Why The Winnipeg Jets Will Be On The Outside

If The Winnipeg Jets Aren’t A  Playoff Team Heres Why !!! —

I’m not even in Winnipeg but I can hear the buzz from two provinces away.  Training camp is underway and hopes that the Winnipeg Jets are playoff-bound this season are flying high.

trouba250

Three keys to the Jets success?

Despite the title of this piece, I do believe that the Jets will sneak into the post-season dance even if just by a whisker.  So what’s with the pessimistic title?  Have I joined the ranks of the Chevy bashers or those questioning Noel’s logic?  Hardly.  I truly believe Winnipeg is lucky to boast Kevin Cheveldayoff as GM and I’m hopeful that Noel gets the most out of this collection of talent.

Having said that if the Jets do make the playoffs, it is because the following factors don’t become huge factors because if they do then this team will fall short and this organizations playoff jinx will continue.

So here are four reasons why the Jets won’t be battling for the Holy Grail of hockey come next April: 

 

Tobias_Enstrom_Jets

Tobias Enstrom

Well, duh stupid!  Any team will struggle if injuries mount, you might say or maybe are saying.  But, in Winnipeg’s case this bites a little harder than most teams.  For the Jets, injuries have been significant factors the past two seasons and if that continues to be a trend in 2013/14 it could be a major factor in another long summer for the Jets and the team’s fans.

First, this hockey team is not long on depth.  Management is working on it. We saw that at the recent Young Stars tournament in Penticton where Winnipeg’s future NHLers gave fans much reason for optimism.  But, the reality is most of those players are a year or two or three away from being NHL-ready.

Cheveldayoff upgraded the team at most positions through off-season signings.  But even those additions mostly replace subtractions and behind what is expected to be the team’s front line roster, there’s not a lot of NHL-tested and ready waiting in the wings.

Perhaps the biggest injury factor during the last two seasons has been the injury bug that has bitten hard on Winnipeg’s back end .  Arguably, or maybe not so arguably, the team’s top three defencemen have all missed significant time in the past two seasons.  Between the three of them, they were lost for 97 man games the past two seasons.  That means, that on average, at least one of these defensive big three have been missing from almost 75% of Winnipeg’s games over these past two years.  If the Jets are short one of those three at that rate again this year, the playoffs will be pretty unlikely.

Well, miss my grits

Much has been made about the Jets being one of the biggest teams in the league.  They are. Last season, the Jets were the tallest and the fourth-heaviest team in the league to start the lockout-shortened campaign.  But, if there was a way to measure nastiness and if we could rate the junkyard dogginess of this team, it wouldn’t be anywhere close to those leading-leading figures.

Mark Stuart

Jets defenseman Mark Stuart

Winnipeg was 17th in penalty minutes and near the bottom of the league in takeaways.  Make no mistake, this team isn’t a bunch of wall flowers.  They have gamers who will fight and they can and often do hit but there is a certain element that still seems missing at both ends of the ice.  A lot of teams have an agitator or two who bring a real dose of sandpaper to the ice.  Do the Jets have that element? Who?  The same can be said on the back end.  Guys like Byfuglien and Bogosian and Stuart can play physical and they can lay the body.  But, we don’t see enough just plain nastiness from our defence.  Byfuglien is a hulk of a man but from all reports a truly kind man.  He needs to bring more hatred onto the ice like his very first shift as a Winnipeg Jet in his very first game during the pre-season two years ago when he took on virtually the entire Columbus Blue Jackets pre-season lineup.
If this team doesn’t get one or two guys at both ends to bring a mean streak to match their size, it’s tough to imagine a playoff berth.

Centers of attention

Fair or not, perhaps no other factor on this list will be a greater contributor to the success or failure of this year’s team than the two big question marks at center – Mark Scheifele and Olli Jokinen.

Mark Scheifele

Top Prospect Mark Scheifele

I think most observers feel that after Scheifele’s brilliant season in the Ontario Hockey League he will push to make this team.  Will that be a second-line centre, third-line centre or something else like maybe playing at wing for a while?  Where he plays might be dictated by which Jokinen the Jets get this season.  Jokinen is coming off one of the very worst seasons of his long NHL career.  He has vowed to be better in 2013/2014 but will he?

The reality is for this team to have a sniff at the playoffs Scheifele will have to make this team and be a regular offensive contributor.  Meanwhile, Jokinen has to elevate his game and not be the defensive liability he was last season.  If these two can combine for 80-90 points, then the Jets will be in the mix.  If they can’t … hoo boy!  That’s a lot of pressure to put on Scheifele’s shoulders, on top of the pressure he clearly put on himself but it is just the reality of the Jets situation.

Well Noel?

For two seasons, Claude Noel has coached this team to within heartbreaking reach of making the post-season dance.  Depending on who you talk to, he was able to get an under-talented bunch to overachieve or his lack of ability to truly pull team defence out of this group doomed them.

Odrej Pavelec

Another key to the Jets success

Well, this year’s team is arguably the most talented he’s had and the pressure is on.  Make no mistake, the one-year contract extension Noel was granted by the organization speaks volumes.  If this team falters this year, Noel might not make it to the end of the season and will not be back for the next one.  He has to find a way to get better defensive results.  While some have blamed Winnipeg’s goaltender for the team’s defensive woes, many others look at deficiencies in team defence overall as being a chief culprit.  The truth likely lies a little in column A and a little in column B.  Pavelec needs to be even better than he’s been and team defence needs to be a lot better than it has been.  Noel will also need to find a way to get Pavelec more rest.

Claude Noel is an extremely likeable man.  His post-game interviews have become legendary and he’s just an easy guy to root for.  All of that will mean diddly-squat without the only thing that matters in professional sports – winning.

I still think this team has a respectable shot at making the playoffs but if they don’t I fully expect two or three of the above listed factors to be key reasons why they’re on the outside looking in yet again.

 

Comments

  1. Mitch Kasprick says

    This team actually does have a shot at making the playoffs in spite of the many ticking time-bombs that surround them. Like most teams there are many question marks but for me it’s “team grit” and “team defence.” I know that’s a problem for a lot teams but that’s their problem, I don’t cheer for them. It’s on Coach Noel and his staff this season to gain an identity and make the MTS Centre a hell-hole for visiting teams.

  2. Daryl , tuff to make a judgement on the jets when living far away .i believe with the moves jets made we are a stronger team. If we can get more production from bottom 6 we will have a greatttttttt season.

    • Mitch Kasprick says

      I agree with you Sawchy but keep one thing in mind, our rivals didn’t stand still this off-season either. Injuries and goaltending are the buzz words in every city but “game on”

  3. Ideally, everything goes right for us, and a lot goes wrong for others. Some of this is undeniably luck. No walking under any ladders! Seriously, I don’t believe in superstitions. Let us hope everyone is on board and pushing this year, all year, and yes that falls down to Noel and the team leaders. Grit for sure is a priority. Let us hope the new lines click in a big way. GO JETS GO!

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