© Geoff Brookes
It might seem rash to say that game 7 of an 82 game season is a “must win”, after a 3-3 start. But here’s why tonight’s home game versus the Minnesota Wild is critical for the 2017-2018 Winnipeg Jets:
- Truthfully, it’s been a brutal start despite a 3-3 record that flatters the Jets. I have previously written on this blog that this is the year that the Winnipeg Jets should – and must – break-out as a contender. If the Jets fail to make the playoffs, or limp in as the 8th seed, it will be a failure, after 6 previous years of draft and development. Many hockey commentators have said publicly that this team has the talent to make it happen. If you can’t draft and develop a playoff team after 6 years, there is something wrong with the picture. (As an aside, a .500 record won’t make the playoffs).
- Tonight’s game needs to be a bounce back game after a dismal performance versus Columbus. Minnesota is widely regarded as a good team. Dismal performances in consecutive performances against upper echelon teams would call into question the Jets ability to compete.
- In the near term, the Jets have a tough schedule, with lots of road games, after tonight.
- The Jets best players have to be their best players. In my opinion, both Blake Wheeler and Bryan Little had poor games on Tuesday night. If they have two stinkers in a row, it begs the question “Are they still great hockey players?” If players like Wheeler and Little aren’t getting it done, the younger players will find it difficult to replace the consistency that those veterans have displayed in the past.
- The Wild are a team that the Jets will be competing against, for a western conference playoff spot.
- If the Jets can’t deliver a playoff-calibre performance tonight, it will call into question whether or not they have a game plan that optimizes their talent (like Paul LaPolice and the Winnipeg Blue Bomber offence, tailored to Matt Nichols), or whether the coaches are able to get the players ready to implement the game plan.
- If Hellebuyck can have 4 consecutive good starts in net, it will show that the Jets may have finally found their consistently effective goalie. If he doesn’t have another strong game, it calls into question the consistency of this essential aspect of any successful hockey team.
You can analyze the strategies and tactics forever. The reality is that the Winnipeg Jets have not had a good start to this season. The time for winning is “now” – as consistently stated by Mark Chipman, Kevin Cheveldayoff, Paul Maurice, and players such as Blake Wheeler and Mark Scheifele.
If the Jets can’t show their “A game” tonight, at home versus a divisional rival, after a dreadful loss on Tuesday, then it really calls into question whether there is a missing element in the composition of this organization.
The entire organization needs a solid, playoff performance, and a win, tonight. Make it so.