Winnipeg Jets: Fade In the Stretch? Or Poor Starts?

Winnipeg Jets Miss Playoffs Because They Fade In The Stretch? —

It’s time to dust off those Winnipeg Jets hockey jerseys as the NHL hockey season is right around the corner.  The 2013-14 Main Training Camp opens in a couple weeks and on September 5th, the future of the Winnipeg Jets will travel to Penticton, BC for the Vancouver Canucks 2013 Young Stars Classic Tournament.  Jet fans wait anxiously for Mark Scheifele, Jacob Trouba, and Adam Lowry to make their cases for why they should be a part of the roster that breaks camp in early October.

The Pundits are in full swing as they try to look into the crystal ball and assess which teams will make the playoffs.  The Hockey News has recently projected the Winnipeg Jets to finish seventh  in the Central Division.  For those of you not fully up to speed on divisional realignment that means they will finish dead last, that’s right, dead last.

The article pointed to the trend the team falters down the stretch and a factor in not making the playoffs.  We cannot argue that over the last 10 years the Jets Franchise averages 14.22 wins, 13.33 loss, 3.33 OT, 31.78 points, 1.029 points earned per game, and a .460 winning percentage for the month of February through April.  Outside of the 2006-07 season, when this franchise made its one and only playoff appearance, this team has not much to play for late in the season.  The playoffs were never in sight until this past season where the Jets were knocking on the door and simply ran out of games and perhaps depth to get it done.

Winnipeg Jets Tobi Enstrom

Tobi Enstrom

Throughout the history of the Jets the need to run the table late in the season is a tall task for any team never mind one that has lacked depth for many years.  If you’re not in the picture come February year after year it plays on the team psyche.  In hindsight, the poor starts to the season have simply been a major factor in this team’s lack of regular season success.  In October this team has averaged a record of 3.50W, 5.88L, 1.38OT, 8.38PTS, 0.779 pts earned per game, and a 0.326 winning percentage.  In the inaugural season the Jets opening month record was 4W-6L-1OT-9PTS-0.818PTS/GM-0.364WIN%.  In the shortened 2012/2013 season they were 3W-3L-1OT-7PTS-1.00PTS/GM-0.429 WIN%.  You have heard it many times that getting off to a good start is critical.  The wins you get in October are just as important, if not more so, as the ones you get in February or March.

You can’t win the cup in October but you certainly could put yourself in a position to miss the chance.  Over the last couple of season a mid-season spike in play resulted in some strong numbers like the December 2011/12 record of 10W-3L-1OT-21PTS-1.500PTS/GM-0.714WIN%.  Without that run in December the Jets were long and done and the late season struggles become moot.

The Winnipeg Jets are a team growing from within.  The lockout shortened season demonstrated an upward move towards a better game.  With results needing to look more like that of December 2011 stretch consistency is imperative. Injuries, slow starts by key players, and depth have all contributed to the last few seasons missed playoffs.  It is well documented that the draft has not been kind to this franchise and with players like Scheifele, Trouba, and Lowry that trend is changing.

A quick start is almost imperative for this team if it wants to assert itself in the Central Division.  It will trickle down to its Special Teams play, which needs to dramatically improve, as confidence is contagious.  Chicago and St. Louis will be perennial playoff teams with Minnesota, Dallas, Nashville, Colorado, and Winnipeg left to fight for the last divisional and wild card spot.  October success will be dependent on its strength up the middle.  Arguably the Jets don’t have a number one center and struggled in the number two spot.  Marred by injuries at critical times, the depth at Defense was challenged forcing players outside their comfort zone in terms of minutes.  The goaltending needed to be better at times.

Bryan Little, a typical slow starter, will have to get off to get out of the gate and show he’s worth the confidence invested in him by Management.  A consistent Bryan Little will help the team on special teams and make his line mates better.

Finding a complimentary player for Evander Kane may be the biggest obstacle to the Jets success this season.  Is Mark Scheifele ready to assume and contribute as the second line center?  Scheifele has thrived in a deliberate development plan under Jets management.  He became a dominant player in the OHL playoffs and would have carried the team to the Memorial Cup had he not missed game 7 to injury.  However, the jump to a producing second line center in the NHL may be too much to ask over 82 games.  If Scheifele is ready he and Kane could become an elite NHL tandem and push the Jets over the line.  It’s too soon to tell and a full AHL season may be the natural progression for Scheifele.

Winnipeg Jets Zach Bogosian. (Photo by Shawn Coates)

Zach Bogosian. (Photo by Shawn Coates)

A healthy Toby Enstrom and Zack Bogosian will allow Coach Claude to assert his defensive scheme. Spreading out minutes between the top 4 will allow players like Big Buff to stay healthy and refreshed over the entire season.  Team Defense will help Ondrej Pavelec produce to the level worthy of elite goaltender status.  Yes, his play does have to better but the team in front of him shares in that responsibility in order to achieve team success.

Despite the historical late season difficulties this team’s confidence is rising and the Jets will be a part of the mix at the end of the season.  However, that hill will become much steeper if they can’t capitalize on a strong October and dispel the myth that is the Jets…a team that fades down the stretch.





  1. Mitch Kasprick says

    Nice Darryl …. 2 points is 2 points first week or last week … every game is VERY IMPORTANT !!!

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