The Winnipeg Jets (26.4) are currently the third youngest team in the NHL with only Colorado (26.2) and Toronto (26.2) younger than them. The fourth and fifth youngest teams in the NHL are Chicago (26.6) and San Jose (26.7).
The cup champion Bruins got a lot younger this off season with the retirement of Mark Recchi and departure of Tomas Kaberle and have an average age of 27.3 years, while the oldest team in the league is the Calgary Flames (30.1) – the only team to break 30 years for their average age.
A lot could change between now and the start of the season. Prospects could un-seed veterans or veterans could be brought in to give younger players more time to develop. One thing this shows us is that the Jets are staying committed to what they said from the beginning. They will build from within, develop talent and try to retain it.
Now if we take a closer look at the players likely to start the season in Winnipeg, ten of the eighteen skater positions could be filled by former first round draft picks, with another three of those spots going to former second round picks. That leaves only Oduya (7th), Byfuglien (8th), Enstrom (8th), Glass (9th) and Stapleton (undrafted). In goal Pavlec was a second overall pick while Mason went in the fifth round.
Now if the Jets can turn all of that first round draft pick potential into team talent, there is no doubt this team will become a team to contend with game in and game out. Now seeing how this team is so young you may ask, who’s gonna help lead this team? Well that brings me to my next point.
We already mentioned previously on this site how a cup winning veteran center like John Madden could help this young team. There is already a lot of experience already in the room. Captain Andrew Ladd is a two time cup winner, despite being only 25, while Dustin Byfuglien also won a cup with Ladd in Chicago and is only 26. Both players are locked up long term, so you can count on this team being built around them.
The 20 players listed on the teams depth chart currently have a combined 101 seasons in the NHL, or an average of 5.05. When you look at the average age of 26.4 despite being such a young team, there is already an average of 5 years NHL experience. This should translate well in the next few years to this team reaching its potential.
Of course years in the NHL and games played are two different things, so those same 20 players have played in 5376 career games or an average of 268.8 NHL games played.
By now you might be asking yourself what does this mean? Well that is the question in itself we set out to answer. Does the age of the Jets matter in predicting how competitive they will be this season? The simple answer is no. Despite being young this team has racked up its share of experience. Most of the young core have been playing in the NHL since they were 19 or 20 and will be just coming into their prime possibly as early as this season.
If the Jets suck it’s not going to be blamed on their age, it will be their poor performance. If they win, it won’t be credited to their youth but to their skill. Age can affect a team but it won’t define them. Detroit used to be the oldest team in the league and they were always competitive. Does anyone believe Calgary is competitive just because of their age and experience this year?
Throughout this season you will likely hear about how young this team is and the only part of that statement that matters is that the core of this team will be around for more years than Calgary or other older teams. When the puck drops for the first time between the Flames and Jets on March 9th in Calgary, you can bet neither team will be worried about age or experience. The only numbers they’ll be concerned with are the numbers on the score board.
So please, understand the Jets are young but at the same time they’ve been in this league long enough to be held accountable and to compete. They need to get better defensively and they need to gel offensively, but the same could be said for the older teams like Calgary as well.