What a complex season this has been for the Winnipeg Jets.
Before the team even stepped on the ice, it was making headlines. Head coach Rick Bowness stepped in for his first season with the team, and forward Blake Wheeler was stripped of his captaincy in favor of a cast of alternate captains.
Despite that seeming like a bit of a mess back in October, the Jets came out with a purpose when the regular season began. For the 2022 portion of the season, Winnipeg was right in the middle of the race for the Central Division and looked like a sure-fire playoff team.
Then, the calendar flipped to 2023 and things changed for the Jets. As the days went on, they slowly fell further and further down the standings, and by the end of the season, they were fighting for their postseason lives.
How should the Jets feel about their 2022-2023 season?
As the last team into the Western Conference playoffs, the Jets drew the Vegas Golden Knights in the first round. I’ll give Winnipeg some credit, as I expected the team to be swept, but at the end of the day, one win was all that the Jets could muster against the West’s top team.
To me, the Winnipeg squad that we saw in the fall was a fluke. The real Jets were dysfunctional at times and outmatched against the good teams in the NHL.
Goaltender Connor Hellebuyck bounced back after a subpar season a year ago and was a big part of Winnipeg’s playoff berth after missing out last spring. In the playoffs, however, he wasn’t enough to save them from a far superior Golden Knights team.
Forward Kyle Connor scored 80 points in the regular season to lead the team, while defenseman Josh Morrissey stole the show with a 76-point campaign. Undoubtedly, his injury in their first-round series played a big part in their five-game exit. Forward Nikolaj Ehlers was also unavailable.
Overall, the Jets went 46-33-3 (95 points) and lost in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, four games to one.
Winnipeg has most of its core players set to return next season, so it stands to reason that we could see this team in the postseason mix again in 2024. With that said, there is work to be done if this is to be a true contender next year.
The Jets took a step forward this year by returning to the playoffs, but at the end of the day, they really weren’t players in the race for the Stanley Cup.