The Winnipeg Jets and a Non-Divisional Rivalry with Vegas

The Winnipeg Jets turned a corner last season. Things were never even close to this level of optimism. But that dream season ended early, thanks to the Vegas Golden Knights.

Yes, the Winnipeg Jets have a very good chance to come right back and win this whole thing anyway. So, the dream isn’t over, they just woke up for a bit.  I lost this analogy somewhere, but whatever, the Jets have a good chance again this year.

Vegas was an expansion team. That made the Stanley Cup Finals. Who cares if they lost, that’s insane. Look at that roster, pretending last year hasn’t happened yet. Look at it. Does that look like a team that scratches the playoffs? No.

But somehow they blew past all expectations. They even blasted our beloved Winnipeg Jets out of the playoffs. Congratulations are due to them, George McPhee and head coach Gerard Gallant.

They all did an amazing  job. I’m not  happy about it, but I respect it.  But yes, this required some luck and unlikely performances. Does anyone expect William Karlsson to score 43 goals again? Or shoot 23%? No, no they don’t.

And he likely won’t. Erik Haula basically doubled his career high in goals at age 27. David Perron had a career high in points in his 12th season. Colin Miller became a high-scoring defenseman out of nowhere.

This team is trying to get out ahead of it, though. They started by stealing Paul Stastny away from the Winnipeg Jets dreams. I do not blame them or Stastny, but that doesn’t mean I’m happy about it.

They doubled down on making sure they weren’t going to regress too much, as they acquired the captain of the Montreal Canadiens, Max Pacioretty. Tomas Tatar is fine, but nothing special. They acquired a good prospect, Nick Suzuki, and a second rounder, as well.

A decent haul for Montreal, although the lack of a first rounder is disappointing. Tatar can improve and be useful, and if Suzuki pans out, everything will be fine. Pacioretty is a top-flight winger.

He can score with the best of them and should take pressure off the youngsters, allowing them some extra room. This is a tough team. With these trades, I think they’ll be able to get back to the playoffs.

And right next to them, in the other West division? The Winnipeg Jets. I predicted earlier that these two would meet in the playoffs. Will they? Who could know. But the two teams both coming out of nowhere to fight in the playoffs two straight years? I smell a rivalry.

It would be like the rivalry the teams in the Metro (NYR, Pens, Caps) have with the Lightning, who are always in the playoffs. I’ve seen the Pens fall to them in 2011 and the Rangers in 2015.

Vegas can go back and forth with Winnipeg. If they knock the Jets out again, they’ll be a thorn in the side of a Cup contender. Like the Hawks were to the Blues a few years back.

If the Jets come out victorious, it becomes a brilliant rivalry and everyone hopes they meet in the playoffs year after year. Last year might have been the start of something vicious. In a good, non-dangerous way.

I’d personally love a rematch.