Beware the slides of March If Jets keep losing, expect players to be shipped out by March 21 trade deadline
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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 07/03/2022 (267 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
As the clock ticks closer to the NHL’s trade deadline, the runway for the Winnipeg Jets to convince the team’s brass they’re destined for the playoffs is getting shorter.
The Jets have lost two straight games, including Sunday night’s 4-1 defeat to the New York Rangers, to drop their record to 24-22-10. Heading into Monday’s action, Winnipeg is eight points back of the Nashville Predators for the final wild-card playoff spot in the Western Conference.
That leaves the Jets with seven games and a possible 14 points up for grabs before the March 21 trade deadline, beginning with the reigning Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning at home Tuesday night. If Winnipeg doesn’t start racking up the wins over the next two weeks, Jets general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff will likely have no choice but to sell off some of the club’s expiring contracts and set his sights on the future.
“It’s the same time every year, roughly, within the season. Every team and every player is aware of it. You hear rumours and everything else, but as players all we can really control is what we do on a daily basis,” Jets defenceman Josh Morrissey said following practice Monday. “Certainly, right now it’s about trying to get wins and points and fight our way back to try and get into the playoffs. Everyone knows the day; everyone knows the rumours. Especially in Canada – it’s impossible to not see it on TV or anywhere. I just have to worry about playing and so does everyone else.”
It’s not impossible for the Jets to go on a notable run over the next 14 days, but it’s far from a guarantee. Winnipeg’s longest win streak this season is four games, back in October, the first month of the season.
“Every team and every player is aware of it. You hear rumours and everything else, but as players all we can really control is what we do on a daily basis.”
– Jets defenceman Josh Morrissey
Since then, Winnipeg has put together a three-game run just twice this year and hasn’t won more than two games consecutively since the calendar flipped to 2022. Their last three victories have come against the three worst teams in the NHL – Seattle, Arizona and Montreal – with six losses (0-4-2) included in that stretch of games.
Jets forward Blake Wheeler said he hasn’t put much thought into the looming trade deadline. When asked if Cheveldayoff were to trade players at the deadline what message he might be sending the locker room, the captain didn’t seem all too impressed with entertaining any hypotheticals.
“I’m focused on the defending champs coming into our building; we’ve lost two straight and that’s where my headspace is right now,” Wheeler said. “If Kevin gets in front of a microphone before the trade deadline, it would be a great question for you to ask him. I don’t have any control over personnel decisions within this organization.”
Part of the frustration for the Jets this season has been an inability to win close games. Winnipeg has lost 10 games in either overtime or a shootout and have won just three. In 19 one-goal games this season, the Jets are 5-4-10.
Despite the Jets spending almost entirely to the NHL’s US$81.5-million salary cap this year, Wheeler said there’s a feeling similar to when the team was still on its climb to becoming a Stanley Cup contender. The Jets went on a significant run in 2018, making it to the Western Conference finals; in three years since, the Jets have won just one playoff series, and are on track to miss the postseason for the first time since falling to the Vegas Golden Knights in 2018.
“We’re a young team, too. The teams that we’ve had here competing for championships looked an awful lot like this team a few years before we were competing for a championship. So, that’s what I’m reminded of right now,” Wheeler said. “It’s not the same team that competed for championships. We have a lot of really good pieces and there’s a really good team in that locker room – right now, today. We’re just not there right now.”
“We have a lot of really good pieces and there’s a really good team in that locker room– right now, today. We’re just not there right now.”
– Jets forward Blake Wheeler
A majority of the trade rumours attached to the Jets have centered around forwards Andrew Copp and Paul Stastny. Both are on expiring contracts, set to become unrestricted free agents this summer.
Unless the Jets feel they can re-sign Copp or Stastny, it wouldn’t make sense to keep either on the roster if Winnipeg isn’t close to the playoff line. Or at least showing signs that they are capable of making a significant push down the final stretch of the season.
With the future of Copp and Stastny – and perhaps others, depending on interest around the league – up in the air, interim head coach Dave Lowry was asked if there’s added pressure owing to the upcoming trade deadline. And whether there was a risk of that pressure seeping into the locker room.
“I believe players recognize the date. They recognize the situation that they’re in. And this is part of the business that we’re in. It can be unsettling,” Lowry said. “I don’t believe there’s any pressure with the trade deadline coming up. Chevy and I continue to converse daily. We communicate all the time, regardless of what time of year it is.”
If the Jets are to sneak into a playoff spot, whether that be in the next two weeks or two months, they’ll have to reach around 95 points. That would require a .731 win-percentage over their remaining 26 games.
Only the NHL-leading Colorado Avalanche (.759) and Carolina Hurricanes (.741), who lead the Eastern Conference, have been able to win at that clip this season. That makes for some pretty long odds, even if it’s not outright impossible.
“We’re scoreboard watching, for sure, but you can’t be worried about what your odds are,” Morrissey said. “We just have to keep playing and trying to win every night, and hope we get some help from other teams. It’s never over at any point until you are mathematically out of it. I really think we’re still in a place where you go on a little bit of a run and you get some help, we can be a dangerous team. I don’t think we have time to worry about the odds or anything like that.”
After a slew of injuries playing hockey that included breaks to the wrist, arm, and collar bone; a tear of the medial collateral ligament in both knees; as well as a collapsed lung, Jeff figured it was a good idea to take his interest in sports off the ice and in to the classroom.