Flash back to New Year’s Eve: The Winnipeg Jets had just won their third straight game, and ended 2013 with high hopes for the second half.
So far, they couldn’t have been more wrong.
The Jets lost their fourth straight game in 2014 on Tuesday night, in an effort that many called their worst of the season. With hopes all but dashed for the playoffs this season, Jets’ Head Coach Claude Noel is under scrutiny, as the team struggles to stay at .500%.
The Jets aren’t playing any different in 2014 than they have been all season, but they have came out on the losing side of all four contests this year.
And therein lies the problem the Jets are faced with.
They haven’t changed. Since the start of the year, the Jets have stuck to their guns when it comes to special teams, line combinations, and goaltending. Sadly, it has gotten them nowhere. After the Jets’ 6-5 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins on Sunday afternoon, Pittsburgh Tribune writer Dejan Kovacevic had this to say about the Jets:
“I have only ever heard the Penguins speak derisively of another team’s system once in recent years, and that was right after Buffalo passed through with the laughably-over-his-head Ron Rolston at the helm. The Sabres were flat-out clueless. Just humiliating. And it wasn’t long, of course, before Rolston got canned.”
“I heard much the same yesterday about the Jets. One player said they have “no structure.” Another said they had “no real plan for what they’re doing.” Yet another called them “really just a strange team.” All concerned, it should be noted, praised the talented individuals on the Winnipeg roster. It was hard not to be impressed with some of them on this day alone. But the focus clearly was aimed at Claude Noel’s system or, if he has a system, the evident failure to execute it.”
Of course, Twitter was set alight with angry Jets fans, saying they believe in their coach. Jets’ players have been doing the same for over a month now. Winnipeg captain Andrew Ladd said that “individual mistakes” are harming the team, and when “everyone brings a 100% effort” that the Jets will be back on track.
No matter who the finger is pointed at for the Jets’ sudden turn for the worse, management will look to Noel as the first step in a change amongst the team. Although many believe Noel should not be fired, Winnipeg cannot continue to lose games without taking action. Their passiveness has led to the Jets becoming the seventh-worst team in the NHL this season, and the playoffs are becoming a more distant possibility every day.
There is a silver lining: Chicago Blackhawks‘ head coach Joel Quenneville was under the microscope in February 2011, when his ‘Hawks went on a nine-game losing streak. Two years after that, the Blackhawks were on an NHL-record point streak, and won their second Stanley Cup in four years just last spring, with Quenneville behind the bench.
Obviously a lot of things would have to happen to Winnipeg if they were to have any chance at a turnaround such as that, but all is not lost. However, someone will have to step in sooner or later, before the Jets look to go for the first overall draft pick instead of a ticket to the post-season.
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