Things are a little bit brighter on Portage and Main these days, even as the calendar marches toward the shortest days of the year. The Winnipeg Jets are currently fourth in the Central Division and seventh in the Western Conference, and Jets 2.0 show no signs of slowing down any time soon. The team is 6-1-3 in its last ten games, and a team that was picked to finish 25th in the league by Sportsnet seems to have it together at long last. Ondrej Pavlec has been perhaps the most surprising Jet thus far, sporting a .916 save percentage and giving up a paltry 2.27 goals against, which is good for eighth in the league. There were certainly a number of questions surrounding Pavlec coming into the campaign, especially with perceived organizational pressure on Pavlec to perform, but the Czech goaltender has performed admirably thus far.
Also surprising has been the relative quiet coming from Evander Kane, who was the subject of much speculation during last off-season. Kane was the focal point of trade rumours this summer that swirled like a prairie wind across Western Canada. He was rumoured to have been shopped to the Philadelphia Flyers, with several newspapers and websites reporting that the Jets and Flyers were very close to a deal that would have sent the 23 year-old left winger to Broad Street. Kane didn’t do much to help his cause later in the summer, when Kane responded to Blake Wheeler’s comments on the Jets’ need for Kane to step up and be a leader this season with a tweet that was at best a poorly timed joke. Kane’s production, or lack thereof, has been covered by Wheeler and Andrew Ladd, who are both tied for the team points lead with 23.
It will certainly be interesting to see what direction the Jets go in as the calendar turns to 2015. The team in Winnipeg is certainly young, and young teams are nothing if not unpredictable. A vast majority of the players on the Jets roster have never played in a Stanley Cup Playoff game. Notable exceptions include captain Andrew Ladd and forward/defenceman Dustin Byfuglien, who were both members of the Chicago Blackhawks Stanley Cup winning team in 2010. Blake Wheeler, one of the Jets’ two alternate captain this season, played on the U.S. Olympic team last year in Sochi. The team as a whole, however, has little big game experience, leading to this simple question: When the calendar turns to March, will the Jets be ready?
Time will tell if playoff hockey will make its’ first appearance in Winnipeg this season. One thing is certain, though: This will be one heck of a winter at Canada’s windiest intersection.