Benny and the Jets
by BMS on 04/07/12 at 06:05 PM ET
It doesn’t seem like it was that long ago that the excitement of the impending return of the NHL to Winnipeg was at a fever pitch – opening night was imminent, and the eyes of the hockey world were turned toward the MTS Centre for opening night puck drop against the Montreal Canadiens. The 5-1 drubbing the Jets endured barely mattered, and the Nik Antropov’s lone Jets goal of the afternoon - the first in Jets 2.0 history - was celebrated as though Winnipeg had just won the Stanley Cup.
And so it began – a season of ups, downs and everything in between. There was the Jets’ magical play in December followed by a collapse/return to reality down the stretch. For the most part, however, the team was decidedly average – bolstered at home by a newly voracious crowd and still the same old muddling Thrashers of old when on the road.
Tonight sees the Jets’ season come to a close as they hope to keep Steven Stamkos from hitting 60 goals in the MTS Centre in front of what will surely be a lively crowd. Claude Noel likely lit up the team’s dressing room in Long Island on Thursday after voicing his displeasure to the media about his team’s weak start which saw them go down 2-0 early to the Islanders before falling 5-4 in regulation. Hopefully the Jets’ effort tonight matches the fervor brought on by hockey fans in the MTS Centre and beyond.
Mark Chipman gave a season recap Thursday that included the info that the Jets won’t likely need league revenue sharing, and will likely be in the top 15 earning teams despite playing in the NHL’s smallest rink. Anyone that spends any time in Winnipeg won’t find that’s much of a surprise – you can’t throw a puck in this town without hitting someone in Jets garb or a car decked out in a Jets flag, bumper sticker, license plate or some combination of the three.
Every Jets home game is sold out, the waiting list for tickets is still in the thousands and most Winnipeggers are simply happy to have an NHL team back in the city once again. But there’ll come a time in the next couple of years where the on-ice play will have to improve, or else the rabid fan base will start to grow weary of propping up a middling team. Chipman gave no indication that extensive changes are imminent either in the team’s lineup or behind the bench, but Jets fans won’t likely be as forgiving or patient as they have been this season. He can’t possibly think the current lineup is good enough to one day get it done. While it’s fine to want to build around the core of young, up-and-coming players both playing for the Jets and leading the St. John’s IceCaps, there are key pieces this team needs that are missing.
If you haven’t heard head coach Claude Noel much this season, here’s a chat he gave earlier today about the team - while it’s not his most memorable of the year, it certainly shows his thought process. I get the feeling he’s an incredibly perceptive guy, and there’s something about the way he talks that pushes the right buttons for me. Check him out:
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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.