The Winnipeg Jets faced a wide range of opponents this week, and the results were mixed. There was an exciting comeback victory against the struggling St. Louis Blues; a narrow victory against the last place Detroit Red Wings; as well as two losses to Stanley Cup contender, Toronto Maple Leafs. I’ll admit I’m all over the map this week regarding my Jets anxiety level. Some of what we’re witnessing causes my heart to race; yet, realistically, we’re still one point behind conference leading Nashville and Colorado 12 games in.
Channeling my inner yogi, let’s check in with how we’re doing using our Weekly Jets Anxiety Check-In using the arbitrary three-level anxiety scale:
Not At All Worried
Panic/Losing Sleep Worried
Inability to play a full three periods – Moderately worried – Whether it’s snoozing through the first two periods like we did against St. Louis and Toronto at home; or, not being able to close out a game we’re leading in the third period like in Toronto, I’m moderately worried about how we don’t seem to be able to play a complete game at this point. One of the impressive things about our playoff run last year was our ability to play a complete game, for three periods. Sure, there were bad periods, or even bad games. However, when the Jets were at their best, they played the same way from the opening whistle – fast, hard forechecking, quick transition game, physical.
I get that the regular season is long. I will also defend a team experimenting during the regular season with line combinations, defense partners, etc. However, a team identity is formed through repetition that becomes habit. I’m moderately worried that we’re getting into a bad habit of not playing Jets hockey for three periods on a consistent basis. We’ve also seen that the Jets are not going to beat contenders without playing a complete game.
This year’s Jets compared to last year’s Jets – Not at all worried – I’ve seen some great comments and discussions about how this year’s Jets basically have the same record as last season, yet somehow look worse. I’d say this perception is due to expectations being so much higher this year. I’m going to repeat this so many times that it may eventually become a good drinking game (a shot every time I mention it), but, it’s a long season. Last season at this time we were all just clutching our lucky rabbit’s feet hoping that we’d make the playoffs. This year, we’re making the playoffs. Book it. They may not finish first in the division, but so what?
What the Jets need to focus on is preparing for success in the playoffs. As a fan, I can quell my anxiety a bit by thinking differently. The Jets are a contender and all contenders have bad stretches; injuries; and experiment with line ups. Contenders know that it’s playoffs that matter. I do think we need to tweak the roster – trade or two, Moose call ups – but I’m not worried about this team compared to last year’s team.
The future of Patrik Laine – Panic/Losing Sleep Worried – When I think too far in advance (which I know I shouldn’t), I panic about what the team should do with Laine in terms of contract. He’s very young, and has a ton of potential to develop an all-around game. However, to this point, we’ve seen few signs of anything other than elite scoring ability, particularly on the power play. So far this season, even that skill has been questionable.
At present he’s been relegated to the fourth line, a role which he is not suited for. I’m catastrophizing way too early about this, but, if I were Kevin Cheveldayoff, I’d be losing a bit of sleep about this given the multitude of contracts he’s going to have to negotiate over the next couple of years. What also worries me is that Laine has never really demonstrated great skating, passing, defensive play, forechecking, and hustle. He’s an elite scorer. We all hope he’ll become more, but what if this is it? And what happens when he’s not scoring, like now? Current version Laine is nowhere close to being a $9 million per season player, but I’d bet the farm that’s where his agent starts negotiations. Do you want current version Laine to be your highest paid player?
I’m really hoping that this Finland trip where he’ll get some love from the adoring Finnish fan base, and maybe fill up on some hernekeitto and lihapullat will be just the thing to motivate Laine.
Do I need to chill? My kids think so. Am I way off base? Fire away in the comments section.