Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Mediocrity keeps fans on edge

With Jets on playoff fringe, every game an occasion

  • Print

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- Life on the bubble is interesting, to say the least. For the Winnipeg Jets and their fans, every game feels like a playoff contest right now.

Wins can send spirits soaring and losses feel like a kick from an angry boot.

The reality, however, is this will continue for the forseeable future -- until the Jets distance themselves from the playoff border or fall entirely out of the race.

So, this is your lot in life as a Jets fans these days. Gutting it out with your team on a nightly basis. Every save magnified, every lead to be clung to and every comeback prayed for.

It's agonizing, but hypertension beats the numbed trance of fans with a team not in the race. Or, as Winnipeggers can surely remember, not having a team at all.

Here are some observations from the press box as the Jets hit the road for, get used to this phrase, an all-important road trip.

 

MISSING Toby -- The Jets lost blue-liner Toby Enstrom with just over one minute expired in a Feb. 15 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins. Including that loss to the Penguins, the Jets have gone 5-4 without Enstrom in the lineup. The power play, however, has slid off the face of the Earth, going 1-for-24 -- a 4.2 per cent clip -- dipping to a league ranking of 23rd. Prior to Enstrom's injury the Jets held a record of 5-6-1. The power play was much more productive, scoring nine times on 46 tries for 19.6 per cent, 12th in the league.

 

TO sign or not to sign: Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff will have to make decisions on seven unrestricted free agents at season's end. Up front, Nik Antropov, Kyle Wellwood and Antti Miettinen are all at the end of their deals. On the blue-line, Ron Hainsey, Grant Clitsome and Derek Meech as well as goalie Al Montoya will be free.

It's hard to imagine Antropov and Wellwood returning and Miettinen hasn't been healthy long enough to really get a read on. Clitsome and Meech are depth players and if the price is right they provide value. Montoya has appeared in four games and been solid when called upon. Same deal with him -- if the money is right he could be back.

The real debate right now among fans and pundits is over Ron Hainsey. The veteran is averaging around 23 minutes per game, has eight hits, 58 blocked shots, no goals and seven assists after 21 games. Hainsey is a plus-two on the season and has stepped in for Zach Bogosian, Dustin Byfuglien and Enstrom when they've been hurt. Hainsey is making $3 million this season, not out of whack for his contribution.

For me, the bottom line on Hainsey is he can skate and move the puck. His big flaws are his lack of compete and the absence of a physical element to his game. He's not a top-4 D-man on a playoff team. It's not inconceivable the Jets re-sign him but it will have to be in a more limited role if they're going to make a step forward as an organization. It will be interesting to see how Cheveldayoff handles any interest surrounding Hainsey at the trade deadline.

 

QUICK hits: Ondrej Pavelec has found his game and the Jets have moved back into the playoff race. Pavelec has kept his team in games with timely saves and excellent positional play. Credit goalie coach Wade Flaherty for some of this, as he and Pavelec have been spending a lot of time working together of late...Head coach Claude Noel and assistant Charlie Huddy have convinced Dustin Byfuglien to pick his spots a little better and it makes the player far more effective. When Byfuglien limits his rushes he's better in his own zone and not gassed every time he embarks on a trip up ice... James Wright has been a nice waiver-wire pickup. He sees the game well and can move. He can fill a third-line role in this league for a long time. If he had a little bite or some offensive punch he could become a very valuable player... The Jets will have eight restricted free agents after this season, key among them forwards Blake Wheeler, Bryan Little, Alex Burmistrov and defenceman Zach Bogosian. Cheveldayoff will want all these players back, but Bogosian is the centrepiece. If the Jets can get him on a long-term deal and prospect Jacob Trouba pans out, the blue-line will have a core of Byfuglien, Enstrom, Bogosian and Trouba. A mixture of skill and physical presence. Not bad... With winger Anthony Peluso (hand) out of the lineup expect Miettinen to go in and play with fellow Finn Olli Jokinen. Miettinen had some solid years on Mikko Koivu's wing in Minnesota. Maybe Miettinen and Jokinen are the tonic for one another.

gary.lawless@freepress.mb.ca Twitter: @garylawless

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 4, 2013 C1

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes

    No

  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.

letters

Make text: Larger | Smaller

LATEST VIDEO

Body pulled from river is missing 15-year-old girl

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • PHIL HOSSACK / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS 070619 LIGHTNING ILLUMINATES AN ABANDONED GRAIN ELEVATOR IN THE VILLAGE OF SANFORD ABOUT 10PM TUESDAY NIGHT AS A LINE OF THUNDERSTORMS PASSED NEAR WINNIPEG JUST TO THE NORTH OF THIS  SITE.
  • KEN GIGLIOTTI  WINNIPEG FREE PRESS / July 23 2009 - 090723 - Bart Kives story - Harry Lazarenko Annual River Bank Tour - receding water from summer rains and erosion  damage by flood  and ice  during spring flooding -  Red River , Lyndale Dr. damage to tree roots , river bank damage  , high water marks after 2009 Flood - POY

View More Gallery Photos

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.

Poll

Do you agree with the mandatory helmet law for cyclists under 18?

View Results

Ads by Google