UPDATE: You can view the statement regarding Scheifele’s injury here.
Just 24 hours ago, the Winnipeg Jets seemed to have everything going for them. A two-game win streak made the club the second-hottest in the NHL since changing head coaches in mid-January. Players such as Jim Slater, Matt Halischuk, and most importantly, Evander Kane, have returned to full health, leaving the club with a full depth-chart for the first time since the start of the season.
Just as things were at their peak, the Jets had a rough game against the New York Islanders, losing 3-2 in overtime. Not only was the game lost, but star rookie pivot Mark Scheifele went down with an injury. Scheifele was hit by Matt Martin early in the first period, and after remaining in action for another period left the game and did not return. Ironically, both Martin and Chris Thorburn suffered game-ending injuries in a fight stemming from the hit.
Scheifele will be evaluated by team doctors early on Wednesday morning, setting the Jets up for what could be a season-changing event. Gary Lawless, Jets reporter, had this to say on Twitter after the game:
This ain’t gonna be popular but if scheifele injury is extensive – #nhljets should be sellers tomorrow. He’s too important and valuable
— gary lawless (@garylawless) March 5, 2014
Unsurprisingly, many fans didn’t agree. However, us here at Hockey at the Forks do.
Although these past two months have been great for the Jets, one must remember that during the midst of a five-game losing streak to start 2014, all signs pointed toward a significant re-tooling at the Deadline. Now, with the Jets just one point out of a Wild Card spot, many want the team to stay put, and make a run for the first playoff appearance in Winnipeg since 1996. The Jets’ hot streak has now made the club’s goal shift to making the playoffs this season, something many thought was impossible just months ago.
Scheifele has been one of the reasons that the Jets have turned things around as of late, and a significant injury could see the team return to mediocrity just as fast as they ascended from it. With only 19 games remaining in the regular season, that could be the dagger in the heart of the team, missing the playoffs marginally for the third straight season.
If Scheifele’s injury is in fact serious, and the Jets choose to stay the course on Wednesday, they could send the club into a tailspin of dreaded mediocrity that could last years instead of months. Just like the Calgary Flames, the Jets may hold on too long, miss opportunities to make future-forward moves, and slowly fall down the standings in place of teams that have gone with the classic rebuild. The Jets are already one step ahead of teams such as Calgary, Edmonton, and Nashville, and are only just a few pieces away from solving the puzzle and becoming Stanley Cup contenders.
Other prospects such as Adam Lowry, Josh Morrissey, and Nic Petan could be all the Jets need to become one of the NHL’s heavyweights, if they develop similar to Scheifele did himself.
However, if Scheifele is to miss only a few games, it is likely the Jets will, in fact, “stay the course”, keeping the future in focus while trying to make a playoff push this season.
Plans have suddenly changed for the Winnipeg Jets, and the future of the team for the next seven hours, 19 games, and several seasons could hinge on the word of the team physician this morning.
No pressure, doc.
As always, thanks for reading. For more Winnipeg Jets conversation and live game updates follow us on twitter @hkyattheforks.