Thursday, September 01, 2011

New Look Division - Jets

The Washington Capitals might have made the Southleast Division into one of the toughest divisions in the NHL. After winning the division title for the last 4 years (regular season eastern champs for the last two), the division is wising up and bettering their teams to make the playoff push. The influx of better talent into the division makes this year's division champ a toss up. But all the pundits agree, it is Washington's to lose.

Atlanta Thrashers, eh hem, Winnipeg Jets (version 2.0):

They left town seemingly in the dead of the night. Those Dizzy Birds left Atlanta almost like it was no big deal (since the NHL has gone out of it's way to keep hockey in Phoenix, why they just didn't make the effort to keep it in Atlanta bogs the mind). But not only did the Winnipeg Jets bump the Capitals up a spot on the alphabetical scale (29 now baby, Whooo!) but they made the overlandish promise to bring a winning team north with them. Silly Jets.

Who's in:
Blake Wheeler and Andrew Ladd re-signed with the Jets. Eric Fehr traded from the Capitals for a draft pick and a Matt Cooke wannabe (Danick Paquette). Add Randy Jones, Tanner Glass and the late Rick Rypien.

Who's out:
Eric Boulton (Devils), Radek Dvorak (Stars), Rob Schremp (Europe) and Anthony Stewart ('Canes).

The Jets look to capitalize on trades made as Thrashers. Blake Wheeler and Andrew Ladd were the two players they will need to make any kind of push for playoff aspirations. The Jets, however, did change the overall feel of their hockey club. They will have returning goaltenders Ondrej Pavelec and back up Chris Mason. A good core of defensive pairings with the like of Dustin Byfuglien and Tobias Enstrom and some great talent up front with Nik Antropov, Bryan Little and up and coming phenom Evander Kane.

The Jets have a lot of Stanley Cup experience with the additions of Blackhawk free agents last year, but couldn't turn that into any kind of success. With a new coaching staff and new city, the organization hopes the change will spark some success. The Jets did not make any knee-jerk reactions to off season free agency and look to build off of previous trade dumps over the last couple of years.

Claude Noel makes his NHL head coaching debut and is challenged with making the team gel quickly. A veteran coach at the AHL level, Noel has had success on the AHL, ECHL and IHL levels. Familiar with the area, he coached the Manitoba Moose and did a brief stint behind the Columbus bench as interim coach after the Blue Jackets fired Ken Hitchcock.

The Jets not only have to contend with a tough, new look division but travel will be an issue for them as they must play in a division that is geographically not very convenient to them. It will be a tough test for a team in new surroundings. How understanding are those new fans going to be?

Caps Notes:
  • Semin-gate (and we aren't talking about blue dresses): It seems the Canadien media is more obsessed about the recent comments about Alex Semin's lack of desire from former teammates than Caps fans are. Sadly, Caps fans are all too familiar with the lazy attitude of the Russian winger (like the time he was caught smoking cigarettes between periods outside Verizon Center when he was on the injury list). Japer's has a wonderful article about it all that pretty much dulls the shock of the comments that were made. Just old news.
  • George McPhee made a trip up Calgary way to have a sit down with Mike Green. Nick Backstrom happened to be there too attending Green's charity event. The meeting was casual according to TSN and the tone was serious. TSN video of Green's off season preparedness.
  • Sad summer indeed, another great article about those we have lost this summer from Japer's Rink. Also bad news about Marc Savard in the Bruins' camp, looks like the crafty forward may be out for this season and maybe done with the sport all together. Tough one.

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