Archive for January 2013

30 Teams in 30 Stories

Jets Starting to Soar

There is plenty to cheer about on the ice as well for Winnipeg.
Just over two seasons ago, the Winnipeg Jets came back to town. While fan jubilation could not ever capture how great that was for the city of Winnipeg, the on ice product was hardly something worth cheering for.
The Jets were the discarded roster from the Vancouver Canucks, who finished dead last in the season standings only to see the Atlanta Thrashers line up -full of talent such as the Sedin brothers- move in, and the old Canucks head to Winnipeg.
Though it's just a few seasons later, the Jets are now no longer a WCHL doormat. Several new faces have brought a lot of positive change and the Jets are eager to try and reach the playoffs for the first time in the most recent edition of the teams history.
Even an off-season which was very quiet didn't stop the Jets from improving themsleves, oddly enough via the waiver draft. The Jets bolstered a suspect defense by claiming the likes of Paul Mara and Robyn Regehr, while also adding two-way centre Matt Cullen. Blassed with a hefty chunk of salary cap space in a time when few teams hve much wiggle room, the Jets were also able to acquire puckmoving blueliner Mike Green from the Montreal Canaidens for a draft pick and minor league blueliner Paul Postma.

Former WCHL Cup champion Matt Cullen, and defenseman Mike Green are key cogs to a new Jets line up.
All in all, the Jets look to be stronger, and deeper, than in seasons past.
"We needed to upgrade the blueline and we did just that by adding three solid, veteran defensemen," noted General Manager Darren Mathieu.
Regehr is expected to be a key cog on the penalty kill for Winnipeg, while Green is likely to help kick-start the powerplay, giving immediate boosts to both of the special teams units.
Mathieu noted the club is still eager to upgrade the top lines for the Jets to give them a better offensive punch, and the club has been linked in rumours to Carolina Hurricanes centre Joe Thornton, though his $11 million salary is likely to scare away many buyers.
What seems more likely is the Jets will work the phones to land another scoring winger, unless a hopeful like Bobby Butler can crack through at the NHL level with the offense he's shown in college and the minor league levels.
The lack of offense has reared its ugly head early, with the club managing just one goal -a powerplay tally at that- in their first two games. Despite the brilliant efforts of netminder Craig Anderson, the Jets have lost both games, being outscored 6-1.

The Jets will need Craig Anderson to be tall in net this season.
"We can't have that, we need to do more at putting the puck in the net," said forward Travis Zajac, a Winnipeg native and one of two forwards on the team with five shots so far this season. "We can't allow this to get ahead of us."
In total, Winnipeg has just 39 shots in two games. Expect Green to help with that, as the blueliner has a proven track record of piling up th points and can log 23 minutes per game.
In the meantime, the improvement will have to come from within for the Jets.
"We have the right group here to get the job done, we just have to get the job done," noted forward Jordin Tootoo.

Travis Zajac leads the Jets in shots with five, but like most Jets forwards he still has yet to find the back of the net.

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30 Teams in 30 Stories

Capitalizing on a Mistake

There could be reason for excitement in Washington this season.

If any team should be excited about celebrating New Years', it's the Washington Capitals.

After failing to make the playoffs last year, the Capitals found themselves presented with a gift, wrapped neatly with a big red ribbon on its forehead in the waiver draft. Despite not picking until selection number eight, the Capitals landed starting goaltender, and two-time Vezina Trophy nominee Pekka Rinne, who had been wiaved by the Dallas Stars.

Pekka Rinne or Mike Smith? Who will win the goaltending musical chairs competition in Washington?

Rinne had just been signed this past off-season by the Stars, but an over-addition of salary left the Stars in desperate need to get below the salary cap befre the waiver draft, and they elected to waive the all-star netminder. A combination of a lack of roster space and cap space led to seven other teams being forced to pass on the star before Washington was able to grab him.

"We are estatic to get him," announced Capitals General manager Wasson. "He gives us a proven number one netminder and a chance to compete every night."

Wasson went on to add that the club still haven't decided if Rinne or Mike Smith, added over the summer from the Ottawa Senators, would be the starting netminder for the club. While Wasson woudln't comment, it does seem likely one of the two goaltenders will be moved via a trade soon.

"This gives us a lot of options, and a trade is one of those options. We'll weigh all options heavily before making a decision."

Smith got the nod for game one on the regulr season and managed to pick up the win despite making just 14 saves.

With a solid top two lines and a dependable defense, the Capitals feel the dramatic shoring up of their weak spot in net last year will allow them to overcome the obstacles which held them out of the playoffs last season.

"We have a solid team here, and when they added Smith I felt like they had a good enough crew to take a run at the playoffs. It's a big reason why I signed here," noted Jay McClement, arguably Washington's biggest free agent pick up.

Jay McClement is happy to be in Washington, and Mike Smith was a big reason for that.

It's a lot of work to do though, as Washington finished 28 points out of a playoff and 12th overall in the Eastern Conference, going 32-42-8 last season.

But there's reason for optimism. Washington missed the playoffs largely on the fact they allowed 254 goals aganst. Of all 16 playoff teams, only the Detroit Red Wings allowed more goals at 258, while the most scored upon Eastern Conference team was the New York Islanders, who allowed just 226 goals. In fact, Washington allowed the third most goals against in the entire conference, just ahead of Toronto (256). Carolina allowed 280 goals last season to lead all Eastern Conference teams.

If Rinne and Smith can cut that total down, and the offense can find a way to improve even slightly from the 211 goals they scored last year -ranking 13th as well in the conference- things will be better for the Capitals this season. Expect Jordan Eberle to be a key that cause, as he certain be promoted from the farm shortly. The young winger is viewed by many to be one of the most promising players in the game.

Jordan Eberle figures to be a key offensive cog for Washington this season.

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