The defending Cup Champion Winnipeg Jets are in a rough, but not unexpected, spot one-third of the way through the 22-23 BEARD Hockey season.
While the record in the standings isn't much to look at, not much else could be expected after a significant tear-down of the roster leading up to opening night. The Jets hold the league’s second-worst record and just 8 wins through 28 games.
Having traded away Andrei Svechnikov, Anze Kopitar, Shea Theodore, Matt Barzal, John Tavares, and Josh Bailey along with some other, smaller names, the Jets collected a plethora of high-end futures at the cost of being competitive right away in the new-look BEARD Hockey. GM Trevor Cook felt that was the way to go after drawing the 31st pick in the Dispersal Draft, but the Jets do have some promising pieces still sticking around.
Jason Robertson, just 23 years old, is a phenomenal player and the team’s main building block. Even on a team that is struggling, Robertson has 25 points in 27 games - but it’s the future that really looks bright for Robertson and the Jets.
In addition to Robertson, the Jets have key building blocks Brandon Carlo and Jonas Siegenthaler, high-end young centres Dylan Cozens and Matty Beniers, and perhaps even 30-year-old Jeff Skinner - having a bit of a career renaissance on a 5-year, $9 million contract that suddenly doesn’t look like such a problem.
“It’s never fun to go through losing years like this, but we felt that the best way to get the star players and difference makers you need to compete for a Cup was to go through the process a bit, gathering and developing young players,” says GM Trevor Cook.
“We would like to get out of the basement as quickly as possible here, we don’t want this to be a long rebuild. We’ll see what the team looks like after this season and we’ll have money to play around with and we’ve got some guys that are playing really, really well at the NHL level and can be building blocks to turning this ship around.”
The Jets and their fans are hoping the payoff will start to trickle in over the next few years. The Jets have an excellent prospect pool as is, and they will be able to add to that with at least 4 first round picks in the 2023 draft and anywhere from 8-10, pending conditions, across the 2023, 2024, and 2025 drafts.
But picks and prospects are always a risk, and putting a team through a scorched-earth type rebuild doesn’t always work out.
“It’s a risky game - you see teams that make mistakes with their high draft picks and never get out of it, mired in losing for 10, 15 years. We absolutely can not let that happen. We have to be right on these picks when the time comes to make them - especially these 2023 ones in such a deep draft,” says Cook.
Despite that, he remains confident.
“Give us 3 or 4 years and I think we’ll be putting a product on the ice that is among the very best teams in this league.”