The Jets are certainly not known for making waves in the offseason. Just like I had written in my season preview blog it could be argued that signing TSN reporter Sara Orlesky to their full time staff as a producer could be the biggest splash they made this offseason. The challenge of trying to attract free agents to such a small market and horribly cold climate really have forced this team to be a draft and develop franchise, however nonetheless there always are a few new faces every year.
Rick coached the original Jets in the 80s, which is wild to think guys can last this long coaching in the NHL – especially considering over that time Bowness has put up a losing record of 212-351-48. That’s being said, Bowness has had some recent success with the Dallas Star coaching them to a Stanley Cup Final appearance in the bubble in 2020. In terms of the recycled coaches that were out there, I do think Winnipeg could have fared worse as I think Bowness addresses the team’s needs. Defensive play has been the most frustrating thing for Jets fans to watch the last few seasons. Last season, Winnipeg appeared to re-tool their defensive core, bringing in some experience and shutdown capabilities in Brendan Dillon and Nate Schmidt, but the club did not seem to be any better at keeping the puck out of their net. Under Bowness, the Dallas Stars over the last two seasons have ranked 9th & 13th in terms of goals allowed without having a real stud defensive group. I would imagine Bowness will bring a more defensive minded approach to the game for the whole team, which may come at the expense of some goals (Dallas ranked 18th & 21st in goals for in the last two seasons, but I think getting guys to buy into a more team defense approach will benefit the club. The other major challenge for Bowness to address is the locker room issues. Hiring a guy like Bowness with a lot of experience should also bode well in this area, given this locker room isn’t too far gone. Stripping Wheeler of the Captaincy is a bold move to start, but I think it is the right move. This move feels like Bowness taking control of the room from the players and is turning the page on the previous way the team was run, which is definitely what Maurice was getting at during his exit interview. Whether or not he is the man to solve the Jets problems remains to be seen, but one thing that is for certain is that he is much better suited for the job than the guy that was behind the bench for most of last season.
One conculsion that can be drawn based on this guy being our backup is to expect Connor Hellebuyck to start north of 70 games. Since Brossoit’s departure, Chevy has failed to bring in a backup that can be trusted more than to just play the second game of a back to back. While Rittich does have over 150 NHL games of experience, bringing in a guy with an .888 save percentage over the last two seasons while playing less than 20 games makes pretty much no sense to me.
Gagner essentially was brought in as a Stastny replacement. While being a definite downgrade offensively, he still can be relied on to take key draws and fill a bottom six role. Gagner has been well traveled in the NHL and should bring a much needed veteran presence to a locker room looking for some direction. Not a headline signing by any means, but a good way to create some more competition for guys trying to crack the bottom six on this team.
Not the most exciting offseason out there, but these new players will be names Jets fans can get used to for the 2022-23 season.