You can change the design of the logo, the shade of blue on the sweater and swap out the guys wearing them, but some things haven’t changed for the Winnipeg Jets, be they the new 2.0 version or the first incarnation:
The Edmonton Oilers still eat these guys for lunch.
The upstart Oil — not to be confused with those dominant Gretzky-Kurri-Messier-Fuhr-Coffey et al squads of the ’80s — waltzed into Winnipeg Monday night and delivered a big-time blow to the Jets’ playoff chances with a 5-3 victory over a flat and uninspired home side.
The loss doesn’t officially knock the Jets out of the playoff picture — Florida, Toronto and Washington were all idle — but it does sting. Winnipeg is now 30-27-8 and remains two points back of the first-place Panthers in the Southeast Division and eighth overall in the Eastern Conference.
The Panthers are here Thursday for a critical Southeast match-up at the MTS Centre.
Edmonton, meanwhile, improves to 25-31-6, and still sports the second-worst record in the NHL.
"It stings coming off a good homestand so far (now 3-1-2)," said Kyle Wellwood. "I wouldn’t say we were looking ahead, but we didn’t have our best game. There’s reasons you look at it and say why, it could have been the trade deadline and guys feeling comfortable and not giving enough effort."
Now, it’s not like Jets coach Claude Noel didn’t see this coming. He warned after the morning skate that a game which came just hours after the close of the NHL trade deadline would be hard for the troops to find their focus, especially knowing one of their teammates — in this case it was Johnny Oduya — may be shipped out of River City.
Despite that concern it was the Jets, not the Oilers — who saw Tom Gilbert traded for Nick Schultz, by the way — who served up a discombobulated effort that was sloppy, mistake-prone and, for the most part, lacking urgency. All that said, the Jets did carry a 2-1 lead into the third period after goals by Kyle Wellwood and Alex Burmistrov, but the Oilers responded with two goals 35 seconds apart by Ryan Jones and Lennart Petrell early in the third before Taylor Hall fired home his 23rd of the season and Jordan Eberle his 28th to seal the deal.
Nik Antropov picked up his ninth with 70 seconds remaining while Edmonton’s other goal came courtesy Ryan Whitney. Devan Dubnyk was steady in the Oiler goal in earning his 13th win of the season.
"We looked like we were emotionally drained, physically drained, and we didn’t have much energy," said Noel. "Why is that? Is that because the level of games we had to play and the pressure of winning at home and trying to keep getting points, and coming back from being down and battling back — those things are real for me, they take their toll. Sometimes this is the by-products of those things."
It was the final 20 minutes — a period in which the Oilers outscored Winnipeg 4-1 — that was particularly appalling given what was at stake for the Jets.
"I guess we felt too good about ourselves coming out for the third period," said Antropov, "and that’s why they made us pay for it. We came out flat. They played a pretty good game, so you’ve got to give them credit for that.
"It’s obviously disappointing. We came up short and it was huge game for us. There’s no explanation."
The loss ends a six-game stretch in which the Jets hadn’t lost in regulation (4-0-2) and was a reminder of how thin the margin of error is for this bunch.
"It was a sloppy game," said Jets goaltender Ondrej Pavelec. "Bad start to the third period and we lost two points. It was a weird game. I don’t know what happened. Those games happen, but we’ve got to be better next time."
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The Winnipeg Jets didn’t make a huge splash at the NHL trading deadline, but they did stick to their long-term blueprint.
The Jets sent veteran defenceman Johnny Oduya to the Chicago Blackhawks in exchange for second and third-round draft picks in 2013 and offset that hole in their defensive corps by plucking Grant Clitsome off waivers from the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Most of all, the Jets’ activity prior to the deadline hammers home their belief in the current roster – a bunch that has gone 4-0-2 in its last six – heading into Monday night’s home date with the Edmonton Oilers and with 18 games left in the regular season.
"These guys here, they’ve played very, very well and very, very hard down the stretch," said Jets’ GM Kevin Cheveldayoff Monday afternoon. "I’d be lying if I said there wasn’t more opportunity to maybe make some deals, but at the end of the day this was something we felt comfortable doing and we certainly felt comfortable moving forward with the group of guys that we have.
"We had a lot of irons in the fire, but if you look at some of the deals that moved and some of the pieces that were in play we probably were not in the same ball park as some of the deals that did happen. We might have been in the ballpark in a couple of deals that actually never came to fruition."
The fact that Oduya ended up in the Windy City isn’t all that surprising, given that Cheveldayoff left the Blackhawks’ organization to join the Jets and Chicago GM Stan Bowman had been in Winnipeg recently to scout the team. Oduya, an unrestricted free agent this summer, will help the Hawks immediately in their playoff push.
The Jets, meanwhile, can not only fill Oduya’s spot with Clitsome – who played for Claude Noel in Columbus – but also have Mark Flood with the big club and some decent defence prospects in St. John’s in Paul Postma, Arturs Kulda and Zach Redmond.
"We added a piece to our puzzle that we hope is going to help us now and in the future," said Cheveldayoff. "And we have some great young kids coming up from St. John’s on the defensive side of it. We’re really looking forward to creating opportunities for them to become factors at some time in the National league."
Oduya practiced with the team Monday morning, was sent to the Blackhawks in exchange for 2013 second and third-round draft picks in the afternoon. The Jets also have Zach Bogosian back from an injury for tonight’s game against the Edmonton Oilers.
"Hopefully when you get brought somewhere they see that you can do some good for the team," Oduya told TSN. "Chicago is a great place for me to be."
Oduya, 30 has been traded before as he was dealt to the Atlanta Thrashers by the New Jersey Devils during the 2009-10 season. And any time a guy has to pick up and change jerseys, it can be tough emotionally.
"You live and breathe and eat and do whatever with a group of guys and then it changes very, very quick. You see opportunity wherever you go to.
It’s tough to explain… you’re excited and maybe a little bit let down at the same time. I’m looking forward, as I go down there, to get to know some of the guys and put on that jersey."
Oduya said he found out after he had left the Jets dressing room and didn’t have a chance to say good-bye to his ex-teammates, although his phone had been buzzing.
"Hopefully some of the guys will be sad to see me go," with a chuckle, "but you never know."
Said Jet captain Andrew Ladd via his Twitter account: ‘Tough to see Johnny O go!... Great friend and teammate! Good Luck in ChiTown!’
Oduya played in 63 games for the Jets this season, registering two goals and 11 assists. One of his goals was a game winner.