The Winnipeg Jets are coming to town. Ordinarily this would bring a smile to my face in anticipation of a good home victory against division rivals (the term 'rivals' here of course being used loosely). However, the Dallas Stars have lost their last eleventy-one games against Central Division teams, so there's a little more trepidation entering tonight's matchup than is usual for a 'contest' against the Jets.
And no. The Jets may sit in fourth place in the Central Division, and be on the inside of the playoff bubble for once in their meager lives, but I still don't respect them. It's probably only a phase they're going through, before once more becoming the endearingly useless
Thrashers Jets we love.
Here to take the opposite side of what I will charitably refer to as a 'debate' is Ross Smith, formerly a JetsNation blogger, and more importantly, contributor to Conference III. Before we delve into what the Jets really are though, let me end with this. A revealing statistic that Ross emailed to me, after it was texted to him by JetsNation contributor Kevin McCartney, and I'm posting now for you (You see the labyrinthine process we go through to bring this stuff to you? You're welcome) : "The Jets are 10-1-1 against teams currently outside the playoffs, 4-8-4 adjacent teams inside. Nothing will come easy this season!"
Good thing the Stars are... ah shoot.
As ever, questions presented by Obscene Alex and yours truly. I'll leave it to you to guess which is which:
Winnipeg is currently holding a playoff spot, sporting a positive goal differential, 4th in the league in goals against average, 6th in shots against... My brain hurts trying to make sense of all that. Please help.
It's not so crazy: They are a marginally improved team that wasn't so far outside the playoff picture last year until Scheifele's injury. The most cautious of optimism is required here, though. That positive goal differential is only as of one game but the emergence of Hutchinson helps a lot. Pavelec clearly has made some offseason adjustments to be less craptastic and the team seems to be more committed to defensive play - note the strong PK this season, along with the GAA and SA. Bad PP numbers and shooting percentage are gonna kill you in the West, though, so the team continues to cling to the bubble. Maybe that's the team's new rallying cry: "Surface Tension or Bust!"
We have a hard time keeping track. What position will Byfuglien be playing tonight?
Byfuglien will be alternating between Equipment Manager, 50/50 Vendor and Sweeper tonight and for the foreseeable future. I'd really like to see this team go add some offence so Buf can return to being an impact player on D. Could you imagine a team that had him and Brent Burns on it? You'd only need a Centre for a full 5-man unit!
A string of injuries has recently hit the Jets' defense. Honest answer, do you think it's as bad as the Stars' defense now?
Only the studly Trouba-dor is keeping this D-corps from turning into a D-corpse. Enstrom is underrated; they need him back. Buf is better on the blue line. That Dallas D is bad. Has Demers fixed everything yet? [Ed. note: Maybe not quite yet, but did you see that hit on Stoll?]
How is Adam Pardy doing? He was awful in Dallas and we don't miss him.
Adam Pardy is having another unremarkable bottom of the bottom 6 kind of season. He's not exactly a liability but he's kind of like that can of tuna sitting in your pantry when you're broke and you haven't been grocery shopping in too long and you're really hungry and you just grab the can opener, roll your eyes and mutter "fine..." I heard a rumour he's been bootlegging outside the MTS Centre in hopes of getting another fan drunk enough to create a new "Pardy Party" incident. And there it is: a player whose entire career arc will hang on the ability of Internet to remember a meme. This is officially the most words dedicated to Adam Pardy in any forum this season.
Has the Winnipeg media embraced Evander Kane yet? And wasn't he supposed to be good this year?
Kane isn't living up to expectation this year but, like the rest of the team, his defensive play is strong and really he could use some better line-mates than Perrault and Frolic [Ed. note: Frolic... Frolik... Frolic with Frolik?]. Anyway, no, no one likes him there and it's ridiculous. For some reason, much of the hockey press in Canada and the NHL culture at large grimaces at anyone with personality, a sense of humour or even just an opinion that defies convention. If you don't exist in the mode of humble farm boy, you're a showboat or troublemaker. I don't get it at all. It's supposed to be entertainment, is it not? Kane should be in New York, he'd light that town on fire.
Hutchinson leads the league in goals against and save percentage. How does it feel to have a great number 1 goaltender?
Hutchinson, as mentioned above, is delightful. Now if the'd just play him more instead of trying to justify Pavelec's contract, that would be super duper. [Ed. note: Pavelec has a contract. This still baffles me.]
And lastly, was Cheveldayoff's stupid plan of doing next to nothing in the offseason really a stroke of evil genius?
No evil genius, still a stupid plan. When I see the assets that got shuffled around the league, none of them landing in Winnipeg, I sigh. Take your pick of any of the free agent signings or early trades this season and imagine how much they'd help a team with one and half good forward lines, two and a half strong d-men and the good fortune of a rookie goalie playing over his head. It's a line-up full of jobbers but they are proving to be a testament to Maurice's coaching because they're not terrible. The Jets may well make the playoffs this year and if they do, that's going to be 4-6 more games of unpredictable fun!