Unfortunately for Winnipeg Jets fans, the team is in the toughest division in hockey, the Central Division, and making the playoffs is going to be tough, but there is some good news. St. Louis, Colorado and Minnesota were all on the outside looking in 4 and 5 years ago and Chicago was on the outside 6 years ago while not making the playoffs for 6 straight years before the 2008-2009 season.
If you look at the team they have with the abundance of talented defencemen and up and coming stars like Mark Schiefele, who has really started to show flashes of his talent, not to mention the talent pool we have in the minors it’s a reason to be very optimistic for the future of this club.
Zach Redmond is looking really good, 4 goals and 6 assists in 9 games as is Eric O’Dell. Adam Lowry isn’t having the greatest start but his size as a centerman is promising.
In junior we have Josh Morrissey who reminds me of Duncan Keith with the Chicago Blackhawks. Not big, but smart and quick, the only difference is Morrissey takes the body too. I think if we didn’t have the quality of defencemen on the Jets, Morrissey could have made this team, he was that good at training camp.
In goal we have probably the best goaltending prospect from last year’s draft in Eric Comrie. His Tri-City Americans are in 8th in their conference 14th overall but they have one of the lowest goals against in the league, ranked 6th in the league. Comrie has played 30 of the 35 games and is the reason they are still in a playoff hunt.
The biggest treat this year has been watching Jacob Trouba play unbelievable for a 19 year old. He is skilled, he hits and has shown he can take control of a game when he wants too. He’s also got a mean streak and if you get too close to our goalies you’re going to find yourself lying on the ice, which is what we need in front of our goal. He’s got a great shot and he’s not afraid to carry the puck out of our own end. There aren’t enough positive things I can say about Trouba; he’s only going to get better. I see the same qualities in Morrissey, and I think if Morrissey had Trouba’s size, let’s just say Claude Noel would have a tough decision on his hands.
This year the Jets have lost something like 20 games by one goal. That is encouraging. What if half of those one goal losses turn into wins next year? You’re sitting with a record of 24-4-5. Experience is what wins one goal games and the Jets are gaining it every day.
The Winnipeg Jets are on the cusp of sitting with the elite. They have a good young team oozing with talent in junior and the minors. All teams have to go through growing pains, it’s no different here. Kevin Cheveldayoff said it’s a process; it’s going to take time to build a team. I think the Jets should struggle through this year with the highs and lows and keep building. Claude Noel is getting a pretty good effort from everyone on most nights but the experience isn’t there just yet.
The Jets have really only had a year and a half, plus the 33 games this year, to build. We had a shortened season last year and it’s hard to ease players into your lineup when you need to get points now. I hope they keep building and by year 5 like we were told when the Jets first got here, that’s when they expected to make some noise.
Keep pushing along, everyone needs to relax and look at the bigger picture. If they would have given up on coach Al Arbour of the New York Islanders when they had 5 terrible seasons before they started to show promise in the late 1970’s, they may not have won 4 cups in a row. If Vancouver would have kept Cam Neely instead of trading him to Boston after 3 seasons, what would have the 1994 Stanley Cup final between Vancouver and New York Rangers been like with Pavel Bure, Trevor Linden, Cliff Ronning and Cam Neely in the lineup. Neely scored 50 goals in 49 games that year and who knows, he may never have had that injury if he stayed with Vancouver.
The NHL is a league so close from first to last place that any team can go on a tear and any team can lose 10 games in a row because there are no easy games and no easy points. This team is on the right track and we just have to be patient.