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Maurice's influence, Frolik's future top Jets' questions

Saturday, 08.9.2014 / 8:51 AM CT / News Articles
By Patrick Williams  - NHL.com Correspondent
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Maurice\'s influence, Frolik\'s future top Jets\' questions
The influence of coach Paul Maurice and the future of forward Michael Frolik are among questions facing the Winnipeg Jets.

Even a busy offseason would have left the Winnipeg Jets in a difficult position to push their way into Central Division contention.

The Jets finished in last place in the Central Division in 2013-14 with a 37-35-10 record, but general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff elected to keep his roster mostly intact, with third-line center Mathieu Perreault as his only significant addition. If the Jets are to push aside some of their Central Division competition and reach the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time since 2007, they will need to answer these five questions:

1. Can coach Paul Maurice impose his values on the Jets? -- Former coach Claude Noel failed to change the losing ways which accompanied the Jets from their former home in Atlanta, and it cost him his job.

Maurice established some early success with the Jets in winning nine of his first 11 games, but Winnipeg's losing ways resumed late in the season. Maurice brings with him the credibility of more than 1,100 games as an NHL coach, and he has a mandate to change the Jets' ways on and off the ice.

The coach sent his team into the summer with a warning that it should expect a very grueling training camp as he attempts to improve its conditioning and fitness. The Jets had six regulation or overtime/shootout losses when leading after two periods.

Maurice must also improve Winnipeg's power play, which ranked No. 25 last season and No. 30 in 2012-13.

2. What will happen with versatile forward Michael Frolik? -- The one-year deal signed by the popular Frolik this summer leaves open the possibility he could depart next summer as an unrestricted free agent.

The Jets and Frolik are allowed to resume contract negotiations in January. If the Jets remain in contention but negotiation talks are not showing significant progress, Cheveldayoff could be left with a very difficult choice at the NHL Trade Deadline -- retain Frolik for a much-awaited playoff push but risk losing him for nothing next summer or move Frolik in a trade while the Jets are still in contention.

3. Can the Jets avoid letdown games? -- Last season the Jets managed to defeat the Anaheim Ducks, Chicago Blackhawks and San Jose Sharks (twice) on the road. However, they managed to negate the effects of those big wins by losing several road games against non-playoff teams. In an 18-day span in December, the Jets lost road games against the Florida Panthers, Buffalo Sabres and Edmonton Oilers, all of whom missed the playoffs. The Jets must show a better ability to bear down and defeat teams below them in the NHL standings.

4. Can the Jets improve against the Central Division? -- A 9-15-5 record against their division brethren thwarted any chance that the Jets had to mount a playoff challenge. Their divisional play and their play at home (18-17-6) must improve.

Four of Winnipeg's first seven home games are against Central Division competition. An early failure to win divisional games at MTS Centre could doom the Jets.

5. Can Ondrej Pavelec break his way out of the bottom echelon of NHL goaltenders? -- This one is simple. If Pavelec fails to establish himself in his sixth full NHL season, the Jets missing the playoffs this season might be the least of Cheveldayoff's headaches.

There is little evidence to suggest that anything other than a phenomenal performance from backup Michael Hutchinson would threaten Pavelec's starting job. Another sub-par season from Pavelec would only intensify the critics calling for the Jets to ship out their starting goaltender.

For all 30 in 30 stories go to NHL.com/30in30stories and for the full 30 in 30 schedule visit NHL.com/30in30.

Author: Patrick Williams | NHL.com Correspondent

SCHEDULE

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PROMOTIONAL

STANDINGS

WESTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 ANA 76 47 22 7 222 213 101
2 NSH 75 46 21 8 214 180 100
3 STL 74 46 21 7 226 182 99
4 CHI 73 44 23 6 207 167 94
5 MIN 74 42 25 7 211 183 91
6 VAN 74 43 27 4 212 199 90
7 WPG 75 39 24 12 212 197 90
8 LAK 74 37 23 14 199 184 88
9 CGY 74 40 27 7 217 195 87
10 DAL 74 36 28 10 232 236 82
11 SJS 74 36 30 8 207 210 80
12 COL 74 34 28 12 200 206 80
13 EDM 74 21 40 13 177 254 55
14 ARI 75 23 44 8 158 249 54

STATS

2014-2015 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
A. Ladd 75 24 35 11 59
B. Wheeler 73 24 34 24 58
B. Little 65 24 27 10 51
M. Scheifele 75 14 32 10 46
D. Byfuglien 66 16 27 7 43
M. Frolik 75 17 23 4 40
D. Stafford 69 16 24 -14 40
M. Perreault 56 18 18 3 36
J. Tlusty 65 14 15 -18 29
T. Myers 65 7 18 -9 25
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
O. Pavelec 19 14 7 .919 2.35
M. Hutchinson 20 10 5 .913 2.43
 
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