Five Reasons why the Jets Will Not Make the Playoffs
1. There are at least 11 teams in the Eastern Conference that are better than the Jets on paper
The Jets were arguably the worst team in the Eastern Conference last season—although statistically the Senators were the victors in that fight to the bottom. Aside from Ottawa, one could argue the Jets are a better team than the Maple Leafs, Panthers and Islanders. Remember, one could argue that and it would be an interesting argument both ways. The next echelon of teams, are in my mind, a cut above the Jets.
Take New Jersey for example; statistically New Jersey was the next team above the Thrashers (Jets) last season. Here are New Jersey’s top three scorers from last season:
a) Patrik Elias
b) Ilya Kovalchuk
c) Travis Zajac
Any of those three players would instantly become the best player on the Jets next season. Never mind the fact that Zach Parise is the team’s best forward when healthy. Of course four players does not a team make, but the Devils are probably the fourth best team in their division. Sensing the numbers crunch?
Are the Jets better than Pittsburgh, Philadelphia or the New York Rangers? With all due respect to Ezzy, no.
Are the Jets better than Boston, Buffalo or Montreal? Again, one could argue maybe Montreal, but I wouldn’t buy that argument. The Habs really improved in possession stats last season and have added (and overpaid for) Erik Cole to the mix.
What about their own division? Washington is certainly better. Tampa Bay just finished one game short of the Stanley Cup Finals and is essentially bringing back the same team for this upcoming season. Carolina has a nice young core, a solid puck-moving back-end and a very consistent netminder in Cam Ward.
There you have ten teams that are, in my mind, certainly better than the Jets.
That leaves the aforementioned Leafs, Senators, Panthers and Islanders.
I suspect the Jets finish anywhere between tenth and thirteenth in the Eastern Conference this season.
2. The Travel Schedule
Much has been made about the Jets’ lack of total travel miles this season considering they are a Midwestern team playing out of the Southeast Division. Remember this team plays every single in conference road game in a different time zone than its home rink.
The reason for this lack of miles is because the team has many long road trips:
a) Late October to Early November: The team has a seven-game road trip through the Southeast and Northeast. This includes one game on the second of back-to-back nights;
b) Early January: The team has a four-game road trip through the Northeast. This includes one game on the second of back-to-back nights.
c) End of January to early February: The team has a six-game road trip through the Southeast and Northeast, yet again. This includes two games on the second of back-to-back nights; and
d) End of March to early April: The team has a four-game road trip through the Southeast and a trip through Long Island on the way home. This includes one game on the second of back-to-back nights.
Doesn’t sound like too much fun does it?
A quick glance at the schedule of the Jets’ four division rivals reveals:
a) The Panthers have two four-game road trips;
b) The Capitals have two four-game road trips and one five-game road trip;
c) The Lightning have one four-game road trip and one five game-road trip; and
d) The Hurricanes have three four-game road trips.
With the NHL employing a division heavy schedule (24 intra-division games) looks like the Jets will be at an overall travel disadvantage.
3. Third New Coach in Three Years
Two seasons ago, this team employed John Anderson as head coach. Anderson was the long time coach of the Chicago Wolves and enjoyed much success at that level—along with current Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff. Anderson was not handed the most talented NHL roster by then GM Don Waddell but make no mistake, he was an offensive coach willing to give his players much freedom to create offense—oftentimes at the expense of defense.
Both seasons of Anderson’s tenure in Atlanta the Thrashers were 27th in the NHL with respect to shots allowed per game. Last season Craig Ramsay came aboard in an effort to instill more defensive responsibility upon his players. The team had a modest, if insignificant, move to 26th in the NHL in shots allowed.
Claude Noel obviously has a lot work to do in that regard. But first he will have to instill a new system for his players. The system may not be new for the Moose players now in the system but 95% of this roster will consist of players that did not play for the Moose or have not played for Noel. It will take him time to get his message across and will likely take time for many players to learn the personality and tactics of their third coach in three years.
4. Lack of Goal Scoring
With all due respect to Andrew Ladd (he could play on my team any day of the week), he is seen as the team’s top offensive producer. Sure he played against top competition, drove the play in the right direction and produced very respectable offensive totals, but he still only totaled 59 points last season (just above 1.80 points per 60 minutes of even strength ice-time). That would be easier to stomach if the Jets had a lot of offensive help on the way. Blake Wheeler has potential, Bryan Little does as well, but that boom/bust potential obviously goes both ways.
There is a realistic chance that no player on this team cracks 30 goals this season. If that is the case, then a whole heck of a lot of players are going to have to produce above 20 goals to make this team a viable contender.
On the other hand, one may say that this team’s talent is tailored to its defense and netminding. While that is absolutely true, the numbers (defense wise) do not yet bear that out.
To put it simply, there are A LOT of “if this happens” or “if that happens” associated with the team’s success. Never a good thing.
5. The White Out Only Means So Much
Hey, I love the White Out. It gives me goose bumps just thinking back to being in the stands at the Winnipeg Arena for Game 3 of the 1993 playoffs versus Vancouver, or Game 3 of the 1996 playoffs versus Detroit. Home-ice advantage exists and the Jets fans will try their best to make a world of difference. Unfortunately, if crowd noise was all that mattered the Habs probably would have won every single Stanley Cup since 1993.
The truth is, talent still wins out more often than not. If this team ever ices an ultra-talented team, then watch out NHL. For now, the crowd noise advantage will probably be negated by a below average team on the ice. Patience will indeed be a virtue.