The Winnipeg Jets’ playoff hopes took a big hit over the past few days with a pair of demoralizing losses and they are now in a hole they likely cannot dig themselves out of. It’s time for them to sell.
Jets Were Pulling Their Way Back into Playoff Conversation…
After beating the Seattle Kraken 5-3 Thursday night, the Jets found themselves just three points out of the second Western Conference Wild Card spot, suddenly hot on the heels of Anaheim Ducks.
That win pushed the Jets to 4-1-1 since the All-Star break; they’d bested the Minnesota Wild twice and also the Nashville Predators in that span. The Jets underachieved in the first half of the season and came out of the All-Star break facing an uphill battle to get back into the Western Conference Wild Card race, nine points back of the second spot.
Being three points back meant they’d made up six points in just six games, and a seed of hope began to blossom again amongst the Jets’ fan base. Making up three points with 34 games remaining is not exactly impossible, after all.
…But Wild Card Gains Undone With Two-Loss Long Weekend
But that seed has been stomped on after a disastrous long weekend, in which the Jets lost two must-win games.
On Saturday, the Jets had a chance to finish their homestand 3-1-0, but were lethargic and were thoroughly outclassed by the Edmonton Oilers through 40 minutes. They found their legs in the third period and cut a 3-0 deficit to 3-2, but couldn’t find the game-tying goal and lost 4-2 thanks to an empty-netter in the final seconds.
In Monday’s matinee, the Jets suffered a disastrous and demoralizing defeat to the Calgary Flames. Despite playing a solid defensive road game against a team that had won nine straight, they left with no points — totally inexcusable — as they gave up the game-winner with just 46 seconds remaining. A terrible turnover from Kyle Connor at the blue line allowed the Flames to retain possession in the offensive zone, and just a few seconds later, a harmless-looking wrist shot from the point by Johnny Gaudreau was deflected by Elias Lindholm and past a deep-in-his-net Connor Hellebuyck.
“Crushing loss for the #NHLJets,” the Winnipeg Free Press’ Mike McIntyre tweeted. “The kind that keeps you out of the playoffs.”
Playoff Chances Slim Again — It’s Time to Sell and Reset
A crushing loss it was indeed. In addition to the mental hit this will cause a team that hasn’t been particularly resilient — except for a brief period earlier this month where they found success smash-mouth hockey — they are now seven points out of the Wild Card spot they covet. They have no games in hand on the Los Angeles Kings, who now hold the second spot with 59 points, and have no games in hand on the Predators, who possess the first spot with 60 points.
There were good aspects to both of the Jets’ weekend games, but there are no moral victories when you’re chasing the pack. According to MoneyPuck, the Jets’ chance of making the playoffs is now only 11.2 per cent.
The Jets have struggled to cultivate a cohesive identity or play consistency this season, with only two instances of back-to-back wins in 2022 and no three-game winning streaks. It’s hard to tell which team is going to come out each period, let alone each game. They play from behind too often, having allowed the first goal in their past six games. They break down repeatedly in crucial moments.
Working against against the Jets in getting back into the playoff race are injuries to three top-six players in Andrew Copp, Nikolaj Ehlers, and Cole Perfetti. Perfetti is out longer than day-to-day and Ehlers is still a long way off.
It’s time for the Jets to sell their two biggest assets, the aforementioned Copp and Paul Stastny, in exchange for prospects and draft picks. They may even want to consider larger moves, such as shipping off the recently-hot Mark Scheifele to a contender while his value is high and his contract is reasonable. Scheifele would attract massive interest and net the Jets a good return for a soft rebuild, which looks to be what they need.
Brenden Dillon and Nate Schmidt — two of the Jets’ prized offseason acquisitions who have helped the defence but carry big long-term contracts — should also be shopped. When a team that was supposed to be a top-three finisher in the Central Division has underperformed so drastically, nothing should be off the table.
Interim head coach Dave Lowry has not provided the Jets the same boost Bruce Boudreau has provided to the Vancouver Canucks or Todd Woodcroft has provided to the Oilers. Lowry is 9-9-4 since taking over from Paul Maurice and is “Maurice 2.0” in many ways — he makes the same types of decisions as his predecessor, such as snubbing Ville Heinola in favour of Logan Stanley.
Sadly for their fans, this long weekend saw the Jets regress to their subpar status-quo. They hardly seem like a team poised to turn it around and make a run and have lost the momentum they gained.
Declan Schroeder is a 26-year-old communications specialist and freelance journalist in Winnipeg, Manitoba. He holds a diploma in Creative Communications with a major in journalism from Red River College and a bachelors in Rhetoric and Communications from the University of Winnipeg.
Deeply rooted in the city’s hockey culture, the original Jets skipped town when he was two and the 2.0 version came onto the scene when he was 17.