Nov 8, 2011; Buffalo, NY, USA; Winnipeg Jets head coach Claude Noel talks with the media after a game against the Buffalo Sabres at the First Niagara Center. Mandatory Credit: Timothy T. Ludwig-US PRESSWIRE

Reality Is Hitting The Winnipeg Jets


It doesn’t seem so long ago that the Winnipeg Jets’ inaugural season in Manitoba appeared that it would carry into the playoffs.  The Jets were scorching right through their December schedule, the crowds continued to be large and raucous, and the offense was there to compliment their solid goaltending.

But those days are long gone.  The honeymoon period is over, as they say.

The Jets have begun to sputter as January turns into February, losing 9 of 13 and falling five points behind the Florida Panthers.  Not surprisingly, the coach, players, and columnists are all taking notice.  Ed Tait of the Winnipeg Free Press had this to say:

You can pick up a franchise and move it 2,075 kilometres north from Atlanta to Winnipeg, you can change the name and jersey colours and set them up in front of a passionate fan base. But you can’t change this — the Thrashers/Jets have come exactly as advertised. They are a goal-starved lot lacking a finisher — especially with Evander Kane out of the lineup.

Also, head coach Claude Noel had some bummed-out comments about the overall quality of players on his roster:

Do I like the one goal we get every game?  No.  Would I Iike to see it change?  Yes.  Do I coach that way?  No.  That’s what we have, but there’s still a way to win the games.  We don’t have (Sidney) Crosby or (Evgeni) Malkin. We’ve got what we’ve got.  Our team right now can’t give up 20 minutes of free freakin’ play and expect you’re gonna be able to win the game.

As Panther fans more familiar with the former Atlanta Thrashers franchise could have told Winnipeg, the team is quite average.  The star power that is absent from their team is incredibly noticeable, even more so when Evander Kane is recovering from a concussion.  There is a nucleus of players, with Kane, Alex Burmistrov, Andrew Ladd, Zach Bogosian, and Dustin Byfuglien.  However, there is an aura around the team that just reeks of “ninth or tenth in the conference” vibe.  They can’t keep up on offense with the top teams, their defense is only fine, and the goalie Ondrej Pavelec has yet to cement himself as an elite NHL goalie.  They’re missing that raw talent that would push the team over the edge.

But what about that magical month of December?  The Jets went 10-3-1, propelling themsleves into the Southeast discussion.  As it turns out, though, the record was inflated by the number of home games played, 12 out of the 14 to be exact.  The Jets are tough to play at the MTS Centre, but quite beatable everywhere else.  Now as the schesule is leveling out with more away games, the Jets are slipping.

Even though I don’t mind Winnipeg slumping so bad (they are our division rivals after all), it is interesting to see the city’s relationship with the Jets team.  Winnipegans certainly love the Jets, but at what point do you start calling for a trade or be dissatisfied with the roster.  The Jets are starting to approach that point, and for their sake they should start scoring some goals to convince the press and the coach that the team doesn’t need to be blown up.

Thanks for reading!  Be sure to comment for discussion’s sake.

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  • Aaron_2

    Somehow I think your article is a little off base you state that the honeymoon period is over…Why on earth would you think that? Typically when some one says that the honeymoon period is over means that there is no longer the fresh excitement that had existed in the beginning. Support for the Jets is as strong as it ever was. No one expected the team to move from Atlanta and magically become a Stanley Cup contender the true reality is that fans and everyone in the organisation understood that these are still the thrashers and they need to have some time to adjust.

  • Brainstrained

    The “honeymoon” comment is more than a bit overstated. The team is still sold out for the next five years, and home game tickets are almost impossible to get. Team merchandise is among the top five sellers in the NHL, and they draw loud, raucous fans everywhere they go. In some places their fans are louder than the home team fans.

    No one is shouting for trades, demanding that the team be blown up, or for the heads of management, coaches or players. And this is in the fishbowl of a very hockey-savvy and hockey-centric city, the most hockey-savvy and hockey-centric in their division.

    As for their play, a third of the season remains and the Jets have played more road games than most other teams. A majority of their remaining games will be at the MTS Centre, where they are as you say tough to play. They are competitive for the bottom playoff spots in the conference and they are competitive, though not favorites, for the southeast division championship. This is what most Jet fans expected, and more than than a lot thought possible.

    If Winnipeg is hockey paradise — I don’t think it is, except maybe in comparison to Atlanta — there is certainly no sign of discontent in paradise.

  • Aaron_2

    With a win against the caps look who’s creeping up on the Florida pussy-cats lol #GOJETSGO