The Winnipeg Jets could use some competition.
That competition doesn’t need to come in the form of on-ice opposition, but rather as a means of getting the best from their roster and a glimpse at what this team could be.
After dropping their second game of the presason to the Edmonton Oilers, 3-2, it’s not the result that worries, but rather the seeming lack of question marks throughout the roster.
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Just two games into this preseason, it’s hard to fool oneself into thinking the lineup will look anything different than what even the most casual a Jets fan would pen on the back of a napkin. Of course, you’ll have your staples: the Kanes, and Wheelers, and Ladds, and Buffs. You’ll have the bottom-six that consists of Slater, and Thorburn, and Slater, and Tangradi. But where do the rest fit in?
Off-season acquisition T.J. Galiardi got his first taste of action with the Jets, and there’s almost no doubt he’ll be with the big club come October.
The Jets brought in Galiardi on somewhat of a flyer after a less-than-fruitful 2013-14 campaign. At a mere US$700,000 for the season, he’s not going to hurt the team’s pocketbook, and none of this is to say he doesn’t belong. He showed a flash tonight with a beautiful effort that resulted in a breakaway goal.
What worries, however, is how unlikely it seems for Galiardi, or anyone else for that matter, to get bumped from the roster by any of the rookies or sophomores who bring elements this team could use.
There’s no doubt that seasoning in the American League or juniors is never a bad move for a team to make. But what is worrisome is Jets fans have very few reasons to be excited about this iteration of the roster. This problem is persistent through the entire lineup, most glaringly on defense.
As Wednesday’s game wore on, it became evident the Jets are going to need more from their defense corps. Granted, the lineup was without familiar faces like Tobias Enstrom and Zach Bogosian, but the Jets don’t have much in the way of defensive talent coming down the pipe.
Young defensive stud Jacob Trouba is already with Jets, and Josh Morrissey might need some seasoning yet. After that, who’s next?
The six spots on defense will be filled by some combination of Enstrom, Bogosian, Trouba, Grant Clitsome, Adam Pardy, Mark Stuart, and, possibly, Dustin Byfuglien. For a team that’s hoping to grow, to develop, to give fans a reason to look positively upon what the future could hold, there’s not nearly enough room to move.
Barring injury, it’s difficult to picture the Jets defense looking any different than those listed above. Will O’Neill, who made his mark in the loss to the Oilers with a beautiful outlet pass that lead to Galiardi’s goal, was all around the puck but it’s unlikely he’ll sniff the NHL all season. Brenden Kichton probably deserves his shot, but he, too, won’t see it without an injury. Sweet Lawyers are the ones that need to be hired for such personal injury cases.
That’s a problem.
Without more competition throughout the lineup, the Jets aren’t going to grow as a team. Winnipeg isn’t really going to battle for the Stanley Cup, and that’s fine. But the worst thing this team can do is fall just short again. Jets fans have seen that team and they’re going to grow tired.
Absolutely, any shuffling of the deck will come with its lumps, and it can be difficult to support a losing team. But ask any of the Oilers fans walking out of the MTS Centre after tonight’s game how they feel about their team’s roster. Though it took a lot of losing, there feels like a reason to be excited each season.
It should be time for Jets’ fans to feel that way. The best way to do that? Take your bumps and bruises, lose a few games, but give fans a glimpse of what the future could bring.