In this two-part story we look at what will happen if the Winnipeg Jets make or miss out on the post season. Part 2 looks at what will be the effect on the Jets should they reach the playoffs
There is no experience like playing in the NHL post season. The intensity is jacked up and the pressure only intensifies as you get closer to the Stanley Cup. Just ask Andrew Ladd or Dustin Byfuglien if you don’t believe me.
Ladd (Carolina ’06, Chicago ’10) and Byfuglien (Chicago ’10) are the only two players on the Jets that have won a Stanley Cup. Tanner Glass got as close as you can get without winning it last year as a member of the Vancouver Canucks when they lost to Boston in-game seven.
The Jets have a combined 328 games of post season experience among them, only 9 in-goal all of which belong to back up Chris Mason. The argument can be made that Ondrej Pavelec led the Chicago Wolves to a Calder Cup trophy and while that’s great experience it’s nothing compared to the NHL playoffs.
Not surprising that Andrew Ladd has played the most games in the post season with 53. After that it’s Kyle Wellwood (40), Byfuglien (39), Nik Antropov (35) and Randy Jones (31) with more than 30 games of experience.
The only other Jets that have experienced the NHL playoffs are Eric Fehr (26), Tanner Glass (24), Antti Miettinen (24), Mark Stuart (22), Blake Wheeler (21), Chris Mason (9) and Jim Slater (4). Slater is the lone Jet that remains from the Atlanta Thrashers only post season appearance, which resulted in a four game weep.
There are 11 members of the Jets that are yet to play in a post season game. While some of those players may learn from the race, the fact of the matter is that until they play in the playoffs they will not know what it takes to win a Stanley Cup. No one would expect the Jets to make it very far if even past the first round of the playoffs but the experience of making it and seeing it first hand could prove invaluable for a young team still learning how to win.
On Monday we made an argument for the lesson missing the playoffs in a close race could provide. Today we weigh in the other option, making it. If the Jets were to make the post season it looks as though it would be the 8th seed. The Panthers could still be caught but looking into the schedules they would have to lose to some teams they shouldn’t lose to for that to happen.
Finishing 8th means a first round match up with most likely the New York Rangers or Pittsburgh Penguins. They play both teams once more before the season is over and winning those games will be key to not only the Jets making the playoffs but proving to themselves that they can beat the Rangers and can beat the Penguins with Crosby.
The Jets are 0-3 against the Rangers with the final game at MTS Centre on March 28. Against Pittsburgh they are 1-3 having played the final game on March 20 in Pittsburgh.
The MTS Centre has been very friendly to the Jets as they sport a 23-11-4 record at home while they are 11-20-4 on the road. The Rangers and Penguins have been just as good at home so the series might simply come down to who can steal a road game. We’ve seen it in the past that what matters most is making it in, from there anything can happen and the might can fall.
Perhaps the most friendly option to Winnipeg would be the dark horse option. The Philadelphia Flyers have been hot as of late (7-2-1 in last 10) and sit only 5 points back of the Rangers and 4 back of Pittsburgh. If they were able to take the division and the conference it would provide a more favorable match up for Winnipeg.
Against the Flyers this year they are 3-1. Last season the Thrashers did the same thing so it would appear that the Flyers might just be one of those teams that the Jets have their number. Add in the fact that the four games have been highly entertaining and the relationship with Flyers goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov has with the Winnipeg fans and I think this is a match up fans would love.
The first round opponent is very important to the experience and lessons that can be learnt. If they end up getting swept four straight it doesn’t give them much time to see and learn, but if they get a five, six or seven game series they will know what it takes.
Until you experience a grinding series and get pushed to your limits you never truly know how far you can go. The lessons can be learnt that every game in the regular season counts but until you experience the post season it doesn’t really matter.
The bottom line is this season has been everything and more for the development of a team that is a few years off from being a contender. Now that you’ve heard both sides to the argument what do you think would be better for this team long-term? Making the playoffs or missing them by a point or two?