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.
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