Jets winning this season despite themselves


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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 23/10/2018 (1686 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Steve Lyons: Hello there. Miss me? Should we call you Mr. Retirement now?

So, it’s been a couple of weeks since you hung up the quill — how’s it going?

I’m curious about a few things, but I’ll start with this: I watched a lot of sports as a fan the first 25 years of my life and I’ve watched a lot of sports as a journalist over the last 33 years of working in the biz — so, my thought has always been I’m going to detox from sports for at least 12 months after I retire.

I guess you’ve watched a bit though, because you were texting me the other day about your baseball team (*rolls eyes*). Spending some time in front of the tube still, are ya?

Paul Wiecek: Retirement? The lady of the house is working me like a mule. I’m going to have to start working again just so I can get some rest.

I’m like you — I was a sports fan long before I was a sportswriter, but that evolved over the years. There’s nothing like actually getting to know some of these athletes to rid you of your fandom. Some of the least likable people I’ve ever met were in a professional sports locker room and I’m looking forward to seeing a whole lot less of them in my new life.

But I’m still paying attention for sure. This might be my favorite time of year in sports — the start of a new NHL and NFL season never gets old but it’s the end of the baseball season that I really love. I’m like Jack Nicholson in One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest: “Are you trying to tell me not one of you maniacs wants to watch the World Series?!”

Paul Wiecek and Randle McMurphy: two peas in a pod.  (United Artists)
Paul Wiecek and Randle McMurphy: two peas in a pod. (United Artists)

The Fall Classic is always high drama with everything on the line after a 162 game season. They should hold stage the World Series every week. (Red Sox, by the way. For fun.)

No, my detox to this point hasn’t been in sports, but technology. I couldn’t have been happier to have surrendered my company issued phone and laptop and I have no intention of reacquiring either one anytime soon. I got a new iPad as a retirement gift and that will be my one and only connection the outside world going forward.

I don’t think I will be missing much.

Steve Lyons: I’ve spent a day or two with you at the cottage, pal — you never sit down and are always looking for some chore to do; don’t be blaming Erika.

I hope you’re wrong about the Red Sox. I don’t cheer for or against many teams anymore, but there’s been something about that crew from Boston that irks me. The Green Monster is stupid (*rolls eyes again*). I’m no lover of the Dodgers either — can they both lose?

The Boston Red Sox warm up next to a tarp-covered infield before Game 1 of the World Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers on Tuesday in Boston. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)
CP The Boston Red Sox warm up next to a tarp-covered infield before Game 1 of the World Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers on Tuesday in Boston. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

Did you watch the Jets last night against the Blues? Have you been watching the Jets at all?

After their comeback win over St. Louis, the Jets sit in third place in the league this morning with 13 points — one behind Colorado and Nashville — and I would suggest they haven’t played a great game yet this year, except for maybe the opening win against those same Blues.

It seems to me that this team is so talented and so good, that they are winning despite themselves. They have looked nothing like that steamroller of a team that finished the season last year, but perhaps it’s going to be a steady build towards that this season.

Paul Wiecek: I’ve been watching as much of the Jets as my bleeding ears will tolerate. Maybe it’s just me, but I find TSN analyst Kevin Sawyer an excellent reason not to watch Jets games. The man has nothing to say — and he won’t stop saying it.

They should just let Beyak call the games by himself, the way Vin Scully used to call Dodgers games. I’d watch a lot more Jets games.

I did, however, watch that Jets-Blues game. That was an exceptionally impressive comeback and exactly one of those moments teams can build upon. I wonder if a couple months from now we look back on Monday night as the moment it all came together for those guys again.

I’ve got a different take on the Jets than most people. There’s been a lot of angst in Jets Nation early on but I think the most impressive thing about this team is that they’re winning despite not playing to their full potential. It says a lot about how good this team is that they’re winning even when they’re lousy.

Winnipeg Jets
THE CANADIAN PRESS/Trevor Hagan Winnipeg Jets' Kyle Connor, Jacob Trouba, and Mark Scheifele celebrate after Trouba scored the game winning goal Monday.

What’s not to like? The goaltending has been fantastic — and that’s just the new backup, never mind the old starter, who seems to have picked up right where he left off in a record breaking season last year.

That third line might be the best in all of hockey right now. Bryan Little is the best part of that second line, which is saying something special when you consider Patrick Laine and Nikolai Ehlers are the other guys on that line.

Mark Scheifele had a four-point night on Monday which tells you all about where his game is at in the early-going.

And the blue line is contributing offensively like never before, from Morrrissey to Trouba to — you know we’re living in strange times — Ben Chiarot, who had a huge goal Monday night.

Put it all together and only Winnipeggers — who have been trained over the decades to believe we can never have anything good — would be angst-ridden right now. Everyone needs to relax. When your biggest problem is your team is winning despite not playing well, you don’t have any problems.

Steve Lyons: I don’t mind Kevin Sawyer. I like his observations. But, oh my goodness — they both need to give it a rest on the refs.

In the game against Arizona on Saturday, Beyak let out a ‘My goodness, Mark Scheifele was hooked on the play’ that might have been the least objective moment I’d ever heard in the history of play by play. Listen, I get that they’re the host broadcasters but come on already — not every call against the Jets can be a bad one. In case you missed Andrew Berkshire’s excellent look at the team’s trips to the sin bin in the Free Press last week, only the Anaheim Ducks have taken more minor penalties than the Jets since 2015-16.

There is no conspiracy here, Dennis — the Jets have been and continue to be undisciplined when it comes to penalties.

Every single hockey play by play guy could take a lesson from baseball’s best: I know they scored, you don’t have to yell it at me. Can I roll me eyes again, or is that getting old?

So, how was the reaction to your retirement? Get any emails? Got a favorite one or two?

I had more than a few folks lament your leaving us. Even one of your harshest critics — I won’t name him, but he’ll know who he is when he reads this — was wondering why; although I think he was just feeling a loss of being able to hate on you. He laughed when I said that to him.

Paul Wiecek: I always knew the haters would miss me when I was gone.

The reaction to the news I was leaving was overwhelming. It was like being a spy at your own funeral, where everyone is saying only the good stuff and all your flaws have been glossed over, it being bad form to speak ill of the dead and all that.

No joke — I got more email on my last column than any other single piece of journalism I did for the Free Press in 29 years.

The general theme was, ‘I didn’t always agree with what you wrote, but I liked that you weren’t afraid to call it like you saw it.” I took that as high praise. Also, I’d worry about anyone who always agreed with me. I barely agreed with me most days.

My favorite email though was one of the few that celebrated my departure. The guy went so far as to say my leaving was “proof of the existence of God.” But then he closed with, ‘I wish you no ill will. All the best in your retirement and future endeavors.’

Only a Canadian would plunge a knife in your chest and then wish you a nice day.

Steve Lyons: Did you respond? What do you say to that?

One guy who wrote me an email asked if I was next. Wonder if he’s reading this?

Several folks I spoke to were happy to hear we will still be doing this little chat — no idea why still, but hey.

The Bombers have another big game on Friday. I am still perplexed by this team. They looked awful a month ago and now have ripped off wins against the Eskimos, Redblacks, and Riders.

The CFL is weird — after getting shutout by the Bombers, the Riders beat the Stamps. And the Lions have clinched a playoff spot, but are fourth in the West behind the third-place Bombers — who haven’t clinched a playoff spot yet. Sorry, I’m rolling my eyes again!

Winnipeg Blue Bombers
THE CANADIAN PRESS Winnipeg Blue Bombers' Darvin Adams (1) and Weston Dressler (7) celebrate Adams' touchdown against the Saskatchewan Roughriders during the first half of CFL action in Winnipeg Saturday, October 13, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/John Woods

Please don’t ask me to explain the various permutations, but as I understand it: if the Bombers win vs the Stamps, they will clinch a playoff berth. If they lose, they will likely need to beat the Eskimos in Edmonton next weekend. And Matt Nichols is 0-8 in his career against Calgary. Oh oh?

Paul Wiecek: I made a point of replying to every email I received that final weekend. Good or bad, I wanted to thank people for having read my stuff over the years. Those people fed and clothed my kids.

Here’s a dirty little secret I can now reveal — most of the emails I received at the Free Press over the decades never even got opened. While I always read emails from readers, most of the stuff I got over the years was unsolicited crap from PR hacks.

When my Free Press email account was shut down on Monday, there were over 27,000 unopened emails in there. (Yeah, yeah, I know you’re supposed to clean up your inbox every day, but I just never did. And do you know what happened? Nothing. These IT people are worse than dental hygienists when it comes to nagging. And no, I don’t floss, either.)

I’m not sure what’s more surprising about the Bombers this year — that a team this talented still hasn’t locked down a playoff spot with two weeks to go or that a team as dreadful as they were mid-season actually still has a chance to make the playoffs? Talk about a tale of two teams — the very excellent Bombers that opened and closed the season and the tire fire that raged for the rest of it.

The good news for Bombers fans is you win Grey Cups in November, not in August, and this Bombers team looks to me like an outfit that is peaking at exactly the right time. It’s worth a reminder: the Argos went 9-9 in the regular season last year and won the Grey Cup and the Redblacks were just 8-10 in the regular season in 2016 when they won the Cup.

But none of that matters if the Bombers don’t get to the post-season dance and that’s still very much up in the air right now.

Calgary is struggling lately, but that’s all the more reason I’d expect their best game this weekend. And so that means it’s entirely possible — maybe even likely — that this whole season comes down to the final weekend, with the Bombers playing the Eskimons in Edmonton with the winner advancing and the loser eliminated.

And if it all comes down to that, well, we’ll finally find out who these enigmatic 2018 Bombers really are.

Steve Lyons: Folks, I want you to know I currently have zero unread emails.

It would drive me nuts to have that many in my inbox — I’m obsessive about opening them and deleting them. I also enjoy a trip to the dentist — I’m weird.

One of my favorite emails in the last few months was from someone lamenting that our Say What?! was included in our daily Above the Fold Features. They said: “I feel like I got tricked in to reading this article. I thought your “above the fold” articles were meant to be meaningful and in depth. Not just 2 guys texting about random things.”

I think they’re putting it in Above the Fold again today.


[Editor’s note: Indeed! Here we are.]


Steve: The Bombers have played some close games with the Stamps the last couple of seasons — time to finally win one Friday night and not have to go to Edmonton with their season on the line. The Jets play the same night in Detroit.

Perhaps by the time folks read this in Saturday’s paper (yes, we print it there as well as online), the Bombers will have secured a playoff berth and Nik Ehlers will have scored. Um, it’s been 26 games.

Paul: I’ve been tricking people into reading my stuff for the better part of three decades. I see no reason to stop now.

I’ve got no original insight on Ehlers. The guy plays the game the right way — I thought Andrew Berkshire’s piece a while back documented that nicely — and I don’t see much different in his game now that he’s not scoring than back when he was.

To me, it just all goes to show what an incredibly fine line there is between good and great in the NHL. Sometimes it really does come down to puck luck. And the only kind of luck Ehlers has been having is bad.

The only reason to like going to the dentist is for the free nitrous oxide. I used to pay 10 bucks for that stuff in Grateful Dead parking lots.

Steve: Erika just texted me — she needs you to get off the couch and get some things done for her; and I need to get some real work done.

Let’s do this again soon — Nov. 6 to be exact. Until then, call me and you can buy me lunch.

Paul: I’m a pensioner now. You’re buying, forever.

Paul Wiecek

Paul Wiecek
Reporter (retired)

Paul Wiecek was born and raised in Winnipeg’s North End and delivered the Free Press -- 53 papers, Machray Avenue, between Main and Salter Streets -- long before he was first hired as a Free Press reporter in 1989.

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