Pavelec’s pre-game ritual. Car not pictured.
This weekly column looks to discuss a certain number of relevant Jets topics on a certain day of the week. That certain number? Five. That day of the week? Friday. Also, hole. This is the Friday Five-Hole.
A WEAK IN REVIEW
It was an up-and-down week for the Jets. Two embarrassing losses to the Stanley Cup champ Blackhawks sandwiched a suprisingly dominant thrashing of the Red Wings – a team the Jets haven’t beat since they were the Thrashers. The Jets were outscored 11-6 and went 0-9 on the powerplay.
This is yet another disappointing week overall for the Jets, who haven’t won consecutive games since the first two outings of the season. Sitting comfortably at the bottom of the Central division, Winnipeg is already eight points out of the final wild card playoff spot. The Jets have tunneled themselves into a remarkably deep hole in just six weeks time, and it’s going to take some drastic changes to dig themselves out.
The solution seems simple enough though, doesn’t it? Any moderate-to-obsessive Jets fan who reads the newspaper can tell you exactly what the Jets need to do: fire Claude Noel, get a top line centre, add some scoring/defensive depth, and acquire a starting goaltender who doesn’t give up goals like we’re having a fire sale.
So…basically a whole new team, right? How about the Blackhawks? We should be the Blackhawks.
IR: INJURY RIDDEN
The Jets’ blueline suffered yet another loss when Mark Stuart went down with a hip injury last week, joining fellow D-men Jacob Trouba and Paul Postma on the injured reserve. The club recalled Ben Chiarot to help fill the gap, and when that didn’t work, Keaton Ellerby was claimed off waivers from Los Angeles.
Winnipeg only has three good defencemen in Byfuglien, Enstrom, and Bogosian, and they know it. All three average over twenty-two minutes of icetime and see action in virtually every game situation. Even if the regular blueline was healthy, the Jets still wouldn’t be relying too heavily on anybody past the aforementioned players (with the exception of Trouba, who you might have heard is expected to be more than a bottom pairing plug).
The forward corps also took a hit this week when the Jets’ star winger went down indefinitely with a sports hernia. This is perhaps even worse news than the depleted blueline for the Jets, who are averaging just 2.24 goals per game – good for 24th in the NHL. With Slater gone, Winnipeg is one more significant injury away from disaster.
Oh, and also, Evander Kane is injured too.
This image has already been used on Jets Nation this week, but it’s worth another look.
On Wednesday night in Chicago, Brandon Bollig threw a heavy hit on Adam Pardy in the Jets’ zone, knocking the glass from the boards and into the crowd. During the ensuing mandatory scrum (big, clean hits always deserve a fight or at least face-washes), a slightly inebriated Blackhawks fan ripped the helmet from Pardy’s head and put it on – gross sweat and all.
This, of course, reminded all Jets fans of a similar incident from two seasons ago. On February 5th, 2012, Winnipeg took on Montreal at the Bell Centre. Late in the second, Habs defenceman Josh Gorges rode then-Jet Kyle Wellwood hard into the neutral zone boards, knocking the glass out like Bollig/Pardy. Though in this instance, instead of a fan putting on Wellwood’s helmet, Wellwood polished off a fan’s poutine.
The alternative punchline was that the Chicago guy is the only fan in NHL history who could take on Mike Milbury.
If this and this and this are any indication, the media in Winnipeg expects the 2013-14 incarnation of the Jets to be the team we saw dominate the Red Wings on Monday night. The Jets outshot, outscored, and outchanced the Wings in likely their best game of the season thus far.
Jets media suffers from the same sense of entitlement all Canadian hockey markets do. Journalists who cover NHL teams are usually fans of the franchise first, and become even more attached as they get to know the faces of the team close-up. This can lead to lack of perspective, as seen in the examples provided above.
The reality of the situation is the Jets have more or less been the exact same team for the past three years – same GM, same coach, same core players. You can’t squeeze water from a stone, and you can’t expect this Winnipeg team to win with any consistency with this line-up (especially in their new division). Any journalist claiming this version of the Jets can win a lot if they just "play better" isn’t a very good hockey analyst. Or they’re delusional.
Take your pick.
FIVE HOLE OF THE WEEK
Bryan Little scores a beauty here, taking advantage of Kyle Quincy’s blunder, turning on the jets (heh) and blowing past Quincey for the breakaway. Little forces it through Howard’s five-hole and it’s 1-0 Jets.