JN AirMail: March 21, 2016 – Talking Tank!


Today I’m switching up the format of AirMail a bit and answering only one question but it’s been a question posed to us and posed on Twitter to us and to Jets Twitter in general in many different ways and we’ve never really covered the topic here on the actual blog. Other Nation sites sure have – a lot – but as far as I know we have not.

So let’s talk about “Embracing The Tank”

Multiple people have asked: Why ‘Embrace The Tank’? Why root against the Jets to win? Do you now hate it when the Jets win? Why do you hate puppies? Etc..

Let’s deal with this by getting some myths out of the way… And keep in mind I am speaking for myself and most – but obviously not all – fans who have accepted the Tank as a way of life. There are of course others who will see things a bit different but speaking for myself and people I know, this seems to be the general thoughts behind tanking.

Myth 1: People who root for the tank want to see the Jets lose.

It’s not that we *want* to see them lose, we’re just ok if they do lose at this present moment.

We already know the Jets aren’t going to the playoffs (spare us the ‘not officially eliminated’ bit, it would take several acts of God at this point for things to fall into place) so winning games at this point doesn’t help anything a whole lot other than spare hurt feelings and make everyone feel a slight bit less crappy about an overly crappy situation.

Winning would be fine if it didn’t come with two points in the standings. Added points won will push the Jets up in the standings and farther away from a better chance to draw the first overall pick in the draft lottery.

We still ‘like’ seeing Jets wins, but we’ll like seeing them even more in October once the season begins anew. For now wins – which again is 99 times out of 100 an enjoyable thing – are kind of an annoyance much like the plus/minus stat.

We accept the existence of plus/minus, we grant it might have a little bit of a hollow value to it, but we’d all be better off without it now.

Myth 2: You can’t be possibly thinking the players are actually ‘throwing’ games can you?

No, of course not. Frankly we’d be concerned if the players made a conscious decision to lose on purpose, especially the kids that are brought up from Manitoba.

I’m sure there are players who are “going through the motions” or are beaten down both physically and mentally from the grind of the season so they aren’t playing as hard as they would if a playoff spot was on the line… That’s just human nature.

When we root or embrace the tank, we’re doing so for the sake of losses and not being as bothered by them as a regular fan would be under normal situations. In the end though, we’re still paying customers though (be it paying money for tickets or paying in time spent following the team) so if a player is healthy and capable – especially if it’s a call up from the AHL – we still expect NHL level of effort in these final games.

Myth 3: There is no guarantee that picking in the top 3 will get you that ‘franchise superstar’ you all think you’re getting, and then those losses will REALLY mean nothing.

True. NHL draft history is littered with multiple instances of a top three pick crashing and burning which ends up stinging a whole lot more than say a 12th overall pick doing the same. This isn’t of course a fool proof plan.

While Scheifele, Trouba, Morrissey, Ehlers and Connor are all fine picks and (almost) nobody will argue that they will all form a great foundation for the future, there is also no guarantee that any of them will be that next level star such as a Stamkos, Toews, Crosby or Ovechkin and at the very least it’s a little more favorable that a top three pick will turn into a superstar than any of the previously picked players will.

Now you may be going “sure, but those are rare generational talents and not every team has one on their team” and you are correct, but the teams that do acquired them by picking in the top three of the NHL draft.

Yes, a team could get lucky with a mid-teens pick to find that franchise player (hello 15th overall pick Erik Karlsson) or even with a much later pick in the draft (hello 4th round pick Jamie Benn) and there is nothing saying that any of our picks couldn’t end up turning into a franchise player, but right now we’re ok with playing the odds.

Myth 4: Tanking doesn’t always work. Look at the Edmonton Oilers.

The Oilers are a special (very special) example of tanking done wrong and if we’re being honest it’s not like they’ve gone into the last five seasons thinking ‘tank’ – at least not initially.

This season the Oilers sure as heck didn’t plan any more than the Jets did to be hanging around the NHL basement by April, but McDavid got hurt, Nugent-Hopkins got hurt, Klefbom was hurt twice, the goaltending struggled and the defense – which was expected to be a team weakness anyway back in October anyway – didn’t do anything but fulfill less-than-stellar expectations.

But if the Oilers had their super-rookie for a full season and if Justin Schultz and the defense even showed a little bit of improvement, there is a strong argument that they could have been in contention for a playoff spot in a weak Pacific division. That’s hardly ‘failing’ at the Tank. It’s taken them a whole lot longer than I think any of them had hoped, but you can chalk a lot of that up to mismanagement and poor coaching in the past as opposed to just getting three number one overall picks that haven’t worked out.

Now all of this said, “Embracing the Tank” isn’t for every fan and that’s ok.

If you see a fan being “anti-tank” just accept it and move on. They aren’t a lesser fan than you are nor are you any smarter a fan for embracing what you think it reality.

Conversely, I’ve listed a few reasons why I and others would be ok with tanking and if I’ve convinced you then that’s great, but if you’re still thinking I am out to lunch, that’s honestly ok as well. Just respect those of us who are willing to sacrifice temporary victory now for future victory later. We aren’t lesser fans nor are we any less dedicated than you are for not being as excited as you are for wins earned at this point in the 2015-16 season.

The beauty of hockey (and sports really) is we all can and should be able to cheer and follow it in our own preferred way. Some fans want to see wins no matter what at any time in the season no matter if it means a lot or a little and that’s perfectly fine. It’s also fine for other fans to be accept the idea of seeing their team losing now if it means there is a higher potential for a kid superstar who can maybe deliver a lot more wins in the future.

In the end we’re all still Jets fans and we all wait for the day we can root our team on to playoff success and glory. Some of us simply have different theories on how to get to that point and there is nothing wrong with that either way.