Photo Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports

TSN’s Yost Wonders How Jets Have Slipped Under The Radar

It wasn’t as scorching or out of left field as some of his hottest Twitter food takes, but TSN’s Travis Yost still took the Winnipeg Jets to task for yet another sub par season.

In the thought provoking piece, Travis’ biggest question is wondering just how have the Jets have managed to not be in the national spotlight more for having a season that standings and record wise still has the potential to fall behind last season’s dismal finish….

If there’s one truth about the 2016-17 NHL season, it’s that the Winnipeg Jets have been the league’s biggest disappointment.

I’m not sure how they’ve skirted greater national criticism with this year’s 78-point pace showing, but they have.

So to answer Mr. Yost’s question, I have three main theories as to how they’ve avoided any national embarrassment.

1 – The Jets are not the national broadcaster and are almost a secondary thought on their own “home network”

Sportsnet is the regional broadcasting home for Canucks, Oilers, Flames, Canadiens and the Leafs (at least half the Leafs games anyway). They have unique broadcasting crews for each team as well as dedicated pre-game shows as well as intermission breaks thrown back to live hits at the Sportsnet studio where they’ll actively break down action just previously seen live. In sort, all four “regional teams” are covered in-depth which has a trickledown effect through the entire network.

For a team like the Jets that they don’t cover on a regional level, they simply don’t pay as close enough attention to. Information they have on the Jets is often dated, based on hearsay and / or are really good educated guess.

Last Saturday night was a great example as play by play man Kevin Quinn (who does the work for the Oilers regional broadcasts) was quick to shower praise on the line of Blake Wheeler, Mark Scheifele and Nik Ehlers which he alluded to had been having success all season.

Jets fans on social media were quick to point out that it was maybe the first time Paul Maruice had tried that line on the ice all season.

Back in February during an infamous little interview, Mark Scheifele corrected Jeff Marek about what line he was actually playing on…

In all fairness to Jeff, the Scheifele/Ehlers/Laine combination had been very hot before PoMo got the line blender going as he typically does, but still it had been four games and a little over a week since the change was made.

Sportsnet doesn’t have as big an obligation to cover the Jets nor the Senators who is the other Canadian club not covered by them. They still do have a single dedicated field reporter covering the team, but resources spent covering them don’t even come close to matching that of the teams they do hold rights for and in turn that means when it does come time to cover a Jets game or report on the club, Sportsnet as a whole has at times come across as uniformed and downright clueless about what is actually going on with this team.

TSN meanwhile holds the regional rights to the Senators and Jets as well as the other half of Leafs games. As such, they’ve seemed to have put most of their eggs in the Sens and Leafs baskets making sure that their best play by play teams for hockey work those games and going live to the TSN studios for pre-game and intermission analysis. This shouldn’t be a total surprise as ratings for Ontario based teams will be higher than Manitoba.

The Jets are almost an afterthought on their own network. TSN Jets games feel more like a throwback to what you were likely to see in the 80’s and 90’s in a regional broadcast that feels half network but also half team produced which means you get more of a team positive slant from any of the crew covering the games and very little in the way of critical analysis. It also doesn’t include any live input from the mothership studio back in Toronto. Any in-studio segments you do see from the “main” TSN crew (James Duthie, Bob McKenzie, etc..) are often generic hockey filler with no relevance at all to what you’ve just watched for the past 45 minutes.

So the first – and maybe biggest – reason as to how have the Jets flown under the radar? It’s been quite easy as neither sports network has set up much of a radar to really keep an eye on them in the first place.

2 – The Jets are still “new”

The franchise has been around for 17 years, but the Winnipeg version of the ThrashaJets has only been here for six seasons. There isn’t a any real history of this team having once been great in the past and now fallen on hard times in entire Atlanta to Winnipeg life span let alone the years spent in a Canadian market. So there is no potential for a “what happened to this once proud club” question as you would get with virtually every other Canadian market.

They’ve almost been treated like an expansion club from the start of their Winnipeg phase and as such no expectations have ever been placed on them from anyone on the outside looking in. Heck, there have barely been any expectations put on the club within the Winnipeg media covering them or most of the fan base that is following.

It only hasn’t been until very recently in the last month or so with the inevitable about to happen, that there has been a sort of a “hey, wait a second..” epiphany from fans and media regarding this club realizing there is something kinda wrong.

The whole “honeymoon” phase and then the brief playoff appearance also were great smokescreens for the issues that were haunting this club for quite some time.

3 – They are still a “young up-and-coming” club

If you were to play phrase association with any non-Jets hockey fan where they had to describe the Jets in just a sentence or two, the words “up and coming” would dominate and it’s true, the Jets *are* young and even some of the more harsh critics would agree there is plenty to like with the Jets over the next few years.

The problem is though it it’s used as an excuse.

Team couldn’t hold a lead? It’s the youth and inexperience.

Jets got off to a slow start? Jitters from a young club this time of year don’t you know.

“Of course they aren’t good now, that’s supposed to happen later like next season.”

It would be one thing if the Jets were bad like they are this season and had virtually nothing in the prospect pool, but they do and so hanks to what is pretty much human nature for people to just naturally look for anything to draw positives from, any negatives you may actually see with the current Jets is offset by the potential of “just you wait until next year” because a better future for this team is a legit thing that could happen. They *could* be really good next year. Or two years from now. Or three at the very most. It could also not get better in the future at all, but as long as the potential is there, criticism will not be as harsh.

There are other factors…

The Jets play everything they do close to the vest. Getting a Kevin Cheveldayoff sighting is almost as rare as finding a 10 dollar bill on the ground. Paul Maurice isn’t exactly a walking sound-board in his press meetings.

And let’s be honest with ourselves, they play in boring ol’ Winnipeg. The city is a six hour drive from equally as bland Regina and a two hour drive away from being in the middle of nowhere. It’s not anywhere close to being a big media hub like a Toronto, Montreal or Vancouver.

There are a handful of reasons why the Jets’ disappointing season hasn’t gotten more attention.

But it’s starting to get attention now. That should worry the Jets.

  • FishWhiskey

    Chevy came to town as a rookie NHL GM and asked for 5 years to bring his plan to fruition. At the end of five years his team was tanking. Now in year 6 the team is still tanking and one must draw the obvious conclusion which is that Kevin Cheveldayoff has proven, with the teams record, that he is not an NHL calibre GM and must go. He should have been fired after 5 years but was given a second chance this year and has blown it. If TNSE does not start practising accountability then they will lose the fans and the franchise.

  • dawgdayz

    Let’s face it, this was a good, old fashioned rebuild. Don’t believe me? Follow the link: http://www.hockey-reference.com/teams/WPG/2012.html The only players of any use from then til now are Byfuglien, Enstrom (grossly overpaid), Little and Wheeler. Others still with the team, holding spots out of necessity, are Pavelec, Postma, Stuart and Thorburn. Names such as Antropov, Bogosian, Burmistrov, Clitsome, Fehr, Flood, Glass, Hainsey, Kane, Ladd, Oduya, Slater, Stapleton and Wellwood have departed in the meantime. Most, but not all of these names, were here because spots had to be filled. Then the call ups and bench warmers included Machecek, Maxwell, Jones, Maclean, Jaffray, Cormier, Festerling, Gagnon, Klingberg, Kulda, Mason, McCardell and Meech. And I won’t even attempt to cover the remainder of the farm team. So I think Chevy has done wonders in rebuilding not only the Jets, but the farm as well. I’m disappointed in the coaches and their systems, not to mention the lack of discipline. They took a huge chance playing the young goalies and that has cost them in spades. I agree the Jets should be on the inside looking out instead of the other way round. But I don’t think Chevy can be blamed for the on ice performance this season. He’s done a great job drafting and he’s going to have to be a magician managing payroll from here on out. I think PoMo needs to lose Huddy and Flaherty and he should coach as a lame duck without a contract extension next season. If he can turn it around, then an extension may be in order. If not, time to move on with someone else that can bring structure and discipline. I mean, just look at the Wild and the improvement they made by changing coaches.