32 in 32: Three issues to watch for the Jets

NHL.com offers in-depth analysis of each of the 32 teams between August 8 and September 8. Today, three issues to watch for the Winnipeg Jets.

32 IN 32 JETS : Preview of the 2022-23 season | The best hopes | Analysis for poolers

1. Is Rick Bowness the new voice the Jets need?

When Paul Maurice resigned as Jets coach with 53 games left last season, he said the team needed a new voice.

Enter Rick Bowness, who was hired on July 4.

The 67-year-old, who served as the Jets’ interim coach in 1988-89, brings a wealth of experience to his second term behind the Winnipeg bench. And he knows exactly what identity the Jets will be looking to have this season.

« When you’re tough to play, when you’re skating, when you’re pressuring, when you’re restricting spaces, when you’re in your opponent’s face, you’re going to be superior to them all over the ice, » Bowness said. You have to be creative with the puck, keep possession of the puck as much as possible, and when you don’t have it, it’s the old hockey cliché: take away their time and space. If you do all that, you’ll spend less time in your zone, and you’ll be much better defensively. »

2. Can the Jets improve defensively?

The Jets’ defensive woes have persisted for quite some time and the trend has continued in 2021-22. They allowed 253 goals (20th in the NHL) and 33.2 shots per game (25th), and finished 29th shorthanded with an efficiency rating of 75.0 percent.

Bowness is a renowned coach for the defensive strategies he has developed over his 33 years of coaching experience. The Dallas Stars ranked 13th in shots against per game (31.0) and tied for 14th in goals against per game (2.98) with Bowness in charge last season. In 2019-20, when he started the season as an assistant before being promoted to head coach, the Stars maintained the second-best goals-against average (2.52) in the NHL.

“Talking to Rick and listening to what he has to say, I know I don’t have to wonder if he can implement certain things. He will do it, said general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff. I have seen it. I saw his teams play. I saw the structure and the competitiveness in the different moments. You don’t lead a team to the Stanley Cup Finals just by luck. »

3. Can the Jets take advantage of their window before it’s too late?

The Jets have an impressive core of players. Connor Hellebuyck won the Vézina Trophy as the best goaltender in the NHL in 2019-20 and remains one of the best in his position. The top-6 in attack includes Kyle Connorwho set personal bests for goals (47) and points (93) last season, Mark Scheifele (70 points in 2021-22), Pierre-Luc Dubois (28 goals), captain Blake Wheeler (60 points) and Nikolaj Ehlers (28 goals).

Add to that a talented defensive brigade led by Josh Morrissey, Nate Schmidt, Neal Pionk and Brendan Dillon, and the Jets are expected to compete for a playoff berth after missing the spring tournament by finishing eight points behind the Nashville Predators and second-fourth aces in the West in 2021-22. But do they have what it takes to go all the way?

With 12 players set to expire in 2023 or 2024, including Hellebuyck, Wheeler, Scheifele and Dubois, Winnipeg must win now.

« No matter what happens in the future, we’re focused on the present moment, » Cheveldayoff said. If you try to look too far ahead in this sport, you will find yourself far behind. We focus on the present. Rick is here, he’s ready to give his all, and I think it will be good for our organization. »

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