Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Central Division Proves Tough but Winnipeg Jets Still Showed Improvement

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Central Division Proves Tough but Winnipeg Jets Still Showed Improvement

Article excerpt

Jets pay price for move to Central Division

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WINNIPEG - The shorter travel times were great but moving to a new, more competitive Central Division in the NHL this season didn't help the Winnipeg Jets' playoff hopes.

But the numbers show things weren't all bleak for the former Atlanta Thrashers, who saw the post-season only once in 2007 when they made a quick first-round exit.

How much tougher is the Central?

The top three teams, Colorado, St. Louis and Chicago had combined for 330 points. They were, in order, plus-30, plus-57 and plus-47 in goal differentials.

Chicago and St. Louis also both get single-digit odds to win the Stanley Cup this season.

In 2011-12, the only full season available for comparison since the team moved, the top three teams in the Southeast Division were Florida, Washington and Tampa Bay, with a combined total of 270 points and goal differentials of minus-24, minus-8 and minus-46, respectively.

Winnipeg's 84 points were good enough for seventh and last place in the Central this season and the same 84 bought them fourth in the Southeast in 2012 in a tie on points with third-place Tampa Bay. They finished both seasons with the same 37-35-10 record.

And, despite the tougher competition, Winnipeg improved in some areas this season. The Jets brought their goal differential down to minus-10 from minus-21 in 2011-12 and some of their star players raised their game.

Forward Blake Wheeler's personal high of 69 points ranked him 21st on the NHL scoring list and, despite injuries, rookies Mark Scheifele and Jacob Trouba impressed the league with their talent and grit.

"You want to be a leader and being a leader is more than just giving good speeches," said Wheeler. "You want your play to speak for itself."

Trouba's 10 goals and 29 points ranked him third among rookie defencemen and he did it in 65 games. Scheifele's 34 points ranked him ninth among rookie forwards in 63 games.

"I guess I didn't really know what to expect coming in here, it's kind of been a whirlwind, but it's definitely been fun," said the 20-year-old Trouba, who has shown a lot of maturity on and off the ice. …

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