Winnipeg Jets didn't show the urgency needed in a shortened season

Marianne Helm

A cynic might suggest they put the padlocks back on the doors of the Little Hockey House on the Prairie.

I mean, surely this isn't what shinny fans in Winnipeg were clamoring for during the 119 days of the National Hockey League labour lockdown. A listless, uneven, erratic, discouraging bit of business from their Jets? That, sorry to say, is what their hockey heroes delivered in a 4-1 loss to the Ottawa Senators in a Saturday matinee that had the rust from eight or nine months of inactivity clinging to it. This game, to borrow a term from legendary play-by-play man Danny Gallivan, was as shabby as an old hobo's coat. Paul MacLean, the Ottawa coach, described it as a "dog's breakfast."

I'm not so sure about that. My dog Ruff would have lifted his leg on this dish.

Whatever, the raggedness of play was understandable. You don't paint pretty pictures and earn points for artistic impression when you have a one-week training camp and zero pre-season skirmishes.

The thing is, I wasn't looking for a Louvre-worthy piece of artwork. I wanted to see just one thing from the Jets: Urgency. I wanted a clear, definitive signal that they understand this Coles notes version of an NHL season is a sprint. You're playing 48 games in 99 days. There's little or no allowance for dithering.

Well, I didn't see urgency. Not on a collective level, anyway.

I thought Mark Scheifele, playing out of position and with a pot-pourri of linemates, showed a sense of urgency after a jittery start. Little wonder. The kid has five games (now four) to provide ample evidence that the Jets would be best served by keeping him on the NHL roster, rather than dispatching him back to the Barrie Colts of the Ontario Hockey League. So, his job is on the line.

Trouble is, not enough of the Jets were playing like their jobs are in jeopardy.

Certainly Dustin Byfuglien was the best of the boys in blue, by a considerable margin. And I don't say that because he provided the Jets with their goal, which had the Little Hockey House rockin' and rollin'. I say it because Big Buff threatened to take the home opener by the scruff of the neck and claim it as his own on a number of occasions. Unfortunately, he didn't have enough willing accomplices.

Blake Wheeler showed an awareness that this is a 48-game season, but his flashes of urgency were few and fleeting.

Beyond that...Tweeter Kane was in a world of his own, skating aimlessly and apparently unaware that he has teammates; the blueliners, as a group, were calamitous; newbe Olli Jokinen looked slow, sluggish and was a non-factor; captain Andrew Ladd took a stupid penalty; Nik Antropov was Nik Antropov and you know that's not exactly an endorsement of his performance; goaltender Ondrej Pavelec's effort failed to inspire.

In short, it was sub-standard.

So what's the remedy? Well, Zach Bogosian would certainly help. The Jets' best defenceman remains on the shelf recovering from wrist surgery, and he's unavailable for as much as a month. So, he's not the quick cure.

An attitude adjustment just might be the ticket, though. I'm convinced these Jets have the talent to challenge for a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. They truly do. But they have the wrong mind set. It's as if they hope to win, rather than expect to win. And they don't operate like people who appreciate the gravity of a shortened, 48-game season (at least they didn't vs. the Senators). They don't seem to understand that there are no nights off. There are no shifts off. You don't lose games in a shortened season. You lose opportunity.

I realize it's only one game. The sky isn't falling. I still harbour hope for this group and I'd like to view their opening-game clunker as a one-off. Surely the real Jets will surface in Boston to battle the Bruins on Monday. Well, won't they?

Random thoughts after Day One of the 2013 NHL season: Isn't it about time that Teemu Selanne started acting his age? I mean, a four-point night to start his 20th season? At age 42? A fellow named Howe was the last player to do that, 42 years ago. The man is a marvel. Apparently the only person who can shut down Selanne is Gary Bettman, who's locked out the Finnish Flash three times...How do you think the Detroit Red Wings are enjoying life after Nicklas Lidstrom? After a 6-0 paddy whacking from the St. Louis Blues, I'm wondering if general manager Ken Holland wishes he had retired with his Hall of Fame defenceman...Roberto Luongo? Who needs him? That's what they must be saying in the centre of the hockey universe, because Toronto Maple Leafs' goaltender Ben Scrivens was a cut above solid in a 2-1 victory over les Miserables in Montreal. While Scrivens was shutting the door on Les Miz, Bobby Lu had to come on in relief and clean up Cory Schneider's mess in Vancouver Canucks' 7-3 loss to the Anaheim Ducks. Maybe the 'Nucks should be offering a Luongo-Scrivens deal. Straight up...I'd really like to get a look at Mark Scheifele playing centre rather than right wing.

If this FanPost is written by someone other than one of the blog's editors, the opinions expressed in it do not necessarily reflect those of this blog or SB Nation.

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