by Watson Scott Swail
Projecting lines for a hockey team is tough business. Even on a nightly basis, it isn’t always that easy, especially when GMs and coaches face injury situations. Winnipeg Jets fans are hoping the nucleus of a great hockey club is already either in place or in the system now. But setting your lineup is always a numbers game, and it means moving some older pieces to make way for new pieces. We saw the challenge with that this year as significant growing pains exist in goal and in some of the wingers for the Jets.
Here is one possibility for the lineup coming in October 2017. The notable changes could include the release of Mathieu Perreault, Mark Stuart, and Michael Hutchinson; the demotion of Paul Postma, Shawn Matthias, Brandon Tanev, and Mark Dano; and the promotion of Kyle Connor, Jack Roslovic, and Eric Comrie. Ondrej Pavelec is gone July 1 and there is almost no chance he will return to Winnipeg. We do not know who the Jets will lose in the expansion draft, which will also have repercussions, nor do we know if there are any trades in the works. Certainly Perreault, Stuart, and Hutchinson will attract some trade offers, as perhaps would Enstrom and Wheeler if the Jets wanted, but the return on those trades would likely be in the form of draft picks and not in players that will sufficiently or immediately improve this team. That type of trade would require some major names to be moved, like a Wheeler + Petan, or even a Little + an Armia, for example. Regardless, to get someone who immediately improves the team means you must release someone who is currently a positive asset. Tough numbers to run.
Perreault is a solid go getter for the Jets in the form of a Dougie Smail or Ron Wilson. Hard headed, small but hits with vengeance, and has scoring finesse. He’s a keeper but there just may not be room for him if the Jets want to capitalize on the growth of Connor and Roslovic, both of whom are destined for top six status but could start next year on the fourth line to get their feet wet.
Similarly, Stuart is an underrated defenseman. He’s a keeper, too, with the challenge being if Myers is back (which is iffy). Enstrom could be trade bait, but if he is back, he will play on the third defensive combo, and he is a pretty expensive third set player.
The challenge with Matthias, Tanev, Postma, and Dano is that the numbers just don’t work for them right now. That stated, they are the injury players, for sure. Some Jets will definitely go down next year and they need good player in the AHL who can fill in.
Expect Hellebuyck to start in goal and the Jets to consider bringing Eric Comrie up as a playing backup—someone who will get 25+ games at the NHL level. Hutchinson will be odd-man out and I see a trade more than a demotion, but who knows.
I don’t know the contract status of some of these players, so there may be some things that force Jet’s GM Chevyldayoff’s hand, but NHL teams always have to make way for their draft picks to move up to the Big Leagues.
A problem that the Jets have is a week depth list on the right wing. They have plenty of depth on the left, but not so much on the right. That could be in issue next year when players go down.
Let me know what you think. What would you do?