The Winnipeg Jets are expected by many - including the THN staff - to miss the playoffs.
But not like this…not like this!
In picking the Jets to miss, we often site a lack of consistent goaltending, lack of forward depth and the fact they've squandered the opportunity in their first two Winnipeg winters. Their strength is in their young defense, which was added to with rookie sensation Jacob Trouba.
But Sunday night against Anaheim it was this blueline the blew the game for them. Tied 2-2 with less than six minutes to play, Zach Bogosian chased down a Daniel Winnik clear without anyone in the vicinity. He then turned to rush a pass back up ice, lost his footing, and put it right on the stick of Corey Perry. It was one of those moments that reminds you NHLers are humans too, and gave those (outside Winnipeg, anyway) the same kind of satisfaction you get when a PGA golfer duffs a shot.
Winnipeg lost the game 3-2 and missed the chance to start the season 3-0 for the first time in their history. It was a golden opportunity too, as Anaheim should have been the tired team on Sunday and the game shouldn't have been tied that late to begin with.
As Blake Wheeler said to the Winnipeg Free Press:
"The team that played a road game less than 24 hours ago that went into overtime came into our building and were clearly the better team and that's unacceptable. We've gotten good at talking about what we need to do to take the next step, but I think games like tonight - and I know it's only October, it's early in the season - you'd really think that if we don't win we've got to be the better team, and they were the better team tonight."
The Jets are still going through growing pains with their young roster and if they do make the playoffs, it'll be by the skin of their teeth in one of the final spots.
But remember, management invested in the core of this team for the long-term, handing out a five-year deal to Bryan Little, six-year deal to Blake Wheeler, five-year deal to Tobias Enstrom and seven-year deal to Bogosian this past summer. This is on top of the already-standing contracts to Evander Kane, Andrew Ladd and Dustin Byfuglien.
If potential won Stanley Cups this core would be worth it. But potential is one thing and on-ice success is another. This season will go a long way towards determining whether or not the Jets are trending in the right direction.
And if not, well, this core is locked-in anyway.