Jets’ Remaining Schedule Puts Playoff Hopes In Serious Jeopardy

The Winnipeg Jets, by virtue of posting one of the worst records in the Western Conference since the beginning of February, are now in serious jeopardy of missing the playoffs, especially when taking their remaining schedule into account.

Western Conference Wild Card Race Continues To Tighten

The Jets still control their own destiny in the Western Conference Wild Card race, but their continued hapless play has them in a precarious position.

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The Jets have won just two of their past 11 and just seven of their past 20, a record more befitting a team in the hunt for Connor Bedard than in the hunt for a Stanley Cup. As a result, they have fallen from a once-comfortable perch near the top of the Central Division to a messy logjam of teams fighting for their playoff lives.

Nikolaj Ehlers Blake Wheeler Winnipeg Jets
Nikolaj Ehlers and Blake Wheeler, Winnipeg Jets (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Entering play Thursday, the Jets have 75 points and hold the second Wild Card spot. The Calgary Flames and Nashville Predators are just four and six points behind, respectively, and the Predators have three games in hand.

Related: Jets’ Trade Deadline Additions Playing Well, But Can’t Do It All

The Jets’ final stretch of 17 games is not easy, and casts serious doubt as to whether the team can hold on.

Jets Will Have Tough Time Winning Any of Next Six

Five of the Jets’ next six games are on the road, and the three-game road trip they’re about to embark on is a murderer’s row, with games against the Florida Panthers, Tampa Bay Lightning, and Carolina Hurricanes.

Related: Jets’ Play Put the GM in a Tough Spot Ahead of Trade Deadline

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The Jets beat all three teams this season — the Hurricanes in November, Panthers in December, and Lightning in January — but that was the first-half Jets, who were re-energized under new head coach Rick Bowness and playing a strong, stout brand of hockey. The second-half Jets are simply not the same squad — mentally fragile instead of resilient, offensively challenged despite strong personnel on paper, and defensively porous instead of structured.

The Lightning and Hurricanes have combined for 81 wins this season and are both serious Stanley Cup contenders. The Jets, now a subpar 11-15-0 against Eastern Conference teams this season after last month’s 1-3-0 Eastern trip, have been exposes as “the rest,” not the best, and will be in tough to win any of those three games.

Rick Bowness Winnipeg Jets
Rick Bowness Head Coach of the Winnipeg Jets (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

it is possible they’ll return from that road trip below the playoff line, and things don’t get easier from there. After a brief stop at home to host the utterly dominant Boston Bruins — who have lost just 14 games all season — they head right back onto the road for a pair of Central Division clashes against the Predators and St. Louis Blues. The Jets lost their last game against the Predators in January and are 1-1-0 against them, while they are 3-0-0 against the Blues. The game against the Predators in particular will be a must-win for the Jets.

In these six games, two wins seems like a best-case scenario.

Jets Playoff Hopes Could Come Down to Final Three Weeks

The five games thereafter a bit easier with contests against the Arizona Coyotes, Anaheim Ducks, Los Angeles Kings, San Jose Sharks, and Detroit Red Wings. But as we saw on Monday when the Jets imploded against the cellar-dwelling Sharks to lose in overtime and two weeks ago when they collapsed against the Kings in the third to lose in a shootout, they’ve gotten quite creative in finding ways to lose against beatable opponents and leave points on the table.

Opponent quality ramps up again quickly in the final half-dozen, with the New Jersey Devils, Flames, Predators again, Minnesota Wild, and Colorado Avalanche all on tap. Any of those games could make or break the team’s postseason aspirations.

Postseason Berth Will Likely Require 97 Points

Last season, the Predators took the second Wild Card spot with 97 points, but could have gotten into the playoffs with 95 as the Vegas Golden Knights, the team below, had 94. To get to 95, the Jets would need to win 10 more games, or win fewer games but at least lose in overtime a couple of times.

8-7-2, for example, would do it, and is attainable if the team gets back to playing the way they did in the first half. Unfortunately, 95 points probably won’t be enough.

Flames Much-Easier Remaining Schedule Gives Them An Advantage, which calculates playoff odds, gives the Jets a 71.5 per cent chance to qualify as of Thursday, but the eye test, and the Flames’ remaining schedule, make that number seem much lower.

According to, a site that tracks schedule strength, the Jets have the 16th-most-difficult remaining schedule. Meanwhile, the Flames have the easiest remaining schedule in the entire league. 12 of their 17 games are against teams outside the playoff picture, including two against the Kings, two against the Vancouver Canucks, two against the Sharks, and one each against the Coyotes and Chicago Blackhawks.

If the Flames were to go, for example, 12-4-1, they’d have 96 points by the season’s end. To have one point more than that, the Jets would need to go at least 9-6-3.

Darryl Sutter Head Coach of the Calgary Flames
The Flames, just four points behind the Jets with 17 games to go, have the easiest remaining schedule in the entire NHL. (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Meanwhile, the Predators have the fifth-most difficult remaining schedule, but have the luxury, as mentioned previously, of having three games in hand. Even if they went just 10-9-1, they’d still have 90 points. If they stay hot and go something like 12-6-2, they’d have 95 points. The Predators sold at the Trade Deadline, including to the Jets, sending them Nino Niederreiter for a second-round 2024 pick. They may have written themselves off prematurely.

Perhaps the strangest aspect of all this is that the Jets are still, on paper, in the hunt to finish top-three in the Central. They’re six points Wild for second and one point behind the Colorado Avalanche for third (although the Avalanche have two games in hand.) The Central Division is not as strong as last season — no one’s going to be getting to 119 or 113 points, such as the Avalanche and Wild did.

Jets Need to Take Care of Their Own Business

If all these hypotheticals and variables seem exhausting, it’s because they are. But the brain pain can be avoided if the Jets simply start taking care of their own business again.

The Jets lost their past two games but played better at five-on-five overall. Against the Sharks, they were 10 seconds away from winning but shot themselves in the foot, and against the Wild, they fired 48 shots on Marc-Andre Fleury but only managed to get two pucks by him.

The team has much to correct to get back to form. The atrocious power play, suddenly subpar play from Connor Hellebuyck, and uncharacteristically anemic performances from Kyle Connor and Nikolaj Ehlers are among the things that can’t continue. There’s a chance, though, they can build on what they did well against the Wild, which Bowness felt they “dominated” and said was “one of the best games we’ve played all year.”

While the fanbase’s faith is low — especially now that they feel that the first half was an aberration and this is the true Jets — Bowness said positive results will come if the effort levels are as they were against the Wild going forward.

“(If we) play like that, we’re fine. If you’ve got to do it the hard way, we’re going to have to do it the hard way. We’ve got to win some games on the road. But the most important thing is to keep the effort and play like we did tonight,” Bowness said.

“There’s a lot of fight. We’re going to stick with it,” Kyle Connor agreed. “We’re going to keep pushing. There’s no quit in here. Not a single guy. We know we have a great team here, we just got to put it together.”