Northern Touch: Roller Coasters

You win some, you lose some. It’s a sports adage nearly as old as the games themselves. Call me a cynic or whatever, but I get a little bit of a kick out of the rollercoaster of emotions some ride as the Jets’ season carries out. The club caps nine points in five games with a 4-0 blanking of the Blackhawks — songs of rejoice ring out. Playoffs, here we come! They then immediately follow it up with five straight road losses — disdain and pain. We’ll get another lottery pick!

Hey, I get it. It’s part of the fun. But this is the norm of any 82-game season. The exact same thing happens to fan bases who live and die by their favourite NFL, NBA, CFL team, F1 racer, or whatever. There will be ups as sure they as there will be downs. Just be sure to enjoy the ride, because that’s all we’ve got.

  • The standings. Isn’t this all that really matters? When it comes to the Central, the Jets have played more games (29) than any other team in the division, but they only sit in third. The recent fruitless late-November road trip netted them zero headway in the standings while playing five games in nine days — the exact same thing happened through four road games last November too — but only two of those five losses came against Central foes. A wishful thinker would say; let’s wait and see how Minny (24 games), Nashville (25), and Dallas (27) do when their schedules eventually come to kick them in the pants and they catch up.
  • There is some — quiet, but some — sentiment out there that head coach Paul Maurice is on the hot seat in Jets Land. While I am a little bit taken aback by this, it happens in nearly every fan base every year. I get it — some can get a little bit antsy and irritable when the club has some bad stretches. If you find yourself in this small group, ask yourself… Is this club lacking a semblance of consistent compete? Is the effort level night-in and night-out an issue? Do they have experienced goaltending? Are they in the basement of the standings? Were expectations really that lofty for this season? If you answered yes to any of these I see a team that grinds and drives hard nearly every night. That’s the coach’s job. Are some lineup choices and player deployment decisions brought into question now and then? Sure. But on what team are they not? I also really wonder where the Jets would be without their 18-year-old superstar. It wouldn’t be third place in the Central, I can tell you that for sure.
  • While we’re on Maurice; he sure speaks often of his club’s energy level — he clearly considers it on a consistent basis and focuses on managing it. He mentions it nearly every day. I suppose this is to be expected. He has one of the youngest teams in the league and the gruelling NHL schedule is still very new to so many of them. 
  • Speaking of energy level… What is going on with the Jets’ second periods this year? It’s one third of the game in which they seem to consistently play poorly. If you were unsure about their second periods, Tuesday night against Detroit was another example; they let a 3-1 lead slip away and it ultimately resulted in one point lost in the standings. What is particularly concerning about Tuesday was a poor second period bled into the third as the Jets didn’t record a shot on net until roughly 13 minutes into the final frame. However you consider this, it is something worth a look back upon as the season progresses.
  • Bryan Little. He misses 23 games due to injury and returns to immediately play at a mid-season level. Over the five-plus years since the Thrashers relocation, Little may be the single individual I have been most impressed with over the entire span of Jets 2.0 existence. He isn’t flashy. He always speaks candidly with the media. And he always performs at a high level, both offensively and defensively. And I think that’s where his continually underrated stature is most prominent — defence. Paul Maurice said this week that Little has always relished in his “shutdown” role, drawing the toughest line matchups while potting 20+ goals a season. Now in his tenth NHL campaign, Little seems to have sparked a little bit of chemistry with young Patrik Laine. While I’m excited to see where this pairing goes, it’s Bryan Little’s long-term value that has piqued my interest the most. If I’m a GM in a draft and develop phase, I want the long-term dividend of a Bryan Little in my lineup. This club is building. As far as veterans go, Bryan Little is one of the most valuable pieces the Jets have.
  • Laine’s defensive awareness has maybe been overlooked — easy to with what he’s done offensively — but it’s becoming more and more apparent. Paul Maurice mentioned during training camp that Laine possessed an advanced defensive game for a player his age. Sure, he may score 50 some day, but Laine’s mental awareness at 18 should have fans excited for the development of his 200-foot game in the coming years. 50 Gs is nice, but when a player who logs 20+ minutes a night can also create takeaways and start the rush, that’s where the entire team benefits the most.

  • Pet peeve… .500 hockey. What is .500 hockey? Some seem to think that a concentric-looking record — 99-99-8, for example — is .500 hockey. But what does .500 actually mean? It means a .500 winning-percentage out of a possible 1.000. The Jets currently sit at 13-13-3. That’s *points .500, as in they have achieved half of the points available to them through 29 games played. But when it some to actual .500, it refers to (and always has) winning percentage. Winning. 13 wins. 13 losses. And 3 *losses in overtime/shootout. Those three OT/shootout endeavours would be in the win column IF they had won. But they didn’t. So call it points-.500 — but when you’re saying .500, know it’s in reference to winning. They Jets are three games below the .500 mark.
  • Just a gut feeling, harkening back to the ol’ Smyth Division days — the Winnipeg Jets’ most heated rival in the coming years will be the Edmonton Oilers.

  • Paul from NZ

    I suppose the home ref-ing is part of why I’m not a sports fan anymore. After the ‘Bulin Wall fell, people didn’t know what to believe in, so they went for Human Rights communism just like under Victoria. But it is productivity as a mantra that is corrupt. Hockey is a business after the Gretzky and Hull contracts. And robotics (especially ones that can pilot) and software productivity will win unless solutions are put before profits.
    The home gate is why refs wave off icings and call 3rd period penalties.
    To be at your best requires knowing when you are alert and shaky. Not knowing this means I might be watching champions that can’t catch as well as Elementary kids can, at least since 1980s football salaries.
    I also think the net should be a one metre diameter faceoff dot and the crappy goaltending is why the 1st round is attacking, even since Grapes was able to hurt Maclean on air. Boston is the first University target at present…and the reason is money.

  • Paul from NZ

    the Laine image is amazing – both Ovechkin was 20 and Selane 22 – so Laine is at Ovechkin pace while 2 years younger!

    I truly believe we got the best prospect in this years draft (said it at the time on ArcticIceHockey).

    Could be great. Building a team around Sheifele and Laine could be great. Even better if we can keep Ehlers, Morrissey and Trouba and Hele develops.

    Agree should aim to keep Little in the team as a veteran (a very good one). He is also pretty good value generally, never seems to really push management with his salary demands.

  • Paul from NZ

    Re 0.500 and NHL points system…

    Would others prefer a points system where you split points in overtime? Some of our field hockey leagues do this here in NZ.

    For example, either:
    – 3 points for regulation win, 0 for regulation loss. OT win is 2 points and OT loss is 1 point.

    – Or 5 points for regulation win, 0 for regulation loss. OT win is 3 points OT loss is 2 points.

    It has that fair feeling of not robbing a team all of their points in a game if they lose in the skills comp or 3 on 3. But also the fair feeling of all games reward the same amount of points (rather than some 2 point and some 3 point games).

    Also leads to more exciting finishes to games as neither team is content to sit on a tie at end of 3rd period. Especially at the end of a season where a team needs full points they will push pretty hard at the end of a game to try and win in regulation.

    Once it goes into overtime the incentives are the same as now: both teams want to push hard for an extra point with no risk of losing the 1 or 2 points already banked.

  • Paul from NZ

    Re 0.500 and NHL points system…

    Would others prefer a points system where you split points in overtime? Some of our field hockey leagues do this here in NZ.

    For example, either:
    – 3 points for regulation win, 0 for regulation loss. OT win is 2 points and OT loss is 1 point.

    – Or 5 points for regulation win, 0 for regulation loss. OT win is 3 points OT loss is 2 points.

    It has that fair feeling of not robbing a team all of their points in a game if they lose in the skills comp or 3 on 3. But also the fair feeling of all games reward the same amount of points (rather than some 2 point and some 3 point games).

    Also leads to more exciting finishes to games as neither team is content to sit on a tie at end of 3rd period. Especially at the end of a season where a team needs full points they will push pretty hard at the end of a game to try and win in regulation.

    Once it goes into overtime the incentives are the same as now: both teams want to push hard for an extra point with no risk of losing the 1 or 2 points already banked.