Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Jets are an oddsmaker's worst nightmare

Which team shows up is anybody's guess

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You're dreaming if you think you know what's going to happen.

Typical of these Winnipeg Jets, they are proving unpredictable once more. With eight games left in the NHL's regular season, they are back to .500 hockey and getting a little playoff taste.

But if you think you know what these Jets are and where they will finish up, you are deluded.

The Jets don't know, the rest of the NHL doesn't know and the good hockey fans of Winnipeg are also in the dark on this subject. They are up and then they are down. No one knows what team will show up on a given night. No one.

Early Saturday the Jets were lower than Kris Kristofferson growling Sunday Morning Coming Down when he slipped on his, "cleanest dirty shirt."

By the end of the day they were riding high and likely having a tough time paying for their dinner or beers. Winning games. Good times.

Saturday's 4-1 win over the Philadelphia Flyers featured both versions of the Jets. The dismal, listless and disorganized amateurs. Then the speedy and opportunistic professional mercenaries.

"We are woefully inconsistent," said Jets coach Claude Noel, following Saturday's game.

The first period saw the Jets go more than 15 minutes without a shot on goal and just four in total. They looked sad and disinterested. Finished.

The second period? Costume change at the intermission apparently because they torched the Flyers with four unanswered goals. The third period was a footnote but for the Jets having to wave off the predictable thuggery from the Flyers.

Getting to the final buzzer with all their remaining teeth intact became the goal and when it was reached, just like that, the Jets were back in business.

"Everyone was off the bandwagon in the morning and back on it by night. And if we win a few in a row now we'll be back in the Stanley Cup final," said a playful Evander Kane. "That's hockey in Canada where everyone cares so much."

The Jets fell from third to 10th on Thursday night with a loss in Montreal. It's not just the Jets that are volatile but the entire NHL.

"I find that every day is unpredictable," said centre Bryan Little. "It's the schedule and how many games get played every night and how many teams are still in it. I think it's important not to pay attention to it and just worry about our games. We know if we win we won't have anything to worry about."

So true. The Jets, who often are their own worst enemies with the fragility of their collective psyche, can avoid getting down on themselves and letting the rest of the league do the same by simply winning.

"The last five games, we just got away from what we know we have to do to win," said veteran winger Chris Thorburn. "Then (Saturday) we did what we were supposed to do and we won. It's time for more of that.

"Nothing else matters but winning right now and we know how to put ourselves into position to do that."

It is achingly simple yet Noel and his players have no idea why they stray from the game plan that makes them successful.

It will likely have to be addressed and remedied in the off-season with more than just a little tinkering. This core is likely due for some re-shaping.

But until that day arrives, it is time for simple hockey and a good dose of desperation.

It's time for the Winnipeg Jets to be predictable. To come to the rink with the same game and attitude every day. Bet on it? Nope. Bet against it? No chance.

Stick to guessing something easy. Something more predictable. Like what the weather will be like in Winnipeg next week.

Twitter @garylawless

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 7, 2013 B3

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About Gary Lawless

Gary Lawless is the Free Press sports columnist and co-host of the Hustler and Lawless show on TSN 1290 Winnipeg and www.winnipegfreepress.com
Lawless began covering sports as a rookie reporter at The Chronicle-Journal in Thunder Bay after graduating from journalism school at Durham College in Ontario.
After a Grey Cup winning stint with the Toronto Argonauts in the communications department, Lawless returned to Thunder Bay as sports editor.
In 1999 he joined the Free Press and after working on the night sports desk moved back into the field where he covered pro hockey, baseball and football beats prior to being named columnist.

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