Okay… just when you think you know the Winnipeg Jets, when you think you have this team figured out, like a chameleon, they morph into something unrecognizable, and you’re left scratching your skull in confusion. Inconsistent has been used to death to describe this team, but it’s turning into something more, and just when the average fan finds optimism, it’s just as quickly crushed and turned into despair on a never-ending emotional roller coaster of hope.
Their highly anticipated start to the season; the season they self-proclaimed was on a path to the Stanley Cup was less than spectacular, gaining only one out of a possible six points. Over the next few weeks, they bounced back to play a real solid brand of hockey and at one point briefly found themselves atop the Central Division standings. The fan base and media were singing the praises of the team, and all were looking to be on course as predicted. There was no sign of impending doom.
Then they took a nosedive in the standings like a mid-winter Manitoba thermometer, which included the resignation of the head coach followed by a six-game losing streak. By the All-Star break, fans were disheartened, and the media was talking about the team selling assets at the trade deadline while questioning the framework and leadership of this team.
Just before the All-Star Game, the Jets soundly defeated the St. Louis Blues 4-1, in what was called their best game of the season. A game their backup goaltender Eric Comrie started, and they played without three regular defensemen in the lineup. They then proceeded to follow that gem up with a debacle in the form of a 3-1 loss to the inept Philadelphia Flyers, a team with absolutely no direction and a complete mess.
The Jets Really Are Solid
Fast forward to now… post-All-Star break. The Jets’ schedule has them begin the second half of the season with five consecutive games against division opponents, all in eight nights. The pundits called this a “make or break stretch” and claimed we would see who the Jets really are after this portion of the schedule.
They defeated the Minnesota Wild on a 2-0 Connor Hellebuyck shut out, then lost to the Dallas Stars in overtime, followed the next night by a resounding 5-2 win over the Nashville Predators. In the Wild game, they played a sound defensive game and brought a blue-collar, old-school attitude to the game. Some old-fashion fights and two teams that don’t like each other, but the Jets clearly outplayed the second place Wild. They showed energy and outmuscled their border rivals.
Against Dallas, they played well again but let that game slip away from them. From controlling the game to giving up two goals in under a minute, the Jets had to fight back into the match by scoring in the final minute for the tie. They lost in the five-minute overtime period and claimed a single point. But they let that point get away from them, and the Stars, who could have been only three points up if the Jets had won, came out with a six-point advantage over them in the Central.
The team flew to Nashville and played the next night, and after giving up a 2-0 lead early in the first period, they replied with five unanswered goals to claim victory. A win in which they completely dictated the pace of the game. Captain Blake Wheeler, who has struggled incredibly this season, was in on all five of the Jets’ goals, and his two-goal night doubled his goal output for the season. It was the second time in 15 games the Jets scored more than three goals, but it was a game they completely controlled. All was looking good, and they seemed to have righted the ship, and hope was in the crisp Manitoba air.
Are the Jets Really a Contender?
Three games are much too small of a sample space to get overly fired up about. However, the Jets seem to have dusted off the bugle, played reveille, and people have suddenly emerged from their slumber. And by people, I not only mean the media and those closely following them, I mean some of their own leadership as well. Could they be preparing for a resurgence and a serious playoff run? Or is this another glimmer of hope only to be vanquished like Charlie Brown trying to kick that football every time Lucy held it for him?
So when the Chicago Blackhawks strolled into Winnipeg last night, everyone was certain the Jets would emerge with a victory. But no. After holding down the fort in the opening period, the Blackhawks dominated the Jets and left Winnipeg with a 3-1 win and two vital points the Jets could have dearly used. They have shown a propensity to play to the level of their competition, and that trait reared its ugly head again. Lackluster and playing behind a team that is quite frankly not very good. This was a huge missed opportunity for the Jets.
This team is laden with talent yet is in a Jekyll and Hyde tailspin that is inexplicable. The saying in sports is that to be a champion, you need to win some of the games you shouldn’t and all of the games you should. That is not the case here. Does this team deserve to be in the playoffs? Not really. Do they have the ability to be in the playoffs? Absolutely. All exhausted Winnipeg fans want to know is who the real Jets are. And would they please stand up?
Keith Forsyth is a freelance writer and sports junkie from rural Manitoba who is covering the Winnipeg Jets for The Hockey Writers. Keith loves all sports and is a huge fan of the NFL (Skol Vikings… if you know, you know) and the Montreal Expos (they’re coming back… you watch!). He recently retired from the education world teaching high school, where his greatest passion was coaching young athletes. He brings that same logical, behind the bench type of approach to you as he delivers an insightful look into the NHL and specifically the Jets. For interview requests or content info, follow Keith on Twitter or his social media accounts. They appear under his photo on articles like this one.
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