He's Big and he's Buff! Source: Paniniamerica.com

Chasing The Enemy: Winnipeg Jets

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As we approach the beginning of the regular season, here is the next installment of “Chasing The Enemy” where I review our Southeast Division rivals.  Today I’m taking a look at the Atlanta Thrashers Winnipeg Jets, a team that next season will be in another conference thanks to realignment.

The Florida Panthers will play the Jets six times this season as a divisional rival yet the teams will have the farthest distance apart as part of that rivalry. Suck it up folks, as it could be worse.  It will certainly be a strange set of games since you’ll automatically be thinking it’s a non conference contest, but I’m sure that thought will pass after the season gets under way.  Before I get into it, take a look at our Winnipeg site, known as Hockey At The Forks.  Steve Fetch is currently our writer there, but is in desperate need of some help, so if you’re a Jets fan and you feel like expressing yourself, shoot me an email at [email protected], and we’ll talk it over.

The Thrashers Jets had the advantage over the Panthers last season winning 4 games while losing two.  The Thrashers Jets started out strongly and rode the back of defenceman Dustin Byfuglien who’s massive presence on defence had teams scratching their heads wondering how to contain him.  Big Buff ended the year with his best point total in his career as he scored 20 goals for the first time and had 33 assists.  Most of his production came in the first half of the season, and when his partner Tobias Enstrom missed some time with an injury Buff’s production slipped, as did the Thrashers Jets victories.

The Thrashers Jets aren’t flashy by any means and don’t posses any players that bring you to the edge of your seat, but have some hard working guys that will give a pretty solid effort on most nights.  Their captain is a player that I thought the Panthers would have gone hard after, Andrew Ladd, a two time Stanley Cup winner (Carolina, Chicago).  Ladd led the club in points with 59 scoring 29 goals his highest goal output to date.

A club that in some ways could have been very similar to the early season Florida Panthers last year, the team relies heavily on goaltender Ondrej Pavelec.  While he posted only a 21-23-9 record in 58 games, it was Pavelec who early on held the opposition at bay.  If and when the Thrashers Jets can put together a solid set of defenceman and grab a hi scoring forward this team could be a bit dangerous.  Unfortunately, that seems to be most teams list of wishes as well.

Another player to keep your eye on will be youngster Evander Kane, who has the approval from hockey legend, the Golden Jet himself Bobby Hull to wear number 9.  In addition to Kane, watch out for is Alexander Burmistov, Bryan Little and Blake Wheeler, who either will have a breakout season and finally achieve his potential, or turnout to be just an average forward.  Atlanta Winnipeg is the third team in Wheeler’s brief career.

Some new things to watch out for will be the waist line  play of Kyle Wellwood who is invited to camp along with goaltender David Aebischer who last played in the NHL in 2007-2008 for the Phoenix Coyotes.  David has been playing for Swiss team Lugano for the past three seasons and is looking to claim a job back in the NHL.  His best season during his career was in 2003-2004 when he won 32 games for the Colorado Avalanche.

Claude Noel will be the new head coach of the Jets as Craig Ramsey was dismissed and fortunately for Florida landed here as an assistant to Kevin Dineen.  Most of Noel’s head coaching experience has been in the minors, although he did serve as interim coach of the Columbus Blue Jackets for 24 games in 2010 after Ken Hitchcock was fired.  He’ll have a daunting task for sure to get this team in the playoffs.  While they may be competitive, when you look at them on paper there really isn’t anyone that scares you, or makes you worry.  The excitement of the fan base getting a team back however will have a positive effect not only on the home team, but should inject some energy into the visitors.

The NHL has a lot riding on this team, as it’s out to prove that Winnipeg can support a professional team again.  The home of Chicago Blackhawk captain Jonathan Toews, the fans are excited and looking forward to the new season.  I wish them well, except the six times they play the Florida Panthers.

Thanks for reading. We welcome your comments and opinions.

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Follow the Rat Pack on Twitter: me @TheRatTrick , David Lasseter @davidlasseter , Josh Luecht @joshluecht, Adam Reid @AdamReid,  Patrick McLaughlin @patrckmclaughln and Scott Mullin @ScottFMullin. Also, please join our Facebook Fan Page and hit the like button, send us photos, and make some comments.

 

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