It was not supposed to turn out like this. The Jets were not supposed to be winning games and battling for a berth in the postseason. Prior to the start of this season, everyone had written the Jets off. But here we are with only a handful of games left in the NHL season and the Jets sit on a playoff spot. Nothing is set in stone, the Jets could be on the outside, looking in very soon.
If the Jets fall out of the playoffs, many people will become frustrated with the team, but they really have no reason to be. A lot of progress has been made this season.
I still firmly believe the Winnipeg Jets will posses a playoff spot, but lots can happen in this short span of time. Regardless, this year has been the best season for the franchise during the brief Winnipeg 2.0 era. First of all, The Jets were in the mix, for pretty much the whole season. The Jets were not near the of the standings after the season's opening month. They were always either in a playoff spot or on the bubble.
Many analysts pinned the Jets in lottery contention rather than playoff contention before the season. The fact the Jets battled as hard as they did this season is something to be proud of, regardless of the result at the end of the year. The Jets saw an exponential amount of growth by many of it's players and with as a team on the whole.
How about Michael Hutchinson? The 25 year old net minder has gone from an unknown to a rising star between the pipes. Despite the fact he has struggled throughout the back end of the season, Hutchinson has made terrific strides.
How about Mark Scheifele? After being relatively silent for the first part of the season, he has been stellar in the back end of the season. When centres Matthieu Perreault and Bryan Little were sidelined with injuries, Scheif stepped up!
How could we forget about Dustin Byfuglien? 'Big Buff' is playing some of the best hockey of his life and has had his name thrown around in Norris Trophy consideration from time to time.
There are so many more players that deserve recognition.
The players on the ice have really taken a step forward for the Winnipeg Jets but what about the personnel - off the ice - for the Winnipeg Jets? They have taken quite the leap forward as well. Jets management has been questioned frequently since the team arrived from Atlanta. People have not always been keen on general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff and the direction the club was going.
Among the reasons for criticism was the fact Cheveldayoff had never completed a player for player trade until this season. His first 'hockey deal' was quite the move. The Winnipeg Jets traded Evander Kane, Zach Bogosian and goalie prospect Jason Kasdorf to the Buffalo Sabres, in exchange for Tyler Myers, Drew Stafford, Joel Armia, Brendan Lemieux and a 2015 first round draft pick.
The deal was important in many ways. For starters, the Jets got rid of a major distractions in Evander Kane. The Jets also dumped a large salary when they traded Zach Bogosian. In return, the Jets got Tyler Myers and Drew Stafford. They have been key pieces in the Jets run of recent success. The Jets also received some nice future assets with a first round pick at this years draft and quality prospects in Joel Armia and Brendan Lemieux. In a single deal, the Jets helped themselves in the present day while building for the future.
That deal was not the last the Jets would make. Cheveldayoff put his big boy pants on this year and pursued other pieces for the Jets playoff push. The Jets acquired Jiri Tlusty from the Carolina Hurricanes for a 3rd and 6th round draft pick. Cheveldayoff concluded the trade season by trading Carl Klingberg to the New York Rangers in exchange for Lee Stempniak. Cheveldayoff pulled off two deals that landed the team top 9 forwards for relatively cheap asking prices. Bravo.
Management took a big leap forward this season.
Regardless of the outcome, fans should be grateful and appreciative of what the Jets have accomplished this year. The Jets showed they can run with the best in the league They should also keep in mind, that it's not easy to make the playoffs in the Western Conference this year
One more from Ladd on the race: "It feels like it’s going to be 100 points to even get in." #NHLJets.— Paul Friesen (@friesensunmedia) March 30, 2015
Fans need to recognize the growth they've witnessed this year. The Jets are winning hockey games, competing with the best and starting to make noise in the league. Along with that they have great prospects in their pipeline which are among the best in the league.
Jets fans, It's may get ugly and emotional during this last stretch of games. There will be ups and downs and a lot of uncertainty. The Jets may lose their playoff spot or they could retain it. One thing is for sure, regardless of the playoff line, this has been a successful season for the Winnipeg Jets.