Thursday, 23 January 2014

Jets playoff chances - Real or Mirage?



So the Winnipeg Jets are now 4-0 under new coach Paul Maurice and the team feels good about themselves again. The real question is who are the Jets, the team that won four games in a row, or the one that lost five in a row before that? The obvious answer is both because outside of moving Dustin Byfuglien to forward, there have been no roster moves. The biggest single reason for the four game winning streak has been the improved play of Ondrej Pavelec.

 
Its no secret that a coaching change was required. I believe the players had grown tired of the message Claude Noel was sending and I never could understand what his system was. He did not seem to communicate well with his entire group and the younger "offensive minded" players found their way into his dog house repeatedly. That is not a great scenario for a team trying to build around young offensive minded players... But, are the Jets better? It's way too early to judge, and this article on Sportsnet.ca by Tyler Dellow today should give all Jets fans pause before they start planning the parade route.  

The truth of the matter is we need to see this team after the 10 game mark and I think the Olympic break will give Maurice the opportunity to implement more of his system, if not all of it. Only then will we really know if better coaching will allow this program to go to the next level. If they are indeed more successful at that point, it will be more than fair to question why it took so long to make the move. This little run has moved them to eight points back of the last playoff spot with one game in hand, but the playoffs are still a long shot. Put it this way, they now sit at .500. To make the playoffs you need to be 10 games over .500.  According to sportsclubstats.com the Jets have a 7.6% chance today at making the playoffs. Tough odds to be sure. 
 

So what should the focus be if the playoffs are a long shot? First off, the team will never admit there is no chance because athletes wired differently. They cannot admit defeat, at least until they are defeated. Even though catching Minnesota is the end game, the goal should be to remove all the teams between Winnipeg and Minny. Today they are tied with Nashville (but do not have the tie breaker), are one point behind Dallas, and four behind Phoenix. The latter two also have a game in hand on the Jets. Focusing on playing the right style of play and targeting each of these team will lead the Jets in the right direction. They may not achieve the ultimate goal in the end, but this approach will lead them on the path to future prosperity. There are many examples of coaching changes that took their program lateral, and there are precious few like St Louis, Los Angeles, and Pittsburgh where the new coach brought the team to a new level of success.
 
Winnipeg Jets fans are certainly hoping the latter is true.

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