Five things the Jets need to improve

Winnipeg Jets left winger Evander Kane speaks to the media following the Oilers final game of tghe...

Winnipeg Jets left winger Evander Kane speaks to the media following the Oilers final game of tghe season. (BRIAN DONOGH/QMI AGENCY)

Kirk Penton, QMI AGENCY

, Last Updated: 9:55 PM ET

The Winnipeg Jets missed the playoffs by nine points after whiffing by 13 last season in Atlanta when they were the Thrashers.

GM Kevin Cheveldayoff didn’t change much about the team when it moved north, so there is still plenty of room for improvement after another season out of the playoffs.

Here are five areas that need to be better in 2012-13 if the Jets are going to make the playoffs for just the second time in the franchise’s 13-year history.

1. The Road

The Jets had 18 fewer points on the road than at home, and they weren’t exactly out of this world at MTS Centre either, going 23-13-5.

That was only the 15th best record on home ice among the 30 NHL teams.

Regardless, the team was usually toast when it headed out on the road, and it appeared to be totally between their ears.

They didn’t play with the same energy outside of Manitoba’s borders, and the Jets need to find more players who don’t care where they play.

2. Defensive Play

Only four teams gave up more goals than the Jets — the Islanders, Columbus, Toronto and Tampa Bay — and that might be the most damning statistic of all, as none of those teams have good goaltenders.

Winnipeg’s best player this season was Ondrej Pavelec, so that tells you just how bad the team’s defensive play was as a whole.

The Jets aren’t an offensively gifted team, which means they have to concentrate on team defence before even thinking about scoring.

Pavelec raised that issue a couple of times this season, but it couldn’t be fixed.

Head coach Claude Noel always talks about being respectful of your teammates, and this is probably the area in which he is referring.

The Jets need to play better as one unit, and it starts with defence.

 

 

3. Scoring Ability

While playing better defence will lead to more scoring chances, the Jets still need more players who can dent the twine.

Evander Kane led the team with 30 goals, but he had a 10-game goal drought. Blake Wheeler, the team’s top point-getter, went 18 games at the start of the season without a tally and then finished the campaign by going 13 games without a goal. Andrew Ladd, second on squad with 28 goals, had a 13-game drought.

There is not enough talent in the top six.

4. Roster Size

It wouldn’t hurt to add a little size in the off-season. Players like Tim Stapleton, Kyle Wellwood and Toby Enstrom have their strengths, but strength is not one of them. They rarely deliver bodychecks, and they have trouble separating players from the puck using their bodies.

This isn’t meant to criticize those three players. They all contributed something to the team this year, and not every player on an NHL squad is going to be 6-foot-2 and 220 pounds.

All we’re saying is it wouldn’t hurt to have a couple more bigger, physical players in the lineup next season.

5. Belief

The Jets either blew leads or started horrendously in many games down the stretch.

The worst example was the March 18 clash against the Carolina Hurricanes, in which they blew a 3-2 lead in the third period and lost 4-3. They never recovered.

It’s a cliche, but that’s because it’s true: Learning how to win and losing before you win are legitimate theories when it comes to professional sports teams.

The Jets come from a long history of losing. Noel on Sunday said the Jets need to have more of a winning attitude.

The brass believes it is changing that culture, but it needs to address the first four items on this list if the Jets are truly going to evolve into something better.


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