I haven’t posted in a while. Maybe it’s because I’m lazy, or maybe it’s sheer apathy. Either way, the end result is the same…..or rather, there is no result. Just empty space. Kind of like Winnipeg’s list of achievements in the six years between this team’s relocation and where we are now. Oh sure, the Jets made the playoffs once, but to what avail? A first-round sweep where everyone got a pat on the back for participation? Come on, man. That team was great and the players deserved the chance to experience the post-season, especially considering how long some of Winnipeg’s best have gone without tasting the playoffs. A sweep was bad, but it was the start of something greater, a real chance for this team to do what it hadn’t done since the Atlanta days; be competitive.
And then it all went away. A year and a half later and the Jets are poised for yet another top-10 pick, despite drafting Patrik Laine second overall just a scant few months ago. He was hailed as the franchise savior, and he absolutely should be. The injury a couple of weeks ago knocked him out of commission, but let’s be honest; this team was spinning tires for a lot longer than that. We’re in year six of the Era of Chevy and Winnipeg is no closer to a Stanley Cup. It has the talent at forward and in net, so why are the Jets still Jertsing?
The Coaching Staff
Despite my better judgement, I will always have a soft spot for Paul Maurice. What he did for this franchise after Claude Noel was fired was nothing short of transcendent. Winnipeg began to play good, borderline elite hockey and amassed one of the franchise’s deepest rosters ever. The team that made the playoffs benefited from a slight lack of competition in the West, but make no mistake; the 2014-15 Jets were an awesome team.
That love affair is over, and it’s time for management to wake up and realize the Jets are grounded without serious changes. The blue-chip goalie prospect phenom known as Connor Hellebuyck is looking rather mortal these days, and it ain’t because he lacks talent. Jets goalie coach Wade Flaherty, who has very little actual NHL goaltending experience, is allowing some very bad habits to settle in the young netminder’s mechanics. Winnipeg’s special teams aren’t any better, and when factoring in one of the worst high-danger save percentages in the league, leaves the Jets penalty kill well below 80%. The power-play is faring slightly better, but relative gains only count in moral victories.
This current Jets team does a good job of suppressing scoring chances, but when the offensive side of the game is nonexistent, it’s only delaying the inevitable. Maurice and the coaching staff have failed to adapt time and again. As the blowout losses continue to mount, it feels more and more like the staff is losing the room. A 15-minute players-only meeting here, a catatonic meltdown on the bench from Maurice there….who’s really listening anymore? Maybe Burmistrov lucked out and dodged a bullet by getting sent to Arizona (the second-worst team in the NHL). I am grateful for how Maurice showed what this team could be, but it’s time for Chevy and Chipman to clean house.
The Management Team
Isn’t it ironic that Chevy and Chipman are equally responsible for letting all of this happen? Winnipeg, which was heralded as among the best of the Canadian franchises just a few seasons ago, will be one of the only Canadian teams to miss the playoffs this year. Toronto, Calgary, Ottawa, Edmonton, Montreal, and Vancouver all have much better shots at a playoff spot. We used to make fun of Leafs and Oilers fans for being delusional about the directions of their respective teams. Now look at us, clinging to the vain hopes of another lottery pick.
I don’t hate the job Chevy has done, but it’s just average. There were countless opportunities to sack and burn this roster early on for a stable of high-end prospects, but the Jets have piddled around .500 for most of the past six years. If the goal was to make the playoffs consistently, why leave it in the hands of Pavelec? Why not get aggressive in the trade market? Why allow this team to languish and waste the years of its top stars? Andrew Ladd gave his career, and possibly his health, to Winnipeg. All he got in exchange was 4th line minutes with the Islanders and the bitter taste of a sweep in the playoffs. He and the other players deserve better than this.
Fans are supposed to support the team, but there’s plenty of room to level criticism when it’s needed. Jets fans have got to stop worrying about Chipman selling this team. If Winnipeg doesn’t start turning out results in the post-season soon, the Jets will be just as irrelevant and forgotten. We’ve got to hold management accountable and quit making excuses for why Chevy needs more time. Six years is enough to make a solid Atlanta roster shine, or to scrap and start the rebuild from day one. Six years to make the playoffs once and get swept, only to need more lottery picks, is unacceptable. It’s incredible that the Jets believe calling up Ondrej friggin’ Pavelec will get them to the playoffs, yet here we are. Even if it were to happen, the Jets would get badly outclassed by teams like the Sharks or the Wild.
Enough is enough. The Jets aren’t getting younger, and neither are we. Demand better with your words and wallets, because the people at the top have settled for just existing.