The Winnipeg Jets were 23-13-5 at home last season, but have gotten off to a slow 3-4 start at the MTS Centre to start the 2013 campaign. What has changed that makes it harder to win at home?
I'm not going to say the honeymoon is over. The last time I did that my undying affection for the team was called into question, so needless to say I'm not going down that road again.
But i have to ask: why can't the Winnipeg Jets win at home this year?
Last year it was nothing but great memories as the Jets built up a home record of 23-13-5 and it was generally a good time at the MTS Centre. Now in 2013, with a bitter lockout behind us, the Jets have stumbled out of the gate and are below .500 at home, with a 3-4 record. The Jets started the season at the Phone Booth well enough, with a 3-1 record in their first 4 games. But consecutive losses to the Toronto Maple Leafs, Philadelphia Flyers and Pittsburgh Penguins have left the home crowds on the agitated side for the first time since the move from Atlanta. A defense core maligned with injuries, a star scorer who doesn't score and a pair of goalies who save less than 1 in 10 shots have lead to a few questions being made, and more than a few boos.
Speaking from experience, the atmosphere has not changed. The place has been packed every night, and Winnipeg doesn't have to fudge it's numbers like Florida either, these are legit sellouts. The crowd is still thunderous, as could be attested on Friday when Ron Maclean was clearly having difficulty hearing over the roar of the crowd before the game had even started.
Yet the on ice product has suffered, and going into a game against a strong Boston Bruins team it is entirely possible that the Jets come away from a 3 game stint at home with zero points to show for it. It's hard to blame any one group for these performances. Yes there has been questionable coaching, suspect officiating and unlucky shots in the offensive zone, but it really is a combination of a lot of things that leads to the Jets poor home record.
Management attempted to shake things up by shipping out Alexei Ponikarovsky and bringing in Eric Tangradi, but those are moves that aren't really going to change the trajectory of a team. The loss of leading scorer Tobias Enstrom to injury will not help matters either, just as the defense saw the returns of Dustin Byfuglien and Zach Bogosian from injuries.
The Jets play 9 of their next 11 on the road, so these issues will not be of immediate importance. But a team that cannot win at home, let alone on the road, will not make the playoffs in this league, and the results must turn around quickly before the distance to that 8th playoff spot becomes insurmountable. Because while the team plays 7 of the final 9 games of the season at home, it may all be irrelevant by then.
Luckily for the Jets, there are still 17 home games left to play, starting tonight, and it`s still possible they can go 20-4 at home on the season. It just needs to turn around, and the sooner the better.
What need to be done for the Jets to turn things around at home? Let us know in the comments section!