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Jets/Thrashers have consistently caved during crunch time

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Paul Maurice, like a number of coaches before him, had a tough time coaxing success out of the Jets in March.

JOHN WOODS / THE CANADIAN PRESS FILES Enlarge Image

Paul Maurice, like a number of coaches before him, had a tough time coaxing success out of the Jets in March.

What is it about March and the spring equinox that brings out the relative paralysis of the Winnipeg Jets?

And the Atlanta Thrashers before them?

An examination of the recent late-season results of the Jets/Thrashers reveals a lot of different events and twists in the road, but they all lead to the same thing.

The franchise just doesn't seem to have a meaningful forward move in it when it comes to crunch time.

The Stanley Cup playoffs, counting this year's expected miss, have been only a dream since 2007. In the seven seasons played since then, the team's collective move from March 1 onward has been a big negative. Using the playoff line (the top eight places in the conference, Eastern until last season and Western this season) as a point of reference, the Jets/Thrashers have gone backwards in this period by a total of 34 points.

And consistently.

In only 2009 is there a statistic that prevents this from being a clean sweep of seven backwards moves. And it's such weak evidence it hardly counts -- the Thrashers were 19 points out of the playoffs on March 1, 2009 and finished 17 out.

Not what you'd call a surge.

The group has not been the same; six coaches now (Hartley, Waddell, Anderson, Ramsay, Noel, Maurice) and counting in this seven-season time frame, and certainly a wide variety of players. But the results have not once brought about a push that qualified them for the post-season.

Even considering the not-insignificant relocation of 2011, where new ownership and management in Winnipeg have promised and attempted a culture change to try to write some new scripts, there's not much to show.

Yes, this version of the Jets has been in more official one-goal games, 44, which might be relevant. Only two NHL teams, New Jersey and Calgary, have played in more this season, but that factor is a multi-day debate for another time.

The team was in a points tie for the final playoff berth with its March 1 win this season, and now stands all but eliminated with five games to go.

And it's not like this is an impossible task. Jumping over the line is doable.

In the seven years we examined and including their direct competition -- only in the conference in which the Jets/Thrashers played -- a jump from out of the playoffs to in the playoffs using that March 1 date has occurred seven times (Washington in 2008, Carolina and Pittsburgh in 2009, Buffalo in 2011, Washington, Islanders, Rangers in 2013). It will be eight if the Phoenix Coyotes make it this year.

While the Jets/Thrashers results have been almost consistent (some might say endemic) to a fault, it's not what you'd call a smooth tale.

Consider the year after the Thrashers made the playoffs for their one and only appearance, however short that was.

For example, in 2008, the team hit another one of those catastrophic events -- for which the repercussions are still being felt -- when it was forced to trade forward Marian Hossa. Atlanta management and ownership, unable or unwilling to sign Hossa to a contract extension that season (he was making $6 million at the time), dealt Hossa and Pascal Dupuis, yes, that Pascal Dupuis, to Pittsburgh for Colby Armstrong, Eric Christensen, Angelo Esposito and Pittsburgh's first-rounder, which turned out to be unsigned bust Daultan Leveille, just minutes before the trade deadline.

It was thought that week that the Pens paid a very high price. It didn't turn out that way.

What ensued in Atlanta was a dive of 10 points off the playoff line to finish 18 points out and in 14th spot in the conference, then a season in which the team ended up way out of it again, despite going 13-7-0 late.

The March 1 and beyond period had one other winning record-- last year's season that was delayed by the lockout and extended into late April. Still, the Jets, at 15-12-2 over that period, revealed what seems to happen most years to this franchise. It sank because of a late-season slump.

Each season of the seven we examined had a late, awful run somewhere.

It was five straight losses in 2008, just three losses in the total also-ran year of 2009, a six- and a four-gamer late in 2010, a four-out-of-five slump to end 2011, a five-of-six sag in 2012, a lethal five-game losing streak last season and a six-gamer this March.

tim.campbell@freepress.mb.ca

Spring slide

Year Record Before March 1 March 1 to Finish Record Playoff Line Placing Gain/Loss of Position
2007-08 29-31-5 5-9-3 -8 pts to -18 pts
14th to 14th
2008-09 22-34-6 13-7-0 -19 pts to -17 pts 14th to 13th
2009-10 26-24-10 9-10-3 -2 pts to -5 pts 11th to 10th
2010-11 26-26-11 8-10-1 -4 pts to -14 pts 11th to 12th
2011-12 30-27-8 7-8-2 -1 pt to -8 pts 9th to 11th
2012-13 9-9-1 15-12-2 -2 pts to -4 pts 10th to 9th
2013-14 29-26-6 5-7-4 -2 pts to -7 pts (West) 11th to 11th

 

Total 62-63-15—34 pts

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 3, 2014 D2

History

Updated on Thursday, April 3, 2014 at 6:53 AM CDT: Adds table

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