The right here, right now small picture for the Winnipeg Jets is crystal clear, especially with their playoff chances still very much on life support.
The focus is singularly directed at the Carolina Hurricanes, who pay a visit here on Saturday in the last of a 10-game stretch that has seen eight games played at the MTS Centre.
Next week it's off to Dallas, then San Jose, Los Angeles, Anaheim and Phoenix for a chunk of games that will effectively define the 2013-14 season. Sportsclubstats.com crunched the numbers and even if the Jets were to go 9-2 in their last 11, their chances of advancing to the Stanley Cup derby are still only 42.6 per cent.
But while so many eyes are fixated on the current chase, the past two games now in the rear-view mirror against Western Conference heavyweights St. Louis and Colorado have also offered up a chance to compare and contrast and ask a basic question:
How did the Blues and Avs get to the elite and are the Jets on the right path to do the same?
Consider, first, some similarities in circumstance:
- After making the playoffs for 25 straight years from 1979-80 to 2005-06, the Blues then missed the party in five of the next six seasons from 2005-06 through 2010-11.
- The Avs have missed the playoffs over the last three seasons, and posted the second-worst record in the NHL in two of those campaigns.
- The Jets, meanwhile, are in a six-year playoff drought dating back to 2006-07 and the franchise's days in Atlanta.
And that, in many ways, represents the Jets' current dilemma as a franchise: trying to preach the patience of their draft-and-develop blueprint to a fan base that hasn't seen playoff hockey in two years here -- and likely a third barring an act of God and a handful of miracles.
"I understand the path we're taking to get from here to there," said Jets coach Paul Maurice this week. "Pieces will change here, players will mature. (St. Louis) is a different team even than they were two or three years ago when (coach) Ken (Hitchcock) first came in. They worked hard, but they had different pieces. Their back end now has changed and is better.
"There's a bunch of different things... T.J. Oshie is quite a different player than he was two years ago. There's a lot of stuff that has changed there."
"Somebody asked me, 'What's your vision for this team? Is it Boston?' We'd be more of a version of what St. Louis can do," added Maurice. "I like those teams that are willing to finish their checks and play hard. I'm not asking certain players to be running around, but if you're that big and you're that fast you can get to the hit. That's the game we want to play in this building."
Those around the NHL will insist the Jets are in a far better position as an organization than when the franchise relocated. And while the playoff drought still has many parched, there is some truth to that.
Winnipeg's affiliates are stocked with more talent than when the keys to the Thrashers were handed over and the record over the last three years here -- 93-86-22 -- is slightly superior to the final three years in Atlanta, when the team went 104-111-31.
And as we look at how the Blues and Avs were built in comparison to the Jets (see accompanying chart) here are some observations:
- The Blues (11), Jets (10) and Avs (nine) all have a similar number of their own draft picks on their rosters.
- All three teams have been busy adding pieces via trade, with the Jets' roster featuring 10 players acquired through swaps with the Blues and Avs at eight each.
- St. Louis GM Doug Armstrong doesn't get nearly enough credit for his savvy moves. And his trade-deadline deal that brought Ryan Miller and Steve Ott has pushed the Blues closer to their first Stanley Cup championship than ever before.
- While the deal GM Kevin Cheveldayoff made for Michael Frolik last summer has been a boon for the Jets, the moves impacting the current roster the most were made before the team located here with Mark Stuart and Blake Wheeler coming from Boston in the same deal in 2011 and Andrew Ladd and Dustin Byfuglien arriving in two deals with Chicago a week apart in 2010.
- Really sucking for awhile helped transform the Avs, who were able to grab Nathan MacKinnon, Matt Duchene and Gabriel Landeskog with top-five picks.
- Colorado's unheralded free-agent acquisitions last July -- Nick Holden, Nate Guenin and Andre Benoit -- have been important depth additions to a roster already loaded with skill.
So, what does all this prove? Well, nothing concrete, frankly, other than no blueprint is infallible and that Blues and Avs fans -- who did more than their fair share of suffering over the past few years -- can settle in for some dandy playoff action beginning next month.
Jets fans, meanwhile, can only cross their fingers and hope they're next.
THREE NHL TEAM BLUEPRINTS
A look at how the rosters of the Jets, Avalanche and Blues were put together:
How the Jets were built:
Jets draft picks on roster: 10
- Jacob Trouba (2012, first round/ninth overall)
- Mark Scheifele (2011, first round/seventh overall)
- Evander Kane (2009, first round/fourth overall)
- Zach Bogosian (2008, first round/third overall)
- John Albert (2007, sixth round/175th overall)
- Paul Postma (2007, seventh round/205th overall)
- Bryan Little (2006, first round/12th overall)
- Ondrej Pavelec (2005, second round/41st overall)
- Toby Enstrom (2003, eighth round/239th overall)
- Jim Slater (2002, first/30th overall)
First-overall picks: 0
Top-five picks: five
- Bogosian; Kane; Andrew Ladd (Carolina, fourth, 2004); Blake Wheeler (Phoenix, fifth, 2004); Olli Jokinen (Los Angeles, third, 1997) First-rounders: 14
- Trouba; Scheifele; Kane; Bogosian; Little; Ladd; Slater; Keaton Ellerby (Florida, 10th, 2007); Michael Frolik (Florida, 10th, 2006); Devin Setoguchi (San Jose, eighth, 2005); Wheeler; Al Montoya (Rangers, sixth, 2004); Mark Stuart (Boston, 21st, 2003); Jokinen Players acquired via trade: 10
- Setoguchi (from Minnesota in 2013); Frolik (from Chicago in 2013); Eric Tangradi (from Pittsburgh in 2013); Mark Stuart (from Boston in 2011); Wheeler (from Boston in 2011); Ladd (from Chicago in 2010); Dustin Byfuglien (from Chicago in 2010); Patrice Cormier (from New Jersey in 2010); Eric O’Dell (from Anaheim in 2009); Chris Thorburn (from Pittsburgh in 2007) Waiver wire pickups: four
- Ellerby (from Los Angeles in 2013); Anthony Peluso (St. Louis’ seventh-round pick in 2007; added in 2013; James Wright (Tampa Bay’s fourth-round pick in 2008, added in 2013); Grant Clitsome (Columbus’ ninth-round pick in 2004; added in 2012).
Free agents: five
- Matt Halischuk (Nashville’s fourth-round pick in 2007; signed in 2013)
- Michael Hutchinson (Boston’s third-round pick in 2008; signed in 2013)
- Adam Pardy (Calgary’s sixth-round pick in 2004; signed in 2013)
- Al Montoya (New York Rangers’ first-round pick in 2004; signed in 2012)
- Jokinen (L.A.’s first-round pick in 1997; signed in 2012)
How the Avs were built:
Avs draft picks on roster: nine
- Nathan MacKinnon (2013, first round/first overall)
- Gabriel Landeskog (2011, first round/ second overall)
- Matt Duchene (2009, first round/third overall)
- Ryan O’Reilly (2009, second round/33rd overall)
- Tyson Barrie (2009, third round/64th overall)
- Brad Malone (2007, fourth round/105th overall)
- Paul Carey (2007, fifth round/135th overall)
- Paul Stastny (2005, second round/44th overall)
- Alex Tanguay (1998, first round/12th overall)
First-overall picks: two
- MacKinnon in 2013; Erik Johnson (St. Louis, 2006)
Top-five picks: four
- MacKinnon; Duchene; Landeskog; Johnson
- MacKinnon, Duchene, Tanguay, Johnson, Semyon Varlamov (Washington, 23rd,2006), Jean-Sebastien Giguere (Hartford,13th, 1995), Players acquired via trade: eight
- Reto Berra (from Calgary in 2014); Maxime Talbot (from Pittsburgh in 2013); Cory Sarich (from Calgary in 2013); Tanguay (reacquired from Calgary in 2013), Jamie McGinn (from San Jose in 2012); Varlamov (from Washington in 2012); Johnson (from St. Louis in 2011); Ryan Wilson (from Calgary in 2009).
Waiver wire pickups: one
- Marc-Andre Cliche (Rangers’ secondround pick in 2005; added via waiver wire in 2013).
Free agents: nine
- Nick Holden (undrafted, originally signed by Columbus; signed in 2013)
- Nate Guenin (Rangers’ third-round pick in 2002; signed in 2013)
- Andre Benoit (undrafted, first signed by Montreal; signed in 2013)
- John Mitchell (Toronto’s fifth-round pick in 2003; signed in 2012)
- P.A. Parenteau (Anaheim’s ninth-round draft pick in 2001; signed in 2012)
- Jan Hejda (Buffalo’s fourth-round pick in 2003; signed in 2011)
- Jean-Sebastien Giguere (Hartford’s firstround pick in 1995; signed in 2011)
- Patrick Bordeleau (Minnesota’s fourthround pick in 2004; signed in 2011)
- Cody McLeod (undrafted; signed in 2006)
ST. LOUIS BLUES
How the Blues were built:
Blues draft picks on roster: 11
- Dmitrij Jaskin (2011, second round/41st overall)
- Jaden Schwartz (2010, first round/14th overall)
- Vladimir Tarasenko (2010, first round/16th overall)
- Alex Pietrangelo (2008, first round/fourth overall)
- Ian Cole (2007, first round/18th overall)
- Patrik Berglund (2006, first round/25th overall)
- T.J. Oshie (2005, first round/24th overall)
- Ryan Reaves (2005, fifth round/156th overall)
- Roman Polak (2004, sixth round/180th overall)
- David Backes (2003, second round/62nd overall)
- Barret Jackman (1999, first round/17th overall)
First-overall picks: 0
Top-five picks: two
- Pietrangelo; Jay Bouwmeester (Florida, third, 2002)
- Schwartz; Tarasenko; Pietrangelo, Cole; Berglund; Oshie; Jackman; Bouwmeester; Magnus Paajarvi (Edmonton, 10th, 2009); Steve Ott (Dallas, 25th, 2000); Kevin Shattenkirk (Colorado, 14th, 2007); Alex Steen (Toronto, 24th, 2002); Carlo Colaiacovo (Toronto, 17th, 2001); Brenden Morrow (Dallas, 25th, 1997) Players acquired via trade: eight
- Ryan Miller (from Buffalo in 2014); Ott (from Buffalo in 2014); Paajarvi (from Edmonton in 2013); Shattenkirk (from Colorado in 2011); Vladimir Sobotka (from Boston in 2010); Steen (from Toronto in 2008); Bouwmeester (from Calgary in 2013); Jordan Leopold (from Buffalo in 2013)
Free agents: six
- Colaiacovo (Toronto’s first-round pick in 2001; signed in 2013)
- Brenden Morrow (Dallas’ first-round pick in 1997; signed in 2013)
- Derek Roy (Buffalo’s second-round pick in 2001, signed in 2013)
- Maxim Lapierre (Montreal’s second-round pick in 2003, signed in 2013)
- Brian Elliott (Ottawa’s ninth-round pick in 2003; signed in 2011)
- Chris Porter (Chicago’s ninth-round pick in 2003; signed in 2007)