Are the Winnipeg Jets an average team that started hot?

Winnipeg Jets (Photo by Lawrence Scott/Getty Images)
Winnipeg Jets (Photo by Lawrence Scott/Getty Images) /

Are the Winnipeg Jets an average hockey team that simply started the 2022-23 NHL season on a hot streak? In the last 30 games, the Jets are a pedestrian 16-14-0 after launching the campaign at a blistering 18-7-1 record. The Jets were never going to sustain a .700 winning rate, but a 30-game sample size is large enough to deduce that something is not right in the state of Denmark (Nik Ehlers usage aside).

Recently, I wrote that the future is now – and that the organization needs to sacrifice long-term depth for short-term success. The tenants of that article remain true, but a seemingly benign Nick Kyprios quote highlighted a fundamental problem. The quote is as follows:

The trade deadline is typically a time for really good teams to add the final touches to their roster. The Jets appear to not only need to supplement their top 6 forward group (Meier, Boeser, LeBlanc) and defensive core (Schenn, Chychrun, Gavrikov) – but also simultaneously navigate the pending reality that PLD (and others) may not be around past the 2024-25 season. That’s a Herculean task.

Let’s operate in hypotheticals. If Kyprios’ assertion is correct, AND Meier would be willing to sign with Winnipeg long-term, does it make sense to sacrifice a very promising rookie for an excellent winger? Also, does losing a top 6 forward to add another one (albeit an upgrade) get the Jets any closer to genuine success this year?

Realistically, the Jets would still need forward help and defensive depth. Is that possible with $10M in cap space to work with (which would be gone with a Meier signing), a 1st round pick, and some intriguing, but unproven depth pieces in Heinola, McGroarty, and Lucius?

The truth remains that the Jets sit second in the Western Conference with a Vezina-caliber goalie and a Norris-worthy defenseman. If not now – then when? Yet, I don’t think it’s wise to use this trade deadline to forcibly mitigate PLD’s future. I understand that signing Meier long-term (again, his willingness aside) is excellent PLD insurance – but that shouldn’t be the focus right now. I, however, may be in the minority:

What do the Winnipeg Jets do with Neal Pionk?

Further complicating matters is ‘Captain Chaos’ himself – Neal Pionk. Despite an outstanding game against the Devils on Sunday, Pionk remains (to this writer) a trade candidate – but what is his market value?

Are presumably rebuilding teams willing to take on Pionk’s $6M/year salary for the next several years as part of a trade? Many Jets pundits use Pionk as trade fodder to bring in players with terms left on their contracts, but I haven’t seen any indication that Pionk is, or would be, a coveted asset.

The true problem is mathematical to a degree. We need more than we have available to pay. The Jets could use a top 6 forward, back 6 forward depth, all-around playoff toughness, and defensive depth. Obviously, that wish list cannot be fulfilled in the next couple of weeks.

The perfect scenario would be to add top 6 right-wing help through a Pionk trade while adding depth and toughness on both ends. Good luck with that. The realistic/hopeful scenario is adding a Nick Schmaltz or Kevin LeBlanc to add to the Jets’ top 6 right-wing; perhaps an Adam Henrique type to bolster the bottom 6; and defensive depth in the form of a Luke Schenn.

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I do believe the Jets are better than their 16-14-0 record would suggest over the past 30 games, but I think the Perfetti/Meier exchange is both unrealistic and ill-advised. If done right, the Jets can legitimately compete this year with the right additions. Crack some eggs to make an omelet, but don’t raid the chicken coop.