The Jets headed into the All-Star break on a high note, thumping the Arizona Coyotes 5-2. It was the most complete game we had seen from the Jets in weeks. It was the loudest the MTS Centre has been — maybe all year — and it put an end to the tragic month that saw the Jets only manage to muster a 5-6-1 record.
It's back to reality today, though, and back to work for the Jets who can't take their foot off the pedal for a minute without risking crashing right out of the playoff race for good this season. Winnipeg's game against Dallas is one of 12 Tuesday, in the first night of league action since the All-Star festivities.
Winnipeg is 22-24-3 for 47 points, nine points back of the Nashville Predators for the last wildcard spot and a full 20 points back on the Dallas Stars who are 31-14-5. Winnipeg has more than a mountain to climb but if we look at the last couple years there is a trend.
So you're saying there's a chance
Just because I like to be a glass half-full kind of person, let's for now say yes, there is a chance. In the last two full seasons a number of teams have climbed out of relegation and into a wildcard playoff spot following the All-Star break.
In 2014 the Toronto Maple Leafs were in the first wildcard spot in the Eastern Conference, tied with Montreal for the third spot in the Atlantic at the break and then they tanked. The Leafs went 7-14-2 in their last 23 games and it opened the door for the Columbus Blue Jackets who went 14-8-2 in their last 24 games and claimed a wildcard seed. In the West that same year, five teams were separated by four points. Dallas managed to win the footrace and edged out the Coyotes by two points for the last playoff spot.
Just last season two teams made improbable marches up the standings. Minnesota had been down seven points for the last wildcard spot. They added Devan Dubnyk for a third-round draft pick and he went on to post ridiculous numbers in the Wild's last 36 games. In 35 appearances Dubnyk won 25 games posted a .939 save percentage and had a goals against average of 1.72.
The Wild forced their way into a playoff spot while the San Jose Sharks - who were the second seed in the Pacific and had been 10 points up on Minnesota at the All-Star break - fell completely out of the playoffs. In the East it was a similar story with the Ottawa Senators. With 47 points in 46 games, Ottawa was a full 10 points back on the Boston Bruins. A solid post break run had them in the first wild card seed and three points ahead of Boston.
As the injuries continue to mount, bench boss Paul Maurice has continued to have to juggle his lines. Last home game we saw what could be the future first line for the Jets franchise. Mark Scheifele centring star winger Blake Wheeler and the dynamic Dane Nikolaj Ehlers on the other side.
Ehlers had been heating up the last few weeks before that trio got together, but when those three speedy, skilled offensive minded skaters clicked, it sparked. Ehlers not only had his first multiple point night, but his first career hat trick, and they were good looking fun to watch goals. We'll need that trio to stay hot if we have any hope of mounting some sort of spring offensive.
Blake Wheeler has been leading this club all season long. He has more assists than almost every other player on the roster has points (Bryan Little has 38 points). Wheeler's 13 goals and 35 assists has him seventh overall in scoring in the league. He was somehow passed up on the NHL All-Star rosters the first go around and then when it was announced Chicago centre Jonathan Toews would miss the All-Star festivities due to an illness, it was Wheeler who opted not to go.
With his new found linemates and maybe even a post All-Star chip on his shoulder, it would be great to see Wheeler continue wheelin' and thrust this team up in the standings.
Make or break time on Andrew Ladd front
We are now just under a month to the NHL trade deadline. With no conclusion in sight between management and captain Andrew Ladd for a new long term contract extension, time is ticking on any potential deal.
Fifth in team scoring, with three more points than Scheifele and Drew Stafford, Ladd continues to be an important piece of this club, but it hasn't been his best year and the questions surrounding his status and value are many. Is this season's dip in production a blip due just to his offseason surgery? Will he get back to his level of production in this second half of the season? What is his contract value to this team in the next two-three years and does that drop off at the end of any six year or longer deal? If he gets to free agency this summer, what would another team give him on the open market?
Lots for a GM to think about and only 12 more games before the trade deadline
Jets fans know well the deal that sent away troubled ill fitting forward Evander Kane to the Buffalo Sabres. A similar deal that Winnipeg fans might not think about often is the one that landed Tyler Seguin in Dallas just a few years ago. With one, 29 goal and 67 point season under his belt, rumours were abound about the then 19-year-old Seguin in Boston. A few issues later Bruins management decided that they had enough and packaged him off to Dallas.
Now halfway through his third season in Dallas, Seguin, with 25 goals and 53 points is third in the NHL points race. Just ahead of him is his linemate Jamie Benn with 28 goals and 58 points. Benn hadn't had one season with more than 30 goals until Seguin landed on his line in Dallas. Their first year together Benn had 34 goals, 35 last year and Benn is on pace this year for 45 goals and 95 points.
Seguin too, is on pace for a career year. It was a deal that helped build what the Dallas Stars are this year, currently the third best team in the league.