With the lockout solved and a new CBA intact it is time to stop looking backwards at the past and start looking ahead to this season. A new 48 game schedule will be released in the next few days and training camps open over the weekend. After that fans will get the season they have so badly been asking for, and it will be a whirlwind. Last year the NBA faced the same issue, and like the NHL also ended up playing a shortened season full of back-to-back-to-backs and 5 games in 6 night stretches. Although the NHL will not be as ambitious in the number of games they try to squeeze into the time frame, teams are bound to be playing much more frequently and a main storyline of the season will be how teams respond to the crammed schedule.
As it was last year, the Jets youth will be put to the test. Winnipeg is one of the youngest teams in the league and at times last year it showed. The Jets inexperience really hurt their playoff hopes and if they intend to make a push in this short season they will have to be near perfect. The way the schedule will be made fatigue and health are going to be major players in deciding who shows up to the post season dance. This may benefit Winnipeg, their youth should help keep them healthy and hopefully the young legs can keep chugging. It is yet to be seen how the condensed schedule may affect teams, but you have to worry about some of the older teams like Detroit, a team which is perennially filled with veterans, will these older players be able to keep up with the schedule and stay healthy? Injuries will play a huge roll in the short season and the team that stays healthy definitely has the inside lane in the race for the playoffs.
Another factor will be consistency this year. Last season Winnipeg was painfully slow out of the gate and really had to battle all season to get back into playoff contention. They also had to combat losing streaks that seemed to just go on and on, it was times like these that really showed the inexperience of the young team. They will have no time for slip ups in this lockout shortened season so the addition of a little more veteran leadership, like Olli Joikenen who was brought in during free agency, will hopefully help Winnipeg offset the youth and avoid these problems. They can not afford any slump.Winnipeg will have to win the games they should, steal a few others, and be dominant at home. With no out of conference games every point will be important this season, you can not afford to lay an egg on any night as more than likely you will be playing a team that you are either chasing, or is chasing you.
Though the Jets still carry largely the same roster as last year there are question marks including Mark Scheifele, Paul Postma and even players like Spencer Mahachek, who wowed fans at the end of last season, who may all be added to this already youthful roster. One thing is for sure, the depth of this Winnipeg has shows so much promise for the future, hopefully for Winnipeg the future is sooner than later and they can avoid some of the problems they faced last year and book their ticket to play some hockey in April.
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