning to the playoffs.
This is all very difficult to predict. Flip a coin?
1 This is like that bad dream where I'm the one white kid in a Chinese Grade 5 class where all the other kids study day and night with their insane parents yell at them "COMPETE GLOBALLY OR GET LEFT BEHIND ECONOMICALLY!" and then remind them how they actually had an older sister but didn't want an older sister... every night. House of Cards-style. Man... competition is rough I tell ya.