Allow me, if you will, to take you back to August 8, 2012, when a certain hack blogger crucified The Hockey News for writing the following statement:
The Jets were awful on the road last season so a sudden improvement there would go a long way. Still, what this team has in talent on the blueline, it greatly lacks up front. Blake Wheeler and Evander Kane had career years in 2011-12, but will they continue that ascension, stall, or fall back? Can Bryan Little regain the 30-goal form from 2008-09? The Jets offense needs a stud to assume control and for their plethora of youth to continue to rise. But when you rely on things like this to happen for your team to be successful, you're walking a thin line.
The blurb in question lacked the kind of insight that should be expected from a major writing publication -- let alone one that specializes in writing NHL-themed articles.
We now fast-forward roughly a month and a half into the present day, and the Winnipeg Jets' are getting slammed in another set of pre-season power rankings, this version published by Scott Burnside of ESPN.
A passage from the previously mentioned rankings:
This team still looks all too much like an Atlanta Thrashers team that failed to win a single playoff game. Not sure of the goaltending with Ondrej Pavelec, who was cited for drunk driving in the Czech Republic but didn't bother to tell management. Team defense is still suspect and there's not enough scoring depth up front. Not sure how this adds up to anything but more misery.
Woah, he's totally in my face!
I have to give Burnside credit, he makes a much more convincing argument than does The Hockey News. And in the world of sports media, it's not about being right or wrong --unless you're Skip Bayless -- but being convincing. Unfortunately, the rankings will no doubt be taken as a slight and subsequently written off as tripe by legions of loyal Jets' fans, despite their factual accuracy.
Like Burnside, I have cautioned against the hype surrounding a defensive unit that lost more than it gained this off-season. The loss of Zach Bogosian only exposes the lack of positional depth further. Moreover, Ondrej Pavelec is currently making his case for the worst goaltender in Europe, sporting a laughable .876 SV%, 3.96 GAA and 0-2-1 record through his first three games of HC Extraliga duty. A small sample size to be sure, but quite similar to where he left off last season -- hurtling himself off a cliff of ineptitude into a pit of sub-mediocrity. These two areas will be the lynch-pin of Winnipeg's success, should the NHL decide they wish to play hockey this year. The scoring depth is more adequate than it's given credit and shouldn't be a focal point of hindrance for this team. While team scoring can be looked to improve upon, it's been worse in years past.
To be clear, my main gripe with The Hockey News rankings wasn't in what they said, but rather, how they said it. It came off as bland and an insult to the intelligence of those who actually follow this team. To publish an opinion and then dance around your critique by asking questions instead of formulating answers is weak journalism for a news outlet that should be amongst the gold standard of hockey coverage.
"Insight on the NHL and the world of hockey"... so long as it takes place within the Greater Toronto Area.
And although I don't agree with Burnside's assessment that this team is the worst in the Eastern Conference, I can at least respect the fact that he can pinpoint issues this organization needs to address going forward.
The question now becomes, how much ground can the Jets make up on ESPN's power rankings heading into the second week of the lockout? Having NHLPA rep Ron Hainsey in their corner should do them wonders in that regard.