Wheeler: Jets ‘have enough talent’ to make playoffs in 2017-18

The time for falling short is over.

Like every team, playoffs are the goal this season for the Winnipeg Jets, and that was the message captain Blake Wheeler hammered home in speaking with Jason Bell of the Winnipeg Free Press.

"It's gotta be this year, it just has to be," said Wheeler, who appeared in all 82 contests last season but who has not skated in a playoff game in the Manitoba capital since 2015.

The Jets have qualified for the postseason just one time in the six seasons since uprooting from Atlanta - when they were swept by the Anaheim Ducks three years ago. That fact doesn't sit well with Wheeler, nor the team's fan base.

"We have enough talent," Wheeler added. "There's no reason why we can't push this to the next level this year. It's going to be about getting this group together and figuring out how we have to play to win hockey games."

While the Jets fell short of expectations a year ago, in which they finished with 87 points and seven back of a playoff position, the season offered hope for the years ahead.

Dynamic winger Patrik Laine - the second overall pick in the 2016 draft - in particular fuels a lot of the high hopes for the team's upcoming season. Laine netted 36 goals and 28 assists in his first season in North America, finishing as the runner-up to Toronto's Auston Matthews for rookie of the year honors.

Laine should take another step forward this season, while the Jets will have other reinforcements on board as well. One of those newest pieces is netminder Steve Mason, who agreed to a two-year deal with the club this summer.

Related - Jets' Wheeler: 'We need better goaltending'

Mason is a key addition for the Jets, and he'll be tasked with helping clean up the team's defensive miscues. While Winnipeg was one of the top offensive teams last season - finishing tied for sixth with 249 goals - only three teams allowed more goals against. The hope is Mason can cut down on that category.

Of course, it won't be all up to the goaltenders, and the Jets' skaters will have to do their part.

"We've got to figure out a way to win hockey games," Wheeler said. "A part of that is getting better goaltending and a part of that is playing better in front of our goalies - allowing them to maybe not see as many odd-man rushes or the breakdowns that we have sometimes."

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