Things to watch for in the final 12 games of the season

By: Adam Wazny | Sunday, March 31

Carolina Hurricanes' Jeff Skinner (53) attempts the wrap around on Winnipeg Jets goaltender Ondrej Pavelec (31) as Bryan Little (18) looks on during third period NHL action in Winnipeg on Saturday, March 30, 2013. John Woods/The Canadian Press

1. Three-quarters of the season is in the books, folks. Where does all the time go? The concern for the Southeast division-leading Jets (18-16-2) down the stretch: they have 12 games left, while Carolina, who skated out of Winnipeg with a 3-1 win Saturday afternoon, has 15 to play. Despite the math, the Jets still appear to be in the driver's seat, though. Given the inability of the division members to string any consistency this season, a .500 record the rest of the way should be enough put them into the post season. Can they manage that? Depends how you feel about the play through the first 36 games. Good news: Three of the remaining 12 games are against playoff teams (two versus Montreal, one against the New York Rangers). The Hurricanes (16-15-2), meanwhile, still have dates with Pittsburgh (2), two against Boston (2), and one against Montreal. What does it all mean? The Jets aren't a very good team, but they have shown to be a bit better than their Southeast brothers at this juncture. Yes, schedule watching has never been so much fun.

2. Keeping on this thought, the key stretch in the last 12 for Winnipeg is a six-game home stand Apr. 6-20, all against teams currently below the playoff line. Sounds good, right? Well, hold your horses. Surprisingly, the Jets are only 8-9 at MTS Centre this season -- a record that's generous when measured against the quality of play they've put forth. Wins in downtown Winnipeg are no longer a given; why have the Jets turned into a question mark at home? That's the big riddle for the coaching staff. They better solve it before it's too late.

3. It's difficult to imagine Kevin Cheveldayoff as a buyer when the NHL trade deadline rolls around Wednesday. The Jets general manager is looking for a Top 6 forward, preferably a right-winger who can score, and preferably with a year or two left on his current deal. Good luck getting that without giving up a key piece of the current roster. The Jets may be sellers, though, with pending unrestricted free agents Ron Hainsey and Nik Antropov carrying the most value. The club is in a playoff battle, though, so it seems unlikely these players will be moved. But if they are, and these names are dealt at the deadline without sufficient replacements to help with the playoff push, Winnipeg's final 12 -- specifically the response from the remaining roster -- will be something to keep tabs on.

4. Look, with seven goals and 11 points in 36 games, the Olli Jokinen experience hasn't worked out -- at least not for the $4.5-million ticket this season. And it's not like he hasn't been handed an opportunity to do so, either. Jokinen is fifth among Jets forwards in ice time per game (17:33) and sees time on the power play. Plus/minus is a debatable stat, so take it with a grain of salt, but the 34-year-old held a team-worst -18 rating -- which was 777th overall in the NHL -- coming into Saturday's action. Only Florida defenceman Brian Campbell was lower (-19). All is not lost, however. Jokinen has 12 games to erase what has been a disastrous year by providing some semi-regular secondary scoring. That would be welcome.

5. Andrew Ladd willed his club into a favourable position, but is there any gas left in the tank? The Jets captain hasn't scored in nine games and appears to be running out of steam as the season winds down. He's gone three games without a point, too, which is something that hasn't happened all season. Ladd and linemates (Blake Wheeler and Bryan Little) had moments in Saturday's loss to Carolina, but they need to find the score sheet for their team to have a chance every night. If they drop off even slightly, as they have lately, the Jets will struggle. 


Adam Wazny is a Winnipeg-based freelance writer who has covered sports in the city for over a decade. He has worked as a reporter for both the Winnipeg Free Press and the Winnipeg Sun, and now spends most of his time checking his Twitter. Did someone say Twitter? Find him here: @wazoowazny.

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