The Winnipeg Jets played two games in lovely Helsinki, Finland against the Florida Panthers as part of the NHL Global Hockey Series. One win, one loss, both games with a score of 4 – 2. Two evenly matched games against a team with talent, but a much worse record than the Jets. While the overall results were mixed, a collective sigh of relief was breathed by Jets fans that Patrick Laine appears to have removed the rather large gorilla off of his back – Four goals in two games! Three on the power play, one empty netter.
Laine’s big trip to Finland; a beautiful goal and some inspired play by Nikolaj Ehlers; afternoon hockey playing on my iPhone while I’m pretending to work … is there anything to worry about? 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
Even Strength Goals – Moderately Worried
As of November 2 the Jets sat 21st in the NHL at 2.93 goals per game. Not fantastic. The good news is that they are second in power play percentage at 33.3%. The eye test this year seems to indicate some trouble scoring at even strength. The last two games in Finland four of the six goals were scored on the power play, one even strength, and one empty net. Maybe it’s not a problem. However, my anxiety stems from thinking about the playoffs and how teams tighten up defensively and scheme to stop power play tendencies – like Nashville did so well against us. The Jets power play percentage was 24.5% in the playoffs. I’d feel less anxiety if the Jets demonstrated a little more ability to score at even strength as the season goes on.
Are The Jets Truly a Championship Contender? – Moderately Worried
Evaluating your team is an ongoing process. Kevin Cheveldayoff and his staff have done a masterful job to date doing this. My level of anxiety is moderate to high trying to honestly assess whether this version of the Jets as is can compete for Stanley Cup. Are we comfortable that we can beat all of the elite NHL teams in a seven game series? If the honest answer is not yet, maybe you decide to maintain the status quo. Let the younger players develop; evaluate how far the AHL talent is from contributing; let free agency play out; and accept that we’re maybe a two round playoff team.
However, if you honestly believe that the Jets are really close to being able to win the Stanley Cup, you have to bite the bullet, and accept that the team needs tweaking. If that’s your position, realistically we’re still two or three players away. It means making a trade or two. It means possibly sacrificing a player or draft pick we value as semi precious, like Chevy did last year acquiring Paul Stastny. Championship windows are small and fluid. Injuries to key players, free agency player loss, a surprising jump by a mid range team, and your window is closed. However, championships are the ultimate goal. Different sport, but think about what GM Masai Ujiri this year for the Toronto Raptors to acquire Kawhi Leonard. It’s championship or bust, because that’s what’s important. Are the Jets there yet? I’m moderately worried at this point as I’m not really sure how close we are.
Jet lagged Jets – Moderately Worried
I went to Newfoundland this year and took me a week to recover from time change and residual alcohol coursing through my veins. I doubt the Jets will have any problems with residual booze, but, traveling seven time zones can be exhausting, even for professional athletes who travel a lot. Hopefully they rest up, recover and get ready for a four game home stand where they could run the table.