TAMPA — There will be time for positive reflection, but on Saturday night in the steam of a losing dressing room Jets captain Andrew Ladd made it clear the standard he and his teammates had set for themselves had not been met.
"Coming into this year the goal and expectation was to get into the playoffs and to not get there is disappointing," said Ladd, minutes after a 4-3 overtime loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning that officially eliminated the Jets from the post-season. "It’s our job to get better and to learn from this and make sure this doesn’t happen next year. In our minds this is a failure. I feel we had the group in here to get into the playoffs. The big picture is long-term and to contend every year... that takes time but that doesn’t make this any easier."
Jets coach Claude Noel was furious with the third-period collapse of his team that saw them give the Lightning five power-play opportunities and the equalizer.
Steven Stamkos notched his 56th of the season in overtime to silence the Jets on the night and for the season.
"Too much emotion in this game. I can’t even think past this game, it’s too disappointing," said Noel. "I don’t have any thoughts beyond that. This isn’t a good time for me to discuss that. I know you’d like to discuss that, but this isn’t a good night for me to do that."
The Jets are now 36-34-9 on the season and have collected 81 points with three games remaining on the schedule. They will be remembered as a non-playoff team that hovered around .500 for the bulk of the season.
"I have a lot of feeling about this and I’m not happy about it," said defenceman Mark Stuart. "We’ll focus on these remaining games and try to finish hard. The future of this team is bright. The pieces are in place, with obviously being better on the road a big part of that."
The club has been good at home, building a 23-13-4 mark but awful on the road with a 13-21-5 mark.
"Not making the playoffs is disappointing. We’re out. Our goal was to make the playoffs and we didn’t," said goalie Ondrej Pavelec. "It’s tough for sure because that’s why you play hockey, to make the playoffs. There’s nothing we can do right now. We couldn’t win the important games."
Pavelec pointed to the road record as a major issue for his team.
"We have to be better away, that’s for sure," he said. "The away record wasn’t good enough. It’s up to the coaches to make the changes. I’m pretty sure this team could make the playoffs. We put it on the line and didn’t make it. It’s disappointing because we know we can beat the best teams. We beat them at home but when you go away you have to play the right way. I don’t know why we don’t do it. We went to Detroit and Pittsburgh and got killed. We didn’t play a tight game in those games. You have to play the right way. Now it’s over."
Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff, along with Noel and the rest of the staff, will soon begin to evaluate this season and the players and make plans for next year.
The organization had a modest goal of making the playoffs this season but won’t be distraught about the failure. They’re just beginning to build and have had only one draft and free-agency period to shape the club.
Major changes are not expected but Cheveldayoff will look to fill gaps in his roster. Veterans with playoff experience and the knowledge of how to get there will be on the shopping list.
There was no pressure on management this season but it will begin to increase now that the honeymoon of Year 1 is almost over.
There’s a long-term plan being used by Jets management and they won’t stray from it to try and grab some quick success. But that won’t prevent them from expecting more from the group they have and doing what they can to improve the roster.
The bottom line today is the Jets are done. No one wants to make a habit of reading that sentence.