In a few days the Winnipeg Jets players will be kicking off their golf season, finishing the hockey season just a few points out of a playoff spot. Their record at home was far better than on the road, thanks in no small part to the enthusiasm of Jets fans who have proved that the NHL belongs in Winnipeg. They also play in the NHL's weakest division, which helps. Blake Wheeler exceeded my expectations by 17 PTS, and Andrew Ladd fell 12 PTS shy of his expected production. My unsung hero award is going to go to Kyle Wellwood's 47 PTS, 25 PTS more than I thought he'd get (with runner up being Tim Stapelton). Pretty much everybody else was who we thought they were.
Ondrej Pavelec can go from brilliant to terrible as fast and frequently as any goalie I've seen. Finishing with a 2.90 GAA shows that he's unlikely to be a reliable franchise goaltender. He is not the future, and I'm not sure who in that system is. It's hard to sustain success with Dr Jeckyl and Mr Hyde between the pipes. If I were the GM of that team, I'd offer the Canucks a sweet deal for Cory Schneider, who already has a history in that building with the Manitoba Moose. Pavelec is an RFA, Mason is a UFA. Either would make a good back-up for Schneider.
This team is not saddled with any bad contracts (other than maybe another year of Hainsey at $4.5M), so they do have some flexibility to make noise in the free agent market (at least among players willing to live in Winnipeg during the winter time). Dustin Byfuglien is the highest paid player on the team and has been earning his contract, despite reports that he was 50 lbs over weight before training camp when arrested for drinking and boating. Winnipeg went 4-9 in January when the big man was injured.
This team has room for growth with the right acquisitions. They will challenge for a playoff spot next season but are not close to being a legitimate Cup contender.