1. Can the Jets separate themselves from the middle of the pack?
It has been three years since Winnipeg has been more than just a playoff qualifier. Going back to their days in Atlanta, there is not a lot of winning tradition for the franchise. These Jets have elite scoring and one of the best goaltenders in the NHL.
With a limited amount of cap space, the team could excel with how they are built. A bunch of individual 70 point seasons, as well as a Vezina season in net, is not beyond the realm of possibility. We saw exactly that unfold last year. Depth will be a huge concern because of how top-heavy the team is built.
In this year’s North Division scenario if Winnipeg’s weapons do not play well consistently they can easily become buried in the standings and not only hold a low seed in the playoffs they could be on the outside looking in come playoff time. Toronto is the most high-powered team in the North and only got tougher this offseason while Edmonton has the most high-powered player in the whole league in Connor McDavid.
Any team in the NHL could fall behind Toronto and Edmonton and consider it a success. In what will be a very heated North, Calgary, Montreal, and Vancouver are also all coming off of playoff appearances a season ago. Being a middle of the pack team in Canada will most likely mean going home well before anticipated.
Really this is the biggest question that ties the others together. Let us say Winnipeg re-signs Laine midseason, Paul Stastny looks like the player he was in Colorado, and their defense plays even just slightly better than average. Does that lead to an elite hockey team?