The ugliest part of the Jets schedule is now behind them, and it couldn’t have come a moment too soon. After putting together a 4-0-1 string which got the fandom really excited and brought attention from unlikely places (see the Deadspin article from Wednesday), the Jets have hit the skids here on their season-long five-game road trip, starting with losses in Philadelphia, Boston, and now Carolina. Today marks the Jets’ first day off with no game and no travel since October 20th!
Coach Maurice wasn’t too upset with his players after the game last night, claiming ‘they gave what they had. They can barely see straight, they can’t pass the puck as well as they’d like, they got nothing left.” That loss to the Hurricanes marks the end of the 17-games-in-29-days stretch and brings the Jets to the quarter mark of the season, having now played 21 games.
That by itself is notable, as the aforementioned Hurricanes played their 17th game last night, tied for least in the league with the Devils and Islanders. When asked if he felt the team has ‘survived’ the first quarter of the season, he said “Survived and then some. We’re gonna get a day off on the road and then we’re gonna get to do this into the middle of December.” And he’s not wrong. While the worst part of the schedule is behind them, that doesn’t mean that the schedule in front is going to be very kind. \
While the back-to-backs die down (but don’t disappear completely, with games in St. Louis and Chicago December 3rd and 4th and Calgary and Edmonton December 10th and 11th), the Jets will not get another day off like today until December 12th. Coach described it last night as “the eye of the storm” which is perhaps fitting as they had just faced the Hurricanes. Up ahead is Central division battle with the 4th place Minnesota Wild and then a home-and-home Friday and Sunday with the 6th place Nashville Predators.
None of this schedule talk is intended as excuses for a club that is trending downwards, but it does need to be kept in mind as we try and evaluate them 25% of the way through the season. As does the injury situation, which may start getting a slight bit better as Mark Stuart made a return to the lineup last night and Drew Stafford could be ready to go Wednesday against the Wild. It sounds like Bryan Little, perhaps the most important missing piece (and dubbed as his ‘number 1 centre’ by an obviously exhausted Maurice, has been rumoured to possibly be making a return in late November or early December, so he could be back fairly soon and Mathieu Perreault (dubbed his number 2 middle man in that same exhausted post-game interview!) and Tyler Myers may also hopefully be healthy right away, as their injuries were never disclosed to be longer term.
The Jets currently sit in 3rd place in the Central division with 20 points but, as @WpgJoe points out on Twitter, they have amassed their lowest points percentage through 21 games played in the last four seasons. That 0.476 points percentage ranks them in sixth in the Central and outside of the playoff picture, should it continue.
— Joey Gelati (@WpgJoe) November 21, 2016
This is a very young, very talented (just check the league scoring leaders), and very banged up hockey club. As the schedule-makers back off a little bit, and some injuries heal, we’ll get a better sense of a team that has been a little all over the map (literally and figuratively) over the first quarter of a season.