Seeing Paul Maurice step down as the head coach of the Winnipeg Jets not even halfway through the season was a complete shocker, something that I did not see coming at all. He stepped down because he "got everything he could out of the Jets." I'm calling you out here, Paul. I think maybe you got everything you could out of them, but I don't think they believe this is their ceiling. The team learned from their disastrous 2020 season, where the defense was terrible and the drama was high. This season, they have started out as a middle-of-the-road team, but having their head coach quit on them might fire the roster up. They are seven points back of the division-leading Minnesota Wild, who are an interesting team themselves since they have virtually no star power. Nashville is overachieving big time right now with 39 points, while St. Louis and Colorado continue to win. Although, the Avs have been slightly disappointing this season considering.
Winnipeg has the pieces it takes at the right positions to win a Stanley Cup. They have a roster full of offensive talent, starting with Kyle Connor, who has been fantastic this season for the Jets. He's tied for 5th in goals with 18 this season already and has racked up 32 points in 30 games. Mark Scheifele is back, who does a lot more for their team than what people are seeing in the stat category this year. His suspension last postseason was part of what did the Jets in against a red-hot Canadiens team. Nikolaj Ehlers and Pierre-Luc Dubois are young stars that have supported Connor well and contributed big in their own way. Ehlers has 11 goals and 24 points, while Dubois has 14 goals and 25 points.
Let's not forget Connor Hellebuyck in the net, perhaps the best goaltender in the league. Hellebuyck has faced the most high-danger chances of any goalie over the past three seasons and still manages to be in the Vezina conversation every single year. The defense has been much improved from their horrendous showing in 2020, and part of that can be attributed to acquiring Nate Schmidt from Vancouver. He's a true blue-line star, a minutes-eater who can play all situations as one of the best defenders in the game, and has 17 points in 29 games.
Winnipeg is in a tough division to be sure, but there is no reason to think that they can't come back with a push in the second half. As I mentioned above, they aren't that far out of first place and are right there with the Wild, Blues, Predators, Avalanche, and Stars who are all fighting for the division crown. Colorado is great offensively, but their goaltending is very questionable. St. Louis has the pieces to win the division, but I'm not sure they have the depth to win a championship again. Minnesota is still a mystery to me, as they have no real stars, but score at the third-highest rate in the league. Nashville is overachieving, and I could see them falling a bit.
It will be hard, but Winnipeg has the pieces to do it. They also have the Canada Life Centre, which is among the most difficult buildings to play in as a road team. Like Penn State, they have a white-out for home games, and that can be very intimidating for opposing teams. Plus, I think Maurice essentially quitting on them will light a fire in their stomachs.
At 60-1, what do you have to lose sprinkling a bit of pizza money on this to win a ton of cash?
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