An optimist's guide to making the playoffs: Jets edition
5 reasons Winnipeg fans can maybe stay positive about team's playoff hopes
Thanks to a 2-1 loss to the Carolina Hurricanes on Tuesday night, the Winnipeg Jets remain nine points back of the playoff line in the Western Conference.
Look, things aren't great right now. Please try to stay positive.
It's not going to be easy. There are five teams between the club and the Western Conference playoff line, and Winnipeg (25-28-3, 53 points) only has 26 games left in the season. In flight parlance, the Jets are running out of runway to take off.
If you don't agree with "the tank" — the idea of a team deliberately losing games to better its draft position in June —then good for you. Wins are more fun, right?
What's tough right now is ignoring the reality of the current situation and focusing on keeping your glass half-full. Maybe this will help.
With tongues planted firmly in cheeks, let's go over the 2016 Optimist's Guide to Making the Playoffs: Winnipeg Jets Edition.
1. The distractions are melting away
A compelling narrative to the Jets' woeful effort this season has been the off-ice business of Dustin Byfuglien and Andrew Ladd. Outsiders will never fully understand if the distraction of those individual contract situations morphed into erratic play from the collective group, but the premise has served as a rather convenient excuse.
Closure is at hand, though.
Byfuglien has decided to stay. Management has suggested Ladd's status will be determined by the end of he month —either through a trade or a contract extension.
Once that happens, everyone will be relaxed and able to focus on hockey and winning hockey games again. No doubt.
2. Ondrej Pavelec, Part II
The Jets will need a hot goaltender to push them over the top of the line that separates eighth and ninth place, so we call Mr. Pavelec to the stage.
You remember him, right? He led the Jets to an improbable playoff push a year ago, going 9-2-1 in his last 12 starts with four shutouts and a .951 save percentage. At one point, he rattled off three straight goose eggs to give the franchise its first playoff berth since the 2006-07 season.
Yes, the seven-year veteran flamed out in the post-season (0-4 with a .892 save percentage), but do not let that deter you from pinning your hopes on him this season.
Instead, take solace in the inconsistency. Embrace it. The upswing is always right around the corner.
3. Bad Company
Good news for those holding on to playoff dreams: the Jets are keeping some rather dubious company, as not one of the handful of teams ahead of Winnipeg has shown any interest in separating themselves from the pack.
It's like they are begging the Jets to jump over them!
Look at this sad-sack bunch:
Both Nashville and Colorado, holding the wildcard spots with 62 points, have just two wins in their last seven games. Arizona (58 points) has two wins in its last eight.
Minnesota (58 points) just snapped an eight-game losing streak and fired its head coach. Vancouver (56 points) is drowning in the Pacific with three wins in its last 10 games and Calgary barely deserves a mention.
What a sorry group of teams.
Why are the Jets hanging around with these losers?
Don't answer that.
4. Ignore the forecasts
This is Manitoba. Things are unpredictable. You know what they say: wait five minutes and the weather will change.
Using that maxim as the framework of our optimism, who cares what the number crunchers are saying about the odds of the Jets making the playoffs?
Who cares that popular playoff projection website Sports Club Stats (sportsclubstats.com) gives Winnipeg a 4.8 per cent chance of qualifying for the post-season?
They still have to play the games. Anything is possible.
Besides, you've never looked at numbers or statistics before throwing allegiance behind the veteran starter in the Jets net, so why start doing that now?
5. Finally, complete this sentence: "Winnipeg will make the playoffs if…"
- A half-dozen of the 11 teams ahead of the Jets in the conference are caught cheating and penalized by having their season wiped from the standings.
- The Jets snap off a 20-game winning streak. Why stop there? Make it a 26-game winning streak. Run the table.
- Aliens invade Earth and are so taken by hockey that they demand all 30 clubs qualify for the NHL playoffs. Commissioner Gary Bettman later reveals that plans were already in the works to introduce this format change next year, to ensure Canadian teams get in.