Benny and the Jets
by BMS on 11/10/11 at 01:20 PM ET
The Winnipeg Jets return home from their longest road trip this year a little bruised, but with a respectable 8 of 14 points in the proverbial bag - as good or if not better than most pundits would have wagered.
If the last three games showed anything (and apologies for not updating after each of ‘em - work/family stuff got in the way), it’s that the Jets still don’t really seem to have an established identity. A near-comeback against the New Jersey Devils, then a goose egg against the New York Rangers, and then another overtime loss against the Buffalo Sabres in a game that was nearly as wild as the opening road game against the Philadelphia Flyers only showed (at least to me) that the Jets remain a mystery wrapped in an enigma throughout their first 15 games.
Sure, some aspects of the Jets are becoming clear: Kyle Wellwood is proving himself to be the Jets’ most valuable off-season move (other than maybe, you know, the entire team moving from Atlanta). Currently tied for the team lead in goals (with the surging Evander Kane and the surprising Jim Slater) and one back of the possibly injured Nik Antropov in points, I’m not sure whether his prowess (relatively speaking) speaks to a shrewd move by management or the lack of a true goal scorer among the team. Kane is coming on strong, and could fill this role, and now that Bryan Little has finally scored a goal (two, even), Wellwood’s play might level off. We’ll see.
Blake Wheeler has yet to score, but has looked slightly better over the last few games. In the bottom six,Tanner Glass showed some life late in the road trip, with his first career Gordie Howe hat trick against the Sabres. Despite averaging just over 11 minutes per game, he’s already establishing himself as a fan favourite. Others (like Tim Stapleton and Chris Thorburn) really haven’t had much of an impact.
On the blue line, the Jets come home having lost their most valuable defenseman, Tobias Enstrom, to the IR list via an upper-body injury, and with a cast of players battling more minor physical issues. Zach Bogosian has been forced to pick up much of Enstrom’s ice time and while his numbers aren’t spectacular on paper, he’s coming around. He’s saying a lot of the right things for Winnipeggers too, so there’s that.
And of course we can’t forget about the much-lamented Dustin Byfuglien, who is already bearing the brunt of Jets fans’ frustration. While he’s not doing too bad in some statistical departments (fourth in points with eight, and leading the team in 52 shots), there are many who have been pretty put off by his middling play. I think too much has been expected of him, and that he’s doing a decent job given the state of the Jets’ depleted blue line. Those calling for him to be traded (or, even worse, moved back to playing forward) should give their heads a shake. I can’t see either happening in the near future, and it would create an even bigger hole to fill on the blue line.
As for netminders, Ondrej Pavelec played both bad and good hockey on this epic road trip - he bookended the journey with two less-than-stellar nights, yet managed to stand on his head during other games, even shutting out the (lowly) New York Islanders in the process. He’ll be relied on for the bulk of the action in the near future, as Chris Mason has joined Enstrom on the IR with a lower-body injury. Unless, of course, the coaching staff feel it’s wise to go with, ahem, Peter Mannino.
The Jets are back home tonight against the Florida Panthers - we’ll see if the home crowd (fueled by the second most expensive beer in the league) can play a role in lifting the Jets to another win against the division rivals. things are looking good for the weekend as well, with the Columbus Blue Jackets rolling in to town on Saturday. We’ll see if ex-Manitoba Moose coach/Jet player Scott Arniel is still behind the bench of that sinking ship, I suppose…
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About Benny and the Jets
Fifteen years ago, Ben's beloved Winnipeg Jets left town. He begrudgingly turned to the Montreal Canadiens for comfort and found none, and is now struggling to find a place in his heart for the Winnipeg Jets v2.0.
Ben is a Winnipeg-based freelance writer that writes a lot about wine and beer. Expect his son to be drafted into the NHL in 2025.