The Winnipeg Jets have the first week of the 2023-24 season in the books, and with it, hockey fans get to move into the season full stride ahead.
We’ve got six months of hockey comin’, baby.
The Jets enter the week 1-1-0, 5th in the Central.
Here’s a look at the week ahead and some thoughts on the team.
Winnipeg runs the Pacific Division Gauntlet
Winnipeg will run the gauntlet this week, facing the Pacific Division’s three best teams. They’ll start with the Kings Tuesday, Vegas Thursday, and finish the week Saturday against McDavid and the Oilers.
With Calgary and Florida as their opening two games, the Jets get no easy opponents to start the season and will have to dig in early. Including the three opponents this week, the Jets have yet to play a projected bottom 10 team in my opinion.
You always look for things you can learn about a team early on. LA and Vegas are physical, heavy teams. The Oilers have elite talent and a ridiculous power play that will put our excellent penalty kill to the test.
LA and Vegas are deep at forward. I think the Jets are too. Will that hold up by the end of the week? How will the depth match up?
There’s a great week of hockey ahead, and it’ll be fun to watch unfold.
Pierre-Luc Dubois makes his return to Winnipeg
Pierre-Luc Dubois’ acquisition represented the fantasy of every general manager in the league: icing a potent, big, one-two punch at center. With Mark Scheifele already in the squad, the Jets had that.
It seemed like a match made in heaven when he was first acquired, trading our surplus at wing for a glaring need at second line center.
Even better? Scheifele was the attacking dynamo, an elite puck handler who can snipe or dish. Dubois was the perfect complement, the heavy, physical two way center who could match against the top line and free Scheifele up for working with the puck.
But Dubois didn’t want to commit here. He exercised his rights as a player to determine his future, and, frankly, players can only do that if they’re good enough to earn it. Dubois is.
I wish him the best, but hope that the Canada Life Centre is ruthless towards the forward, with loud boos every time he touches the puck.
The Jets got a great return for him, but everyone loves a villain.
He’ll be that in Winnipeg tomorrow night.
Is this the best team Winnipeg has had since 2018-19?
It’s early, but this looks like a good hockey team. As we’ve seen in the past, play and performance can drop off at any point (let alone when injuries enter the equation), but every cog of the Jets engine appears to be functioning well early on.
The main changes on the roster are Dubois and Blake Wheeler being substituted for Cole Perfetti and Gabe Vilardi in the top six. In talent and impact today, that is a downgrade.
But geez, this team is deep. I expect that to make up for or exceed the impact of that top six downgrade. It’s also a ton of fun to watch a team that cranks out four lines that can impact the game in their own way.
Scheifele and Connor dazzling and flying around the offensive zone? Pretty entertaining.
Adam Lowry and Alex Iafallo crashing along the boards to win pucks? Yeah, I’ll take that.
Nik Ehlers and Cole Perfetti snaking through the neutral zone and firing pin point passes? Sign me up!
Morgan Barron and Vlad Namestnikov grinding along the wall before finding Rasmus Kupari in front? Yes! I’ll watch that!
The early assessment of this team for me is that this is a hockey team, in all of the senses. They can expect all 20 guys to make an impact.
We have a deep forward group with some star power. The Jets ice an average or slightly below average defense group. And they have one of the best goaltenders in the world.
Every team has flaws, and certainly the Jets have them. But this team feels more cohesive than last year’s, and look at what Rick Bowness was able to do with that.