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1983-84 Finish: Fourth in Smythe. Thirteenth overall.
Strengths: Good forwards. Excellent scoring balance.
Weaknesses: Lack defensive leadership. Questionable goaltending.
One of these days, the Jets are going to make it past the opening round of the Stanley Cup playoffs. In fact, if they can avoid meeting the mighty Oilers, it might even happen this year. By slumping to a 3-6-1 record in their final 10 games last season, the Jets finished fourth in the Smythe Division and hooked up with Edmonton in the first round. They were playing golf four days later. If Winnipeg wants to improve, it must work on shoring up a porous defence. Last year's stats tell the whole story: The Jets ranked sixth overall in the NHL by scoring 340 goals but they ranked 17th defensively, with 374 against. The club patiently awaited the arrival of U.S. Olympic goalie Marc Behrend but he compiled a disappointing 5.47 average in six late-season games. Doug Soetaert (4.31) and Brian Hayward (4.86) are the other incumbents. To instill some leadership along the blueline, general manager John Ferguson traded defenceman Moe Mantha and his first-round draft choice to Pittsburgh for veteran Randy Carlyle. Big David Babych must improve in his minus 31 defensive record. Robert Picard, Tim Watters, Wade Campbell and Jim Kyte round out the defensive unit. The Jet forwards are solid but they must learn to back check. Dale Hawerchuk (102 points), Laurie Boschman (74 points), Paul MacLean (40 goals), Morris Lukowich (30 goals), Thomas Steen, Brian Mullen and Scott Arniel are all excellent with the puck. To add further toughness up front, Ferguson acquired winger Perry Turnbull from Montreal for former captain Lucien DeBlois (79 points last year), with whom he was embroiled in a contract hassle.