WINNIPEG – If the Winnipeg Jets are going to make the playoffs this season, they will need to lay the foundation for their success in front of their faithful fans over the next six weeks.
The team is set to play 15 of its next 20 games at the MTS Centre, a stretch that could go a long way towards determining the team’s fate.
The 6-9-3 Jets have played just six of their first 18 games at home this season. They have recorded only 15 points, leaving them ahead of just the New York Islanders and the Columbus Blue Jackets in the overall standings.
Head coach Claude Noel made it clear before the season that his target was to reach the 95 or 96 points he thought it would take to earn a playoff berth. On Wednesday, he offered a breakdown of where he thought those points would come from.
“The first thing you have to do is you have to be .500 on the road,”said Noel, whose team is 3-6-3 on the road.“The second thing is you’ve got to be quite a bit over .500 at home to have success. Those two things have to equate.”
The Jets, who are 3-3-0 at home, kicked off a three-game homestand Monday with a 5-2 win over Tampa Bay. Winnipeg will host the Washington Capitals on Thursday and the Philadelphia Flyers on Saturday.
The Jets aren’t faring any better with some of the other numbers that Noel believes are indicative of a playoff team. The team is minus-12 in goal differential, and its power-play percentage (15.9) and penalty-killing percentage (79.3) add up to 95.2, well below the 105 that the coach would like to see.
A failure to beat Washington would highlight another troubling trend for the Jets—an inability to string together wins. The team’s longest winning streak is a modest two-gamer in South Florida and Long Island.
“I’d really like to have two good efforts in a row,”said Noel, who gave the players Wednesday off after a skills competition the night before.
General manager Kevin Cheveldayoff said he’s still evaluating the team he inherited from Atlanta during the off-season.
“I think you’re constantly assessing,”Cheveldayoff said.“But when you are a quarter of the way through (the season)…you start to formulate some thoughts as to where you’re at.”
Both Noel and Cheveldayoff are eager to see how the Jets play when some of their regulars return from injury. That includes forward Eric Fehr, who Noel said has a“slim chance”of playing his first game of the season on Saturday after undergoing off-season shoulder surgery.
Cheveldayoff said he’s particularly pleased with the organization’s depth on the blue-line, as a rash of injuries has forced the team to use 12 different defencemen.
The rookie GM wouldn’t say that any trades are imminent, but allowed that the seeds for potential moves could be planted at this time of year.
“You can wake up in the morning and have a defenceman hurt or a forward sick,”Cheveldayoff said.“And all of a sudden what you thought was a great idea yesterday, you have to put on the back burner for today.”