The Jets and the (lack of) pressure
No pressure, no diamonds, right?
Once the Winnipeg Jets finish up the disappointing 2015-16 regular season in Los Angeles on Saturday, the conversation will switch to the summer.
What changes will be made? Is the coaching staff safe?
Picking through the embers of this NHL season, it's easy to see where the off-season pressures are for the non-playoff Canadian teams heading into the break. Not so much in Winnipeg, though.
Out in Vancouver, management will see an urgency to accelerate a rebuild thanks to a series of convoluted messages about direction and an impatient owner. This will only be the second time in eight years they've missed the playoffs, by the way.
Calgary was expected to make the playoffs this season and head coach Bob Hartley is on the hot seat. Edmonton has a decade of missing the playoffs and with a new building there will be pressure to put together a better roster this summer.
Montreal got a free pass via the injury to Carey Price, but expect an increased level of heat on the club to make some changes. Missing the playoffs doesn't fly there. Ottawa can expect a few changes, too, with the future of coach Dave Cameron receiving most of the attention these days.
Only Toronto will operate under a stress-free environment, as years of empty promises and a stated teardown/rebuild have bought the current management group at least a couple more seasons.
What about the Jets?
What pressures are on the team this summer?
Well, there might be some heavy traffic on the way to the lake. That could qualify as pressure, one supposes. Some personal bests on the golf course could bring some anxiety, too.
It's been five years, one playoff appearance and no playoff wins. Despite the messages coming out through various channels around the club, it says here there has to be some extra weight on a few of the players, coaches and even the general manager to ensure a repeat of this season doesn't happen again.
Whether that comes true or not — the occurrence of pressure on this group, not the potential for an on-ice turnaround — remains to be seen.
Pressure to win? Probably not next season. Head coach Paul Maurice has stated there is a good chance the Jets, who beat San Jose 5-4 late Thursday night, will be even younger, and if that's the case and no significant changes are made during the summer, then get ready for another long winter.
It's been an expressed opinion in this space that the Jets operate in a vacuum, free of any pressure to win, thanks largely in part to a sold-out MTS Centre (those multi-year season ticket agreements provide an anxiety-free environment) throughout the last five seasons.
That doesn't mean there is a total acceptance of what's been going on through this second rebuild or reboot or whatever the club is reframing this drop down to the bottom of the NHL standings as. The local secondary ticket market dried up significantly this year — a sign that a) folks simply aren't interested in watching a losing club go through the motions and b) some are unhappy with where this team is at after five years of evaluation and process.
Does this misery qualify as an outside pressure to win?
Most would say no, pointing to the reality that most fans will continue to watch. Others will point to how there's next to no media pressure on the current operation and how, despite the microscope that's associated with Canada and the NHL, Winnipeg is a pretty easy place to play.
Defenders of the Jets brand are quick to mention the pressure a coach, player and the organization as a whole puts on themselves and how this internal desire to win will eventually propel the club forward. On the surface, that's an easy buy. You don't get to these lofty hockey and business levels without significant drive and determination.
Unfortunately, this intangible has yet to translate into any on-ice success for the Jets. And after five seasons in a results-based environment like professional hockey, there is no sugarcoating that lack of success.
In the end, nothing will change. This is simply a piece questioning why there aren't more questions being asked about what's been going on the last five seasons.
No pressure, no diamonds, right?
Maybe a hot seat or two will help ramp up the urgency to win while the club continues to put together a solid blueprint for the future. Contrary to popular belief around these parts, the two are not mutually exclusive.