Walk to the edge, close your eyes, jump. Feel the wind in your hair. Hit the water. Realize how much fun you had and do it again. This is the basic idea of cliff jumping. This is what happens when you face a fear. You close your eyes and jump. You usually end up realizing it isn't so bad and do it again, feeling freed from your fear; ready to take a risk. The Jets haven't tried to jump yet. They've stayed safe on land, not taking the risks necessary to improve your team. They haven't jumped. They haven't faced their fear.
Facing the Unknown
Fear. It can keep you up at night and can have you make decisions that you are not comfortable with to please other people. There is also the idea that the known is better than the unknown. The unknown is just scarier. It can be hard to make a decision that is moving you away from your comfort zone. The Jets have fallen into this issue with their fourth line. They have decided to stick with known quantities who have under-performed their role simply because they are not good NHLers. The idea that a player like Chris Thorburn, a career fourth liner, has spent 8 seasons in the same organization is a sign of fear. Fear of the unknown quantity. Fear of a young player making a mistake. Fear of change.
This fear has paralyzed the Jets into a state of mediocrity since they have come to Winnipeg. They are afraid of not acquiring a new starting goalie, so they kept the old one who is bad. They are afraid that they don't have enough intel on said goalie because the defense is bad, but they bring back the same defense. They change the coach, but the personnel has stayed the same, even though there was the opportunity to change the makeup of the team as well as the coaching staff. Fear dictated the lack of change for the Jets. Fear was there when there was nothing to fear.
Chris Thorburn and "The Contract"
Chris Thorburn: fighter of Zdeno Chara. When he signed on June 30 around 9 pm, my brain exploded. Why? What use does he have to the Winnipeg Jets for 3 more years? Not a whole lot, even if he is good in the room and friends with Evander Kane. Thorburn poses as a massive problem for the Jets though, maybe even this year. You see, the NHL allows teams to bury the first $925 000 of a contract in the AHL and then be responsible for the rest on the cap. Chris Thorburn's previous contract was under the $925 000 threshold; his new contract is not and the Jets now have to forego giving a spot to a young player unless they want to pay close to $2 million in salary to two players, when the number would be closer to $1.3 million with Thorburn in the NHL and a kid on the farm.
Why is this important? Because we know how bad Chris Thorburn is (curses at ExtraSkater for leaving us), but we don't know if an Adam Lowry or a Carl Klingberg is an improvement on him or if they are a cheaper version of him. And we won't know because there is no financial reason for the Jets to send Chris Thorburn down to the minors. There is, however, good reason for Chris Thorburn to not play another game for the Jets again (and it is beyond him being bad at hockey).
Draft and Develop
You know that thing that Chevy talks about but hasn't really done? No, not the playoffs. That other thing. That draft and develop thing. That thing that 29 other teams are doing at this very moment as well. That thing that is supposed to save the Jets. That thing that...is happening in Newfoundland and the fruits from which seem to always be a year off. Why can't Carl Klingberg and Eric O'Dell compete for roster spots this year and it actually look like they have a chance? Why must the Jets talk one way and then act another?
Fear. They do this to themselves out of fear. They know Chris Thorburn as a NHLer. They don't know Carl Klingberg as a NHLer. Yes, Klingberg has played in the NHL, but not enough to create a large enough sample size to gain meaningful conclusions about his NHL readiness. Giving players like Klingberg a lot of minutes in preseason does not correct for this because preseason is still a small sample size and there are very few games that are at an actual NHL level. To properly assess the NHL readiness of players, NHL teams need to give them regular season minutes. To give them regular season minutes, the NHL team has to take a risk. The Jets need to jump off a cliff.
What if it doesn't work out? What if a player like Klingberg isn't ready for the NHL full time? There are always waivers, a place where fourth liners are usually available for cheap and those players can become place holders until there is a player ready. Teams can also trade a bag of pucks for a fourth liner to ensure that they actually receive the player (hello, Future Considerations). There are ways to acquire fourth liners like Chris Thorburn for nothing if internal players fail to fill the roles.
Where the Jets are at Now
The Jets are floating around in nowhere land because they have refused to address needs like a starting goalie (not touching that one since it has been beaten to death), the defense (hi, top four defender Mark Stuart), and the fourth line. The fourth line would have been an easy-ish fix, if the Jets were willing to take a chance and walk away from a player that they know well. If the Jets were willing to come into this season with some unknowns on their roster, with the idea that the unknowns were likely to be upgrades on the known quantities on the fourth line.
Fear got the Jets here. Fear got the Jets to make no changes after three straight seasons of missing the playoffs in Winnipeg. Fear can be conquered. Fear can be beaten. But first, you have to jump.