2012 has not been very kind to the Winnipeg Jets so far. As of today the boys are 1-5 since the calender reset, and if that wasn't ugly enough then the -12 goal differential in those 6 games ought to do it. In fact, if you really want to be grossed out then realize that the Jets have only scored 1 goal in the past seven periods when extended back to the Bruins game, which coincidentally is about the time that Zach Bogosian went down. One more disgusting stat? The Jets have scored only 1 goal in the 3rd period in 2012, an Andrew Ladd tally in garbage time during the Montreal blowout. An offensive juggernaut the Winnipeg Jets are not, but these stats are just plain scary.
As if that wasn't bad enough, the injury bug has returned in full force. All-star defenseman Dustin Byfuglien has missed the past 9 games with a knee injury, and the current word in the Twitterverse is that Buff may need another two weeks to recover. On top of that, our next best defender (in my opinion, at least) Zach Bogosian is currently out of the lineup with a groin injury, which may explain why our offense has dried up as this leaves a top-6 of Tobias Enstrom, Ron Hainsey, Mark Stuart, Johnny Oduya, Randy Jones and Mark Flood. Not exactly an elite-looking blueline.
Blake Wheeler blocked a slapshot with his windpipe on Saturday and needed to spend the night in hospital (though all tests were negative which is great news). Evander Kane has been called out twice in the media this season by coach Claude Noel, amid Twitter rumors that Kane has been enjoying the night-life in town. Captain Andrew Ladd (unofficially) leads the league in bone-headed offensive-zone penalties. Nik Antropov and Kyle Wellwood are former Maple Leafs. Times are tough here in the River City as this team is slowly but surely sinking in the standings, and yet I couldn't be happier. We have a team to live and die with, which is of course better than the alternative of not having a team at all.
Don't get me wrong, I've been incredibly disappointed with the efforts that I've seen out of the Jets lately. After the stellar month of December that saw the Jets claw their way back up into playoff contention, these past 6 games have been atrocious to watch. The Jets were leading after 2 periods in both the Bruins game and the Devils game, and lost both of them in regulation. They were 16-0-1 in such situations prior to this stretch. Yuck. And when they were shutout by the Sharks last Thursday evening, I actually 'Beat the Traffic' for the first time all season because I was so frustrated by their inability to compete. Right now the team flat out stinks.
But you know what? I have a team to complain about, and that's awesome. It is my right as a fan to 'Beat the Traffic'. It's my right as a fan to complain about how we sit back in a defensive posture and wait for teams to overwhelm us. It's my right to swear at Ladd when he takes another offensive-zone penalty. It's my right to call Antropov a lazy floater. It's my right to be upset when the team struggles. But it's also my right to cheer like mad when they take the ice. It's my right to yell 'True North!' during the national anthem. It's my right to boo the opposition's best player, regardless of the fact that they've done nothing to offend Winnipeg. It's my right to love my team one day and hate them the next, to love a player today and want him traded tomorrow. Not only is it my right as a fan, it's my job.
I get that this squad is basically the Atlanta Thrashers of last year, with Kyle Wellwood, Tanner Glass, Eric Fehr and Randy Jones sprinkled in. Did I really expect this squad to contend for the Stanley Cup this year? The obvious answer to that is no, but I have seen enough out of this team to realize that we can be competitive during any given game when we play our best. Perhaps that is why the efforts of late have been so frustrating, because I know that the Jets can play better then they have lately. As good as Ondrej Pavelec has been this season in keeping us in games, he can't score goals for us as well.
Having said that, I'm not oblivious to the fact that injuries are crippling our squad. If you take 2 of your best 3 defenders away, how good would your team be? How much worse would the Kings be if they lost Drew Doughty and Jack Johnson, or if the Canucks lost Alexander Edler and Kevin Bieksa? Not having Buff and Bogo is tough to overcome, especially when our talent pool is shallower than those 2 squads already. And I'm sorry, but Ron Hainsey cannot be relied on to play top-2 minutes, and Randy Jones cannot be your number-5 defender. Ever. The players may choose not to use the injuries as an excuse, but I can. When HNIC made mention on Saturday that our top-3 defenders (Buff, Bogo and Toby) have only seen 11 games together all season, that's a recipe for disaster.
So as it is, with the injuries that the team is dealing with and the lineup that they're are putting on the ice, OUR team is pretty lousy. Yet OUR team is still in playoff contention, despite the fact that we inherited an Atlanta team that was clearly still in a rebuild. OUR team features youngsters like Zach Bogosian, Evander Kane, Alexander Burmistrov and our recent #1 draft pick Mark Scheifele to build upon, and the future for OUR team is still incredibly bright here in the 'Peg. While the team is struggling badly right now and are tough to watch for long stretches at a time, at least they are OUR team to watch and be frustrated with. Because when given the option, having an average team is better than having no team at all, and these tough times will only make the good times to come that much sweeter. Go Jets Go!