Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Hope and ruin: both are distinct possibilities

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The point has been made through various emails and comments that the media can be a little up and down where the Winnipeg Jets are concerned. Well, no kidding.

The Jets are a difficult bunch to figure out. If they were superheroes they'd be The League of Inconsistent Gentlemen. Capable of great things for stretches and then dreadful such as they were Friday night in a 6-1 pasting at the hands of the once left-for-dead Washington Capitals.

Feel free to judge the Jets but do so at your peril. Until they are either eliminated or have clinched a berth there is no telling with these bunch.

They are unproven. The players, the coach and the management group.

One night, take Tuesday's win over the Boston Bruins, it all looks great. The next, the last two dreck-filled losses to the Caps provide an example, there is cause for great concern.

Should we all just remain calm and wait until the returns come in? Sounds great in theory but it doesn't work that way in real life. People in Winnipeg are invested in the Jets, emotionally and financially. They care and they are going to get wound up. It's a long way better than apathy.

The team's inconsistentcy can make life a little rough for the ticket-buying populace. They don't know what to think from night to night.

Andrew Ladd is Winnipeg's most consistent player and one of the best in the league at his position this season. But even he has disappeared the last few nights. Not to put all the weight of the last few disappointments on Ladd but if he's not going the Jets have almost no chance. He's got to be better if this little slump isn't going to turn into something disastrous.

The Jets could take comfort in the mirage that has their 34 points seeded third in the Eastern Conference this morning but at 16-14-2 this team could be out of the playoff picture in a matter of days.

Winnipeg is barely a .500 hockey team and there is no security in such a scenario. One day they are riding high, the next they are a befuddling mystery.

The last nine periods played out on the ice of our downtown arena have torqued the anxiety and frustration levels for all invested in the Jets. The players, the coaches and the fans are all unhappy. They should be.

The Jets are good enough to be in the race and have raised expectations. But, and this can't be underscored too strongly, they are still a group that has never qualified for the playoffs together. Until they do, they are not above suspicion. I put this to Jets winger Blake Wheeler the other day and he politely responded, "No disrespect, but we really don't care what anyone outside of this room thinks. Not the fans, not the media and not the opponent. We believe and right now we've bought in to a man."

Those are important words. They are the exact words one should expect to hear from a team headed to the playoffs and more. But until they are backed up, and backed up for a season not just a few weeks, they are sadly hollow. They mean absolutely nothing.

So go forth with caution. Hope for the glory but prepare for heartache. Both are very real possibilities at this moment.

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

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 23, 2013 C1

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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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