Coming out of the all-star holiday, the talk was about hitting the reset button on the final 33 games to grab some instant momentum towards a playoff push.
Flip the switch.
However you want to label the 'fresh start' that comes out of an extended break, the goal remains the same for the Winnipeg Jets: grab as many points as they possibly can (win games) over the next couple weeks and then re-evaluate the situation. And then, depending on where things are at in the standings, make the tough decisions that probably should have been made months ago.
Either way, February promises to be an interesting month.
Let's get right down to it: Winnipeg dropped a 5-3 decision to the Dallas Stars at MTS Centre Tuesday night. The club holds 22-25-3 record for a total of 47 points. That puts them nine back of a playoff spot, chasing Nashville for the second wildcard invite in the Western Conference. On the way up this incredibly steep slope are three other clubs between the Jets and playoff pay dirt, not to mention those directly behind Winnipeg.
With 33 games—uh-oh, make that 32 now—left the Jets can afford somewhere in the neighbourhood of 8-9 regulation losses to have a chance at a playoff spot. Winnipeg is on pace for 77 points this season; they'll probably need between 99-95 points to get into the conversation.
Rather than look at the entirety of the remaining schedule, though, narrow the focus to just what the Jets have left to the end of February—when the NHL trade deadline arrives.
Winnipeg has 11 games through the rest of the month, with only three of those coming on home ice. The Jets only have nine wins in 25 road games to this point, so the degree of difficulty increases substantially for a team in desperate need of victories.
Forget about trying to forecast what the record needs to be over those 11 games for the Jets to stand pat (or add pieces) at the deadline towards a March playoff push. One figures Winnipeg will need to be fairly close, say a couple wins back at the minimum, to not be sellers at the deadline.
Is that close enough for the organization to hold onto guys like Andrew Ladd and Dustin Byfuglien through the deadline if they remained unsigned? That's the multi-million dollar question around these parts.
Let's take a wide-angle view of this team for a second.
The Jets have been unable to generate any momentum through the course of the season, as poor defensive play, poor special teams, poor discipline, poor management decisions and overall poor execution on the ice has crippled any chance this team has make any noise with the heavyweights in the division and in the conference.
Is holding onto Ladd and Byfuglien—and the risk of losing them to unrestricted free agency this summer—worth all the sleepness nights when the club gets swept in the first round, if a playoff berth miraculously finds this team?
The real reset to this season, the much-needed re-boot mentioned off the top, will hopefully come in the days leading up to the deadline, when assets like Ladd and Byfuglien (should the team and player not find agreements) are moved out for lottery tickets—in the form of draft picks or young prospects.
Tuesday's loss to the Stars carried an aura of reality to it.
The chatter of social media had the feel of acceptance, like people are starting finally to understand that Winnipeg's road to the post season, littered with deep potholes of the club's own doing, could still be under construction by the time spring arrives.
It might be time to press that reset button now—before Ladd and/or Byfuglien get seriously hurt or suffer a nagging injury that lowers any trade value.
And then flip that switch again.
This time, turn out the lights on this season and try again next year.