Jets go West in search of playoff spot | Hockey | CBC Sports

Hockey Night in CanadaJets go West in search of playoff spot

Posted: Friday, September 27, 2013 | 12:23 PM

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Jets forward Evander Kane scored 17 goals on a team-high 190 shots last season, but tallied just twice on the power play. (Jana Chytilova/Getty Images) Jets forward Evander Kane scored 17 goals on a team-high 190 shots last season, but tallied just twice on the power play. (Jana Chytilova/Getty Images)

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CBC Sports is previewing each of the seven Canadian teams leading up to opening night of the 2013-14 NHL season. Here, the Winnipeg Jets step into the spotlight.

CBC Sports is previewing each of the seven Canadian teams leading up to opening night of the 2013-14 NHL season. Here, the Winnipeg Jets step into the spotlight.

The skinny

The Jets missed the playoffs by four points despite a strong 6-3-1 finish last season. It was an improvement over their first season back in Winnipeg, when they finished 11th in the Eastern Conference, eight points out of the playoffs after a 3-5-2 finish ... With realignment, the Jets finally move from to the Western Conference, which should make it easier on their travel ... The off-season additions of Devin Setoguchi and Michael Frolik will provide some needed secondary scoring, but the Jets also need increased production from centre Olli Jokinen, who scored just seven times and only had 14 points in 45 games last year ... Another factor in the Jets success will be the health of their blue-line. The team's top three defencemen - Tobias Enstrom, Dustin Byfuglien and Zack Bogosian - missed a combined 46 games last year ... This hurt the Jets performance on special teams. They were 30th in power-play success and 24th penalty kill ... It will be interesting to see how youngsters Mark Scheifele, a centre, and defenceman Jacob Trouba perform in their first full NHL seasons.

Three questions: Kevin Cheveldayoff

  • Plenty has been written and uttered that the honeymoon phase with the wonderful Jets fans may be over and that a playoff berth is the expectation. What signs from training camp have you seen that your team can make the next stride?

"Certainly, from a fan perspective, there was a tremendous amount of excitement when the team first arrived here. But I believe the excitement has only heightened since we've been here.

"If there was some mystical honeymoon phase that people like to talk about, from the team or management perspective, we never expected it. We've gone about our business with high expectations and the expectations here are as high as any place.

"We're pleased with the way things have gone in the pre-season. But we're like any other team, we're anxious to get started and see where it all falls."

  • The Andrew Ladd, Bryan Little and Blake Wheeler trio scored 44 of your club's 126 goals last year. You bolstered your second-line scoring with the off-season addition of Devin Setoguchi, but who has the edge of playing centre on that line between Setoguchi and Evander Kane?

"Over the course of the pre-season, there have been numerous opportunities for either Jokinen or Scheifele to play. But the unfortunate side is that through various bumps and bruises there hasn't been a lot of opportunity to see one total unit in that regard.

"There have been some signs of Setoguchi and Kane having some success together and get a feel for each other, but who will play them is still something that is going to have to play itself out."

  • The players were professional and never complained about the amount of travel the past two years, but how much will the move to the West boost your team's chances this year? 

"We tried to minimize the effects of travel. We sit down with the players at the beginning of each year and go over the schedule. We talk about the way we're going to travel and the times we're going to travel and the reasons why we do it.

"Whether we're in the East or West, there still is a tremendous amount of travel in front of you. We try to get them to think it's just part of being in the NHL and that we can't let them think it affects us one way or another. If we think it's going to be better now that we're in the West, you're fooling yourself. It's a long and gruelling schedule and you deal with what's put in front of you."

Player on hot seat

Ondrej Pavelec. The 26-year-old Czech goalie has been solid in his role as the organization's top goalie, but there is room for improvement. His save percentage dipped from .914 to .906 to .905 in the past three seasons and the club would welcome a return to his 2010-11 level.

Training camp development

The Jets extended Cheveldayoff's contract through the 2017-18 season, which is longer than the extension head coach Claude Noel received in the summer. Noel's contract expires at the end of 2014-15.

Key stat

20 -- Power-play goals scored by Winnipeg last season. Only the Stanley Cup finalist Boston Bruins scored fewer (18). The Jets, however, had the worst power-play percentage at 13.8 (20 for 145) compared to the Bruins at 14.8 per cent (18 for 122).

Follow Tim Wharnsby on Twitter @WharnsbyCBC

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