Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 26/2/2014 (968 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
They last broke a sweat in a game some 19 days ago in St. Louis, just shortly before four of their own began their chase for Olympic glory and others disappeared to warmer climes.
So just to rewind, when we last saw the Winnipeg Jets in action they were playing their best hockey of the season, obviously energized by a coaching change and with confidence levels soaring.
But almost three weeks between games can be an eternity in pro sports and, especially, in hockey where winter routines have been carved in stone for ages. And as much as the Olympic break seemed to arrive at the perfect time for a squad that had been through an emotional and physical grinder since the firing of Claude Noel on Jan. 12, the evidence what kind of impact it will have had -- positively or negatively -- won't be known until the puck drops Thursday night against the Phoenix Coyotes.
"Once we get out there and shake the rust off early I think we'll be right back into it," said centre Bryan Little. "We left pretty excited about how things were going and how we were turning things around. You come in here and you can still feel that excitement. Everyone's ready to play and get going in again."
Now seems as a good a time as any, then, for a bit of a reboot for Jets' faithful. What we present here is a bit of a hodgepodge -- part refresher, part look ahead courtesy some unanswered questions and notable numbers:
1. Is there more Mo magic?
Andrew Ladd spoke Wednesday of this team, as good as it has been recently, still having more to give. Can Maurice squeeze even more out of a squad that seemed dead and buried in mid-January and guide it into the post-season for the first time since 2006-07?
2. Who tends the net?
Ondrej Pavelec's name was once written in ink at the goaltender spot on the Jets' depth chart. And while he's been solid since Maurice took over, Al Montoya's numbers have been just that much better. So who carries the load here during arguably the most-important stretch of hockey this franchise will play since it was relocated to River City -- the goalie with the long-term deal in Pavelec or Montoya, scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent in 41/2 months?
3. Is Kevin Cheveldayoff a buyer, seller or a GM who sits on his hands at the trade deadline?
Try as he may, the Jets' GM has done very little tinkering in two previous trade deadlines -- dealing Johnny Oduya for a pair of picks in 2012 and then scooping up Mike Santorelli off waivers last year. But with three games left before next week's deadline, he finds himself at a spot where two goals are seemingly colliding: the organization's desperation to make the playoffs vs. the core draft-and-develop blueprint.
The next six days aren't really going to make the playoff picture any clearer so Cheveldayoff must weigh, as a possible what-if, moving out a piece like Olli Jokinen for a draft pick against his importance in this spring's playoff push.
4. Do freshmen phenoms Mark Scheifele and Jacob Trouba have another gear?
The two Jets rookies have been marvellous of late -- Scheifele centring the Jets' 1A line; Trouba leading all NHL rookies in ice time at 21:52. But their contributions are well beyond being considered just a bonus now and will be key cogs in a push for a playoff spot. Bright futures? Sure. But their work has been damn good in the right here and now, too.
5. Can Evander Kane be a difference-maker?
Winnipeg's most-gifted finisher has been out with injuries on four different occasions this year, the trips costing him 18 games in sick bay. And yet he still leads the club with four game-winning goals. If his touch returns quickly, the Jets -- a team which has played in 34 one-goal games this season, including nine of their last 11 -- become that much tougher down the stretch.
6. Can the Jets put 'power' back in the power play?
They spent a good chunk of Wednesday's practice working two different power-play units simultaneously and with good reason: the Jets remain in the bottom third in the NHL with the man advantage, ranked just 24th. In the shootout loss to St. Louis just before the Oly break the Jets ended a six-game power-play drought.
7. Where do Slater and Halischuk fit?
Hey, we get that Maurice doesn't want to bust up a lineup that has been on a 9-3-1 run since he stepped behind the bench. But the two vets, now healthy and practising Wednesday with Eric Tangradi on what could be called the fifth line, offer so much as role players: Slater as a face-off specialist; Halischuk as a responsible forward who can play both wings.
8. Is Olli re-energized?
None of the four Jets who headed to the Olympics seemed to get more out of the tournament than Jokinen, the bronze medallist. He had two goals and four points in six games in Russia while playing big minutes for Finland. Question now is, did he bring some of that back to Winnipeg? Worth noting: Jokinen had one assist in 11 games prior to the Olympic break.
9. Is this Blake at his best?
He's big and he's quick and when Blake Wheeler uses those two key skills together, he is absolutely deadly. The Jets' right winger had six goals and nine assists in his last 13 games before heading over to the Olympics. He didn't play a ton for the Americans, but will be pivotal for his regular squad.
10. Does Devin Setoguchi have a future in Winnipeg beyond next Wednesday?
Maurice has pushed his buttons a couple of times and, as a result, Jets' fans have seen some of Setoguchi's best hockey under the new boss. Still, the man the Jets traded a second-round pick for last summer -- a player who has had three seasons of 20 goals or more -- still has a tendency to disappear for stretches. He's an unrestricted free agent and the Jets are his third NHL team since 2010-11. Both those facts are worth munching on as the trade deadline approaches.