Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 27/3/2017 (1642 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
While the minute details of any professional sporting season might be unique, they are not exactly snowflakes. There are repeatable themes to most every successful or unsuccessful campaign that has ever been run, and the 2016-17 Winnipeg Jets are no exception.
When the bulk of your workforce experiences consist of employment by three professional football teams over 15 seasons, it tends to frame your opinion when you cross over and look at other sporting genres. That being said, there are definite parallels between the 2016-17 Winnipeg Jets' season that has six games remaining, and that of a Winnipeg football team that under-achieved way back in 2010.
So what could a NHL hockey campaign, and a local CFL football experience — seven seasons old — have in common?
They both could have been compelling teams if they had a level of consistency at the most important position on the field — or ice.
While the Jets are nowhere near the .222 winning percentage of that 2010 Bombers team, the same conclusion could be drawn about their disappointing season outcomes. While both had very good pieces and talent, neither one got the kind of play they needed at quarterback, or in net, to maximize their potential. And in professional sports, leaving untapped futures on the table is near sacrilege.
Off the top, the 2010 season in Winnipeg Blue Bombersland was probably best remembered as the year the team broke a league record for losing nine regular season games by four points or less. Since they won four games, that means that 13 of those contests could have been taken with merely one more touchdown, and many of those with only another field goal. Yet since it doesn’t really matter how close you come to winning if you lose, how can you classify a football team, or even a hockey team, as good if the record doesn’t reflect it?
Even though that 2010 season was the worst single win-loss record I was a part of in a decade-and-a-half of football, when I reflected on it, the first memory that surfaced was that in spite of the record, it was somehow a team with wasted, and unfulfilled, potential.
In the 18 games played that year, there were four different quarterbacks who started for the team, not unlike the three different keepers that played in net for the Jets this year. Alex Brink started one, Joey Elliott started two, Buck Pierce started five and got hurt in two different instances, and then Steven Jyles played out the remaining 10. It wasn’t that Jyles was terrible — he threw 19 touchdowns against seven interceptions in those starts — but overall, the pivot position that year wielded a completion percentage of just 59 per cent — awful — and Jyles played just well enough to lose.
A funny thing jumped off the page when the statistics for that season were examined. The defence that was on the wrong side of 14 losses was actually first in the CFL against the pass, allowing a stingy 254 yards per game, and also led the league in sacks with 51. To compare, the 11-7 defence of the playoff Bombers of 2017, allowed almost 100 more yards a game, at 335, and only had 35 sacks. Thats pretty impressive, considering the 4-14 squad dealt with all the negativity and the lack of enthusiasm and confidence that accompanies winning once in every five tries.
While the Jets have improved exponentially in scoring and talent this year, and have more skilled players on the roster than version 2.0 has ever seen, we will never know what might have been because their own "quarterbacks" have also been erratic, inconsistent, and sub-par.
While many fans chased the narrative that the season was one dedicated to grooming and development of young and inexperienced talent on the roster, I’ve never been around a professional level team that wasn’t overtly committed to winning today, and every day.
The silver lining in this comparison, is that if these really are parallels and the Jets do find a way to upgrade their goaltending, once the football team had a single competent quarterback play the majority of its snaps the next year (Buck Pierce played 16 of 18 games), they found themselves playing for a championship. The season you never get back, though, and that gnaws at you, is the one where you had many good pieces, but they were wasted without that one integral linchpin.
Doug Brown, once a hard-hitting defensive lineman and frequently a hard-hitting columnist, appears weekly in the Free Press.
Doug Brown, always a hard-hitting defensive lineman and frequently a hard-hitting columnist, appears Tuesdays in the Free Press.