In advance of tonight's meeting between the Florida Panthers and the team formerly known as the Atlanta Thrashers, TJ Maughan of Arctic Ice Hockey was kind enough take a break from freezing and answer five questions I posed about our former divisional rivals, the middling Winnipeg Jets.
How are the Jets (and fans) adjusting to life as members of the Western Conference?
So far, not so well. This off-season, many fans felt that this would be the year that they would finally make the push for the playoffs as they joined the Central Division. Kevin Cheveldayoff's trade of a second round draft pick in 2014 seemed to echo that sentiment. Unfortunately, they haven't looked like a team that's even on the cusp, resembling more the bottom-dwelling Edmonton Oilers and Calgary Flames.
For fans, there is a lot of angst. Season ticket holders are paying some of the NHL's highest premiums to watch a team loaf around the ice night after night. And with teams like the Chicago Blackhawks, St. Louis Blues and Minnesota Wild who appear stocked with depth and prospects, it's apparent this will be a long, slow climb to success for this franchise.
Not to be negative, but as of right now, it looks like the Jets are going to miss the playoffs for a third straight season under Claude Noel. Are his days in Winnipeg numbered?
There are many critics and fans that are calling for the head of Claude Noel due to his lacklustre record since being named the team's first head coach after moving to Winnipeg. However, this management team doesn't strike me as being brash and erratic in their thought process. While Noel will be fired at some point -- or potentially not re-signed after his contract expires in 2014-15 -- I don't see them making a move at this point with the playoffs essentially out of reach regardless of a mid-season run. And though he has made some mind-numbing moves with his line-ups, it's difficult to fault him for all of Winnipeg's failures considering this roster features five (!) fourth liners and stinks.
How are first-rounders Mark Scheifele and Jacob Trouba progressing in their first full season with the Jets?
Both have played well -- predominantly Scheifele of late -- and are proving that Marcel Comeau hasn't been a complete abject failure on draft day. The sky is the limit for both players who have been seeing added time at even strength and on specialty teams, so we're all hopeful that they each continue trending upwards.
What did fans in Winnipeg think about the recent Gary Lawless "Atlanta Association" article?
Many were perplexed, seeing as he picked on players like Andrew Ladd, Blake Wheeler and Dustin Byfuglien all of whom spent minimal time with the Thrashers. Tim Bonnar is one of our writers at Arctic Ice Hockey and he wrote an excellent article that basically sums up our collective rebuttal here.
note: the original Gary Lawless article can be found here.
If the Panthers leave the MTS Centre with a win, what went wrong for the Jets?
To borrow a line from you Todd, not to be negative but everything would have gone wrong. The Jets would likely have been out-shot, out-physicaled and out-scored on the man-advantage. There is no excuse to lose to Florida, a team coming into a back-to-back situation on the road. But these are exactly the kind of games that the Jets are oh so good at losing. So, you're in luck!
LBC would like to thank TJ for his insightful answers regarding tonight's opponent. Make sure to check out today's game preview, and join us again for the GameThread, 30 minutes before puck drop.