October Success Equals Playoff Rewards: Season Starts Through Jets Franchise History

One month down, six to go. 

The Jets began the 2013/14 campaign winning their first two games, something that had not occured since the 2009-2010 season when they were still the Atlanta Thrashers. Ending the first month a meager 5-7-2, the Jets sat in sixth place in the Central Division with just 12 points.

With hopes for just the second playoff appearance in Franchise history, we look into how this October stacks up against season starts since the expansion Thrashers joined the league in 1999.

Relative Successes 

The Thrashers never had much to brag about in Atlanta. One playoff berth in 11 seasons, in spite of names like Marc Savard, Dany Heatley, Marian Hossa, and, of course, Ilya Kovalchuk. When placed in context with that level of success, the Jets’ most recent start is comparable.

This October, the Jets had the 7th best points percentage in a Franchise history of 14 seasons. Right in the middle for a club that has been everywhere from pathetic to electric.

Below are the numbers from Octobers going back to 1999 when the Thrashers blinked into existence. 

 *In the lockout shortened season, these numbers are from Jan 19th to Feb 19th.

Highlights of the first 31 days of this season included: The Finnish Flash, Teemu Selanne, playing what is more than likely his final career regular season game in Winnipeg, the city where he first began his career with the original Jets; rookies Jacob Trouba and Mark Schiefele earning full-time spots on the roster; and Ondrej Pavelec becoming the franchise’s all-time leader in wins for goaltenders when Winnipeg edged Dallas in a 2-1 shootout victory on October 26.  

It’s more than just numbers, of course. As the Jets made the move into their more proper geographical locale of the Central Divsion, there were a plethora of questions that needed answering. 

What would Scheifele and Trouba bring to the table? What about the off-season additions of veteran forwards Michael Frolik and Devin Setoguchi? Would the Jets find offensive depth outside of their top three or four forwards?

Offense Has Depth, Just Not Converting on Chances

A majority of the questions prior to the season were on the offensive end, as the Jets’  second and third forward lines underwent the most drastic changes over the off-season. With the additions of the aforementioned Frolik and Setoguchi, Winnipeg upgraded in experience and more specifically in postseason experience.

Frolik was a member of last season’s Stanley Cup Champion Chicago Blackhawks and has played in a total of 34 career NHL playoff games tallying seven goals and 11 assists in those games.

Setoguchi has even more playoff experience with 53 career postseason games over six of his first NHL seasons with the San Jose Sharks and Minnesota Wild. Setoguchi tallied 25 points (10 goals 15 assists) in the postseason. 

In terms of getting secondary scoring from the offensive bunch outside of Ladd, Little, Wheeler, it has been there. Each of the top six, and eight of the Jets’ top nine forwards scored at least one goal in October. 

Winnipeg currently ranks 22nd in goals for per game averaging 2.29 goals each night, but they are seventh overall in shots on goal per game with 31.8 per game so the lack scoring isn’t attributed to a lack of chances. Their shot totals are also above the average of Franchise history.

On the rookie offensive front, Mark Schiefele hasn’t been all we hoped. The 20 year-old centre has a goal and two assists and played in 14 October games. He has centred the second and third line, and as has been pointed out, is getting somewhat random minutes, which could be hindering his development.

For the Jets to move up in the Central Division, they’ll have to start converting more of the plethora of chances they get each night, and that includes increased production from the likes of Frolik, Setoguchi, and Schiefele among others not on the top forward line.

Defense & Backstops Solid, Not Stellar

On the defensive end, the Jets have been average at best. They averaged almost 32 shots against per game, which ranks 22nd in the league, and 6th worst in Franchise history.

On the positive side, the team’s goals against per game average is the third best for Octobers in Franchise history, owing in part to the 10th ranked PK. The Penalty Kill is clicking at 83% and had two short-handed goals to their credit. 

The top pairing varied during the month – Dustin Byfuglien having played with Tobias Enstrom and Grant Clitsome in recent contests. Byfuglien led all Jets defenceman in points with nine assists. Enstrom and Bogosian as well as Mark Stuart were all on the plus side of plus-minus. Byfuglien and Bogosian finished October in the team’s top five for shots on goal with 48 and 33 shots, respectively.

Defencemen Paul Postma and Jacob Trouba went down with injuries, which will immediately show what type of defensive depth the Jets have. Adam Pardy and others will have to step up in their abscence, otherwise the Jets may exhaust their top options on the blueline.

Between the pipes, Ondrej Pavelec started 12 of the team’s 14 October games compling a 4-6-2 record, a 2.87 goals against average, and .909 save percentage.

The defence definitely needs to tone down on the shots they allow on goal, especially with Pavelec getting the majority of the work between the pipes, even on back-to-back nights.

October Success Equals Playoff Rewards?

Looking back on the Franchise’s history in the first month, there’s only one playoff berth to use as evidence. Still, it came in the team’s best ever first month – an 8-2-0-3 stretch with the best goals for and second best goals against in any October to date. The 19-point start launched what would become the Franchise’s only playoff bound season, as well as the only season the squad finished truly over .500.

With 12 points and a 5-7-2 record this October, the Jets are far from a playoff position. Still, the Jets equaled their third highest October win total. In the first month of last season’s marathon sprint of a 48-game season, Winnipeg had 6 wins in the first month (January 19-February 19). The 12 points this October are tied for third most in franchise history over the first month of play.

Still, with 16 games down in the season, the Jets will have to pick up their play if they intend to avoid battling for the Central Division Cellar.