On a day that we are supposed to show our loved ones how much we care, our beloved Winnipeg Jets broke my heart. The team that is easy to love, if for no reason other than they are back in the NHL, has finally started to reach the point in the season that slowly turns fan passion into heartache.
While the Jets may very well not be officially eliminated from the playoff race until the last week or two of the season, last nights loss on Valentine’s Day could be a blow this team can not recover from. If we told you that a team from New York would win both games in Winnipeg, I would assume the Rangers, yet last night it became the Islanders. The Rangers may also accomplish the feat in the Jets second last game at home this season.
It was that loss yesterday that broke my heart on a day of love, it was the moment when I ceased to dream and had to come to reality… This team is not that good. A month or so I talked about how the Jets were winning a large amount of their games against the oppositions back up goaltender and it would appear that teams have taken notice. The Jets have struggled in a higher percentage of games played against the starters and the ability to score has shown to be a big weakness.
We got caught up in the excitement of having the NHL back that we felt every player was due for a career year. Andrew Ladd our captain would surely lead the way offensively and suddenly become a goal scorer. Dustin Byfuglien would continue to flourish as a defenseman and lead from the back-end. Eric Fehr would regain his scoring touch from juniors and fill a top six role.
The list of inflated expectations can go on for most of the roster and while some players have exceeded expectation the majority of them have not and it’s no wonder why because they weren’t realistic to begin with.
The Jets have skill and talent but it’s been mishandled in Atlanta. That’s not a quick fix, nor one that won’t come with out some pain and suffering. I can’t wait for the day when we see Evander Kane and Alexander Burmistrov in their prime. When Andrew Ladd can fill a third line role and play his game and when this team can make and compete in the playoffs.
True North wants to change the culture of the franchise and that too doesn’t happen over night. It is likely a 2-3 year process and that’s why the focus has been more on character than anything else. To have every player know that losing isn’t acceptable and take it upon themselves to change the result is hard to do. It’s even harder to instill that will into a team of 20 something’s that have gotten off easy for their first few years in the league.
I will admit I felt the Jets would be better than they are. I inflated their talent and skill and had them progressed further on in their development. Now I know that playoffs are slim to none, but I hope for the sake of instilling that winning attitude that the Jets will stay in the race and find a way to win big important games. So far in those “must win” games the way of the Thrasher has returned. And so I’m left picking up the pieces of a broken heart this morning after.