When any teams’ run at the playoffs is over, the blame game begins. With the Winnipeg Jets effectively eliminated from contention for the final Wild Card spot in the NHL’s Western Conference, fans have had nearly a week to dissect the contributing factors to another unsuccessful season for the franchise.
When in such conversation with a Jets’ fan, as they fight through their tears, “injuries” is more often than not, the main catalyst, and when taking a scope of the Jets’ season, it seems to have the most merit, too.
There was a time where the Jets were a completely healthy hockey team. Sadly, that time was in October, and it lasted two weeks.
It all started with Jim Slater, who was held out of the lineup for two weeks before undergoing sports hernia surgery. Luckily, the Jets got by without their fourth-line center, and the likes of Anthony Peluso and Eric Tangradi benefited from the increase in playing time. Soon after, Paul Postma suffered a blood clot, sidelining him for over three months.
In mid-November, it was Mark Stuart, and Zach Bogosian. Evander Kane was sidelined with one of three separate injuries this season in early December, and the club was dealt another long-term injury just weeks later, when Matt Halischuk suffered a broken forearm.
And the injuries kept coming. Fast-forward to Thursday, April 3rd, and the Jets were eliminated from the playoffs after a loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins, in a game that saw Winnipeg sit six players due to injury.
Although there are a lot of factors contributing to the Jets’ .500% season, it’s not hard to see the injury bug playing a big role. The Jets seemed to be back on track after the Olympic break, both health-wise as well as in the standings, and at one time, were the hottest team in the NHL.
That came crashing to a halt against the New York Islanders on March 4th, when Mark Scheifele suffered a knee injury that would end his season. The Jets lost that game, and the following five, to fall from grace in the Wild Card standings, and were never seen again, as far as the playoff picture goes.
Since then, James Wright and Chris Thorburn have had their seasons cut short due to injury, and Dustin Byfuglien joined that list on Monday, when the club announced he had suffered a muscle tear. Both Ondrej Pavelec and Al Montoya have had stints in the sick bay in that time as well, and the team hasn’t played a full game with both goaltenders dressed since March 12th.
The Jets’ back-end lost it’s depth with Keaton Ellerby‘s lower-body ailment, and is also yet to return with two games remaining in the season.
However, no one had a worse season than defenseman Zach Bogosian. Bogosian has missed 25 games due to injury this season, and it seems that he won’t play in the final two games of the year, as he hasn’t played since March 22nd. Entering the year as the Jets’ top-pairing defenseman, Bogosian’s absences have forced rookie Jacob Trouba into a heavy-duty role, but in turn caused a loss of depth that has plagued the defense all season.
If there’s a silver lining, it’s the opportunity given to Jets’ prospects, that might not have originally happened. Currently the Jets have six players from the St. John’s Ice Caps on their team; Ben Chiarot, Zach Redmond, Eric O’Dell, Patrice Cormier, the recently recalled Carl Klingberg, and Michael Hutchinson, who made his first NHL start on Monday against the Minnesota Wild.
If the Jets stayed healthy all season, they may not only be a team above the .500% mark, but could have been in the playoff picture with two games remaining in the season. However, it’s just another story of disappointment, in a year filled with those such stories.
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