Lets be realistic, despite some great success in the WHA the original NHL Jets that played in Winnipeg will always be remembered for being the whipping boy of the league, expecially that of the Edmonton Oilers. It’s it fair to call them losers? They won two playoff series in franchise history and both series wins came by beating the Calgary Flames.
In 17 seasons the team won only .442% of it’s games compiling a record of 506 wins, 660 loses and 172 ties. The had plus .500 seasons only 5 times in their existance. They managed to make the playoffs in 11 out of 17 seasons and only missed the playoffs 4 times in their last 15 seasons in the league so despite a losing record they found a way to get into the post season.
In the playoffs the Jets lost to the Oilers in all six series they faced them, they also lost twice to the Vancouver Canucks and once each to the Calgary Flames, St. Louis Blues and Detroit Red Wings. What’s worse about many of those playoff loses is the manner in which the Jets lost.
Their first 6 playoff exits all came at the hands of series sweeps (There were the only two first round victories there vs the Flames) The 7th exit the Jets finally managed a win in the playoffs against the Oilers but were still beaten in five games.
The 8th exit was the most painful as the Jets had gotten up 3 games to 1 over the Oilers but Edmonton came back and took the next 3 games and the series. They followed that up with another 3-1 collapse against Vancouver and the Canucks would eliminate them in 6 games the following season as well.
There final playoff exit at the hands of the Red Wings was also a six game affair as the Jets couldn’t win game six at home to delay the inevitable any longer.
The WHA team was a different story, a team that did nothing but win 3 out of 7 Avco cups and lost in the final another 2 times so only 2 years of the WHA’s existance did the Jets not make the finals.
But when the team was forced to return players that had been under NHL contract to their original teams upon joining the NHL the tradition took a turn for the worse and became a tradition of losing.
That era of the Jets will be know as unsucessful and was a team that when push came to shove they couldn’t get the job done. As a team they could not best the Great One and his Oilers, as a team they were losers. Sure we loved them all the same and there were great players amongst the losing teams but any player in the NHL will say what you do individually doesn’t matter if you don’t win.
And this team didn’t win. So it’s fair to call them losers, because they certainly weren’t winners.
Now the imporant question is this a tradition that will continue?
Clearly it’s not something in the water that made our teams lose, as we pointed out the WHA team built a dynasty for that league and were nothing but winners so teams can win in this city and they can win as Jets. The team that played here in the NHL went thru so many changes and rebirths and traded away players at or before they fully reached their prime that the biggest cause for the lack of on ice success came from player development and mismanagement.
Lets look at what True North has done with the Manitoba Moose as thats the only history we have to pull off of for their management skills. In 15 seasons in the IHL and AHL the Moose had a win percentage of .569%. Compared that to the .442% of the Jets and that’s quite the difference.
The Moose had only 2 losing seasons and one of them was the first year in Winnipeg and those were the only 2 seasons the Moose didn’t make the playoffs. They advanced past the first round 7 of the 13 times and lost in the semi final once and the final once.
This team may have never won the Calder Cup, no one in the league took the Moose lightly. What’s more impressive is that this team did all this while their parent club the Vancouver Canucks have also been at the top of the standings and calling up players for depth each year for the Stanley Cup runs.
When we look at True North’s record it’s one of building and developing winners.
With all the information above it still comes down to what these new Jets will do on the ice and with a core group of ten players under the age of 26 and the verbal commitment to build from within and retain their star players I feel very confident that in a couple of years the new tradition established in Winnipeg will be the one the Jets of the WHA started and this rebirth will bring back.