Projecting the Winnipeg Jets line combinations for the 2013 Regular Season

Posted by Ezra Ginsburg in General Jets News,Winnipeg Jets on January 11, 2013 — 14 Comments

With training camp set to begin in the coming days (as early as this Sunday, January 12th we’re told) and the abbreviated 2013 NHL Regular Season set to begin in just over a week, Illegal Curve feels the time is now to look at the possible line combinations for this year’s edition of your Winnipeg Jets.

GST line faces off against Bolts

Firstly, let’s review the key additions and subtractions that were made by Winnipeg this past offseason.

Key Additions: C Olli Jokinen (from Calgary), LW Alexei Ponikarovsky (from New Jersey), G Al Montoya (from New York Islanders)

Key Subtractions: G Chris Mason (UFA to Nashville), LW Tanner Glass (UFA to Pittsburgh), RW Eric Fehr (not re-signed), RW Tim Stapleton (to Russia), D Mark Flood (to Russia).

Editor’s Note: In projecting this year’s Winnipeg Jets line combinations, it should be noted that they are simply the opinions of the writer and the line combinations will invariably change throughout the course of the season.

Having said all that, let’s start by projecting the Jets forward line combinations.

Forwards

In my opinion (and I’m surely not the only one),  the most important move the Jets made this past offseason was signing 34-year-old Finnish centre Olli Jokinen to a two year/$9 million contract. Jokinen, who scored 23 goals and 38 assists for the Calgary Flames last season, instantly becomes the Jets number-1 centre and gives the team a proven scoring threat. With all due respect to Bryan Little, Jokinen is more offensively talented and his size gives the Jets a much needed physical presence up the middle.

1st Line

Kane- Jokinen- Wheeler

Rationale: For both Line 1 combinations, I have slotted Jokinen on the top line with Blake Wheeler on the right side. However, as we discussed during the summer on The Illegal Curve Hockey Show on TSN 1290, the Left and Right Wing positions on the top line are by no means set in stone. It is clear that Evander Kane is the most talented Left Winger on the team but it is quite possible that a North/South player like Kane will not mix with a North/South player like Jokinen, who is also not a natural playmaker. Therefore, my second scenario is to put Captain Andrew Ladd on the top line with Jokinen. Should Coach Claude Noel decide to put Kane on the second line….Line 1/Combination 2 becomes:Ladd-Jokinen- Wheeler

2nd Line

Line 2/Combination 1

Ladd-Little-Antropov

Rationale: The second line is the most intriguing to me and obviously depends on who plays left on the top line, Kane or Ladd. For all Line 2 scenarios, I have put Bryan Little as the centre, but as far I am concerned the wing positions are both very much up in the air.

Line 2/ Combination 2

Kane-Little- Antropov

Line 2/ Combination 3

Ladd-Little-Wellwood

Line 2/Combination 4

Kane-Little-Wellwood

Line 2/Combination 5

Ladd-Little-Burmistrov

Rationale: As you can see, Ladd and Kane are the only two left wingers included on the five line combinations beside Little at centre as I don’t see Alexei Ponikarvosky getting significant time on the second line (although he does have the ability to fill in if needed). As far as the Right Wing spot goes we know that both Antropov and Wellwood spent time last year on the second line.  Don’t be surprised if Wellwood spends more time on the second line though. Wellwood was surprisingly clutch last year and became a favourite of Claude Noel’s, registering a career high 47 points. Burmistrov is the wild card on the second line as he was given significant time on the second line with Kane and Antropov last year but failed to deliver (28 points in 76 games)

3rd Line

Line 3/Combination 1

Ponikarovsky-Slater-Wellwood

Line 3/Combination 2

Ponikarovsky-Slater-Antropov

Line 3/Combination 3

Ponikarovsky- Slater- Burmistrov

Line 3/Combination 4

Ponikarovsky-Slater-Machacek

Rationale: As you can see Jimmy Slater has the third line center role locked up. Slater can win face-offs, kill penalties, score a few goals (13 last season) and even drop the gloves. The only way I see Slater not playing center on the 3rd line is if Noel decides he wants Burmistrov or Antropov centering the third line which means Slater would bump down to the 4th line. Ponikarovsky, on the other hand, gives the Jets a little more offense on the 3rd line than Tanner Glass offered last season.  The Right Wing spot depends a lot on who wins the second line role, but expect Wellwood and Antropov to share the role while Spencer Machacek will be asked to chip in occasionally throughout the season.

4th Line

Line 4/ Combination 1

Thorburn-Burmistrov-Miettinen

Line 4/Combination 2

Thorburn-Burmistrov-Machacek

Line 4/Combination 3

Thorburn-Cormier-Miettinen

Line 4/Combination 4

Thorburn-Cormier-Machacek

Rationale: As you can tell, I have Chris Thorburn locked in as the 4th line Left Winger. Even though Thoburn played significant time on the 3rd line last year (GST Line with Slater and Tanner Glass) he is better suited for a 4th line role. The only possible reason Thorburn won’t be on the 4th line is if he spends some time on the 3rd line or Claude Noel decides to give either Ivan Telegin or Ben Maxwell some time on the 4th line as a call-up. In regards to the center spot, Alex Burmistrov is currently pencilled in as the number-1 option for Coach Claude Noel, although I believe he would be better served on one of the top-3 lines. I have put Patrice Cormier as an option at center but he will most likely spend the majority of the year playing for St.John’s in the American Hockey League. The wild card here is at Right Wing. To me, Antti Miettinen has the advantage over Spencer Machacek on the 4th line because of his experience and two-way ability but I do believe Machacek will get an increased look in Winnipeg this year (20-30 games maybe).

It should be noted here that I have not included  2011 1st Round Draft Pick Mark Scheifele in any of the line combinations. I don’t believe he will start the season playing for the Jets and instead believe he will continue to play for the Barrie Colts of the Ontario Hockey League.

Defencemen

Pairing 1

Byfuglien- Enstrom

Rationale: There is only one scenario here for the top Jets D-Pairing. Big Buff and Enstrom played almost all of last year together and will once again be Winnipeg’s number-1 defense pairing this season.

Pairing 2

Pairing 2/ Combination 1
*While Zach Bogosian recovers from his injury

Stuart-Hainsey

Pairing 2/Combination 2
*While Zach Bogosian recovers from injury

Postma-Hainsey

Pairing 2/Combination 3
*When Zach Bogosian returns from injury

Bogosian- Hainsey

Rationale: Zach Bogosian is still recovering from off-season wrist surgery and is not expected to be back in game action until late February so for now, the only certainty is that Ron Hainsey will be one of the second pairing defensemen. My money is on Mark Stuart joining Hainsey. The two American defensemen played together last year and Stuart’s defense-first game complements Hainsey’s offensive skills, although Hainsey has improved the defensive side of his game over the years.  Although I think Postma will be considered as an option, he is still inexperienced and that’s why I believe Stuart gets the edge.

Pairing 3

Pairing 3/Combination 1

Postma- Clitsome

Pairing 3/Combination 2

Stuart-Clitsome

Pairing 3- Combination 2

Postma- Meech

Rationale: We know Grant Clitsome is going to be a mainstay on the 3rd defense pairing for the Jets (why Randy Jones was expendable in the offseason) so it will be between Mark Stuart and Paul Postma for who will play with Clitsome. My best bet to start the season is Paul Postma, who was signed to a one-way contract during the offseason. When Bogosian returns from injury, expect Postma to fight with Clitsome for the 6th defenseman spot.  The number-1 option to replace either Postma or Clitsome as the 6/7 defenseman will be Winnipeg native Derek Meech.

It should be noted that although Zach Redmond is off to a good start with the St.John’s IceCaps of the AHL this season, he is on a two-way contract and is probably better served to stay in St.John’s for most of the year, similar to Derek Meech.

Goaltenders

Pavelec
Montoya

Let’s now look at the entire Winnipeg Jets roster.

Forwards
Kane-Jokinen-Wheeler
Ladd-Little-Antropov
Ponikarovsky-Slater-Wellwood
Thorburn-Burmistrov-Miettinen

Defense
Byfuglien-Enstrom
Stuart-Hainsey
Postma-Clitsome

Goalies
Pavelec
Montoya

What do you think? Do you completely disagree with me? Am I out of my mind? Let us know in the comments section….
  • http://www.facebook.com/stephen.harasym Stephen Harasym

    I think you have to keep LLW together because of the chemistry last season, until they prove otherwise. So my top 6 would be

    Ladd – Little – Wheeler
    Kane – Jokinen – Burmistrov/Wellwood

  • The_Aviator

    Is Jokinen a shoot first center? Is Little a pass first centre? if so, why not switch Kane and Ladd? might increase production from Jokinen and Kane

  • 40th theif

    Lad-little-wheeler
    Kane-joki-burmi
    Poni-antro-wellwood
    Thorburn-slater-telegin

  • William Rutledge

    What if Scheifele cracks the line up?

  • http://twitter.com/arby_18 Ryan Blight

    Breaking up Ladd’s Little Wheeler, huh? Interesting thought. I wonder if coach Noel would do that. And I still think that Burmi w/ Antro and Poni would work well.

    Ladd-Little-Wheeler
    Kane-Jokinen-Wellwood
    Poni-Burmi-Antro
    Thorborn-Slater-Miettinen

  • http://www.facebook.com/dave.conan.79 Dave Conan

    1st Line: Ladd – Jokinen – Wheeler
    2nd Line: Kane – Little – Scheifele
    3rd Line: Poni – Antropov – Wellwood
    4th Line: Thorburn – Slater – Burmistrov

    First line:
    I think you keep Ladd & Wheeler together, as they were really feeding off each other last year. This would be a huge upgrade with Jokinen in the middle! Our new #1 Center offers a strong North/South game that would work fantastic with 2/3′s of one of the top lines in the league last year.

    Second Line:
    Than you let Scheifele (for at least the 5 games before we burn a year of his entry level contract) keep progressing on the Right Wing (like the World Juniors). Plus he could sub in on draws for Little in a snap. Kane showed some chemistry with Scheifele last year? This would round out a Dynamic line, which offers nearly as much offensive punch as any #2 line in the league!

    Third Line:
    Reunite Poni, Antropov and Wellwood, hoping for some instant chemistry dating back to their days in T.O. Plus with Wellwood’s creativity, why not have some big targets with him?

    Fourth Line:
    Jim Slater is so versatile… Add the big body of Thorburn and the newly acquired defensive prowess of Burmi, and this could prove to be a top shut down line that Dwarfs the GST line! With less minutes, they could be be utilized on the PK without burning out.

  • http://twitter.com/David75153990 David

    The little/ladd/wheeler line was horrible for almost half a season until Kane replaced ladd. The number one line should be Kane-Little-Wheeler the second line Ladd-Jokinen-Wellwood or Antropov 3rd line Poni-Burmistrov-wellwood or antropov and 4th line Meittinen-slater-mahachek. If the jets are smart they will be keeping around 2 extra d men and 2 extra forwards because the leaked schedule is crazy players are going to need a rest.

  • Guest

    Wheeler should be on the ice with 2 Left shots

    1) Ladd-Jokinen-Wheeler

    & I like Kane with 2 Right shots

    2) Kane-Little-Wellwood

    watch Burmi shine both offensively & defensively on line 3

    3) Poni-Burmi-Antro

    the new MTS line

    Miettenen-Slater-Thorburn

    Scheifele’s gonna get a strong look, but won’t stick. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I think if he plays more than 3 more NHL games, then his Jr. career is done & since he can’t get sent down, he’d be stuck for the year on the Jets. Not gonna happen. Hawerchuck’s going back to the Memorial cup as a coach & Scheifele’s going back unless he blows people away. It’s more than possible if any veterans are out of shape.

  • http://www.facebook.com/james.falk1 James Falk

    Wheeler should be on the ice with 2 Left shots

    1) Ladd-Jokinen-Wheeler

    & I like Kane with 2 Right shots

    2) Kane-Little-Wellwood

    watch Burmi shine both offensively & defensively on line 3

    3) Poni-Burmi-Antro

    the new MTS line

    Miettenen-Slater-Thorburn

    Scheifele’s gonna get a strong look, but won’t stick. I think if he plays more than 3 more NHL games, then his Jr. career is done & since he can’t get sent down to the Rock, he’d be stuck for the year on the Jets. Not gonna happen. Hawerchuck’s going back to the Memorial cup as a coach & Scheifele’s will join him unless he blows people away at camp or during his 3 game stint. It’s more than possible if any veterans are out of shape.

  • http://www.facebook.com/james.falk1 James Falk

    I’m rooting for the kid, but Barrie is where he’s headed. Maybe we’ll see hime during the playoffs (go Jets go) or he’ll play for St. Johns in the playoff (if they could win back to back once this season….not looking good on the Rock!)

  • http://www.facebook.com/james.falk1 James Falk

    I like your thinking. Jets needed a LH shooting centre who can finsh & play 2 way hockey. Jokinen’s the man & he’s here to play with Wheeler. Our 1st two lines are really line 1B & line 1B. Ladd-Jokinen-Wheeler, Kane-Little-Wellwood, Poni-Burmi-Andro & Miettenen-Slater-Thorburn.

  • Guest2

    I think the jets should balance out the scoring punch to avoid being shut down by other teams.

    Ladd-Jokinen-Wheeler

    Kane-Little-Wellwood

    Poni-Slater- Antropov

    Thorburn-Burmistrov-Miettinen
    or
    Kane-Jokinen-Wellwood
    Ladd-Little-Wheeler
    everybody else the same.

    I think the defensive pairings are good, because we all know Buff and Enstrom need to be paired.

  • Anonymous

    Where is Scheifele???

  • Anonymous

    Scheifele will be on second or third line, don’t forget it!