While fans of the Winnipeg Jets eagerly count down the days until the start of the regular season like children with advent calendars, it should be noted that the 2013 season will be as daunting a task as their inaugural season in the (204).
Despite their youthfully exuberant roster coming in a year older and wiser whilst featuring an influx of veteran leadership, there are dark skies rumbling upon the horizon.
The problem: a scheduled death sentence.
NHL schedule makers will be spending the better part of their week crafting a new 48 to 50 game season, which is speculated to look as follows:
- Three (3) games against ten (10) conference opponents -- totaling thirty (30) games.
- An unbalanced divisional schedule whereas Winnipeg would play five (5) games against two opponents and four (4) against two others -- totaling eighteen (18).
Regardless whether this comes to fruition or not, the Jets will still be forced to play twenty-four games in a timezone that doesn't suit them; unfortunately heaping strain on the Southeast Division's ugly stepsister. There is but only one certainty entering 2013 and it's that the Jets can expect to rack up plenty of Air Miles this winter. While it's pathetic that a central time zone hockey team is playing being forced to play its second straight season in the NHL's East, the Jets' must persist through playing in a conference -- and more upsettingly a division -- which doesn't geographically suit them.
Back in June, our pal Dirk Hoag of On the Forecheck blog published this season's NHL travel mileage listings; a tracker which calculates the total miles accumulated by each team. Of the league's thirty clubs, the Winnipeg Jets' ranked third most in overall mileage traveled this year, amassing a whopping 47,876 in total. Although the lockout will curb back the overall amount of travel, the Jets will still rank among the league leaders in an abridged schedule. For example, their nearest competition -- the Minnesota Wild -- is 466 miles away.
They won't even play each other under this scheduling format.
Another issue the Jets may face in a diminished schedule relates to their abysmal play away from home. Dating back to the 2010-11 season, the Atlanta/Winnipeg franchise has posted an appalling .382 road winning percentage, with last seasons win total of 14 ranking the lowest of all three years. In a 48-game schedule where every point matters, the inability to win on the road would eliminate the Jets' from any hopes of obtaining a playoff spot for the first time since 2007 rather abruptly.
There is, however, a silver lining. Of those twenty-four games the Jets' will have to slug their way through on the road, their opposition will face similar obstacles when visiting the MTS Centre. If the Jets continue to run roughshod on the Southeast Division -- as evidenced by their 14-6-4 divisional record in 2011-12 -- and hold serve against the East's other eleven franchises, they'd be putting themselves in good position to reach the post-season.
Conversely, their 1-11-1 record in the second half of back-to-back games -- of which there should be plenty -- leaves much to be desired. Although it's fun to be cautiously optimistic -- or even a reckless homer -- the Jets will still have one of the league's toughest schedules, second to maybe the Dallas Stars.
So what I'm trying to say is: don't break your bank on a Jets' playoff berth this year.