The Winnipeg Jets knew they would be in tough when moving from the Eastern Conference to the Western Conference as part of the NHL’s re-alignment for the 2013-14 season. As it turned out, their Central Division turned out to be the hardest in the league, and the Jets were exposed, eventually missing the playoffs in the process.
The re-alignment was necessary because of the Jets, after playing two seasons in the former Southeast Division, home of the franchise in previous years as the Atlanta Thrashers. Meeting the Carolina Hurricanes, Washington Capitals, Florida Panthers, and Tampa Bay Lightning six times a year turned out to be a huge inconvenience for the club, who travelled farther than any other team in NHL history in their first full season, 2011-12.
When the re-alignment was announced, it turned out their new situation wasn’t any easier. Due to scheduling, the Jets traveled 2000 kilometers more than they did in 11-12, and were once again, the League’s most road-ready team.
Aside from the schedule, the Jets were set up with regular dates against the Chicago Blackhawks St. Louis Blues, and Minnesota Wild, all who were expected to be among the League’s top teams in the coming season. In the end, it turned out to be even worse for Winnipeg. The Colorado Avalanche ended up winning the Central Division crown with a fantastic regular season, and the Dallas Stars’ off-season acquisitions proved to be worth-while, as they claimed the final Wild Card spot in the Western Conference.
All in all, the Central Division sends five teams to the playoffs, the most of any of the NHL’s four divisions. Aside from the Jets, the only team to miss the playoffs, and the only team to finish lower in the Division standings, were the Nashville Predators.
The Jets’ weaknesses in goal and lack of depth were immediately exploited by these powerhouse teams, and it never got any better for the club. The Jets finished with a dismal 9-15-5 record in their own division. Surprisingly, the Jets did well against the Western Conference’s other division, with a 12-6-3 record against Pacific Division teams.
It is certainly interesting to wonder what the Jets would have accomplished this season had they been back in the Eastern Conference: however, they were only 3-4-1 against those teams. The only team to make the playoffs in that group: the Tampa Bay Lightning.
In a year where the Jets under-achieved, some have begun to point the finger at factors such as their divisional opponents. However, with the Avalanche, Blues, Blackhawks, and Stars with young, locked-up cores, and the Jets looking to bring a face-lifted lineup to the 2014-15 season, the coming years won’t get any easier for the club.
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You can connect with Skylar on Twitter @Millly17.