It’s the third seasons since the Winnipeg Jets were born from the ashes of the Atlanta Thrashers. Heading into Saturday, Jets 2.0 has gone 75-69-17 – over .500, bolstered by their stay in the Southeast Division, but not a playoff team.
They likely won’t be again this season, barring a torrid run or some Western Conference collapses. The Jets have 30 points in 30 games, 10 points behind third-seeded Colorado in the Central and seven points away from the final wild card spot.
All of this has Winnipeg Free Press columnist Gary Lawless thinking: What is fundamentally wrong about this franchise?
His determination: The Atlanta Association, a core of five players who form the core of an underachieving (in his estimation) team.
Andrew Ladd, Blake Wheeler, Bryan Little, Toby Enstrom and Dustin Byfuglien: Is the core the problem?
Don't tell me Ladd can't see the difference in the work ethic and will to win between this group and those he won Stanley Cups with in Carolina and Chicago. Ladd is both perceptive and a player, who for the most part, personifies the characteristics required to win. He works hard at practice, goes to the tough areas on the ice and is willing to put his body into the action. Maybe he has his off nights, but if the Jets had 10 Andrew Ladds they'd be a playoff team.
And I don't think Ladd is a bad captain. But I have to question whether he's the right man for this situation. Ladd isn't the problem. But he hasn't been able to effect a solution. Given a couple of veterans who could demand respect in the room and push for change, Ladd might succeed.
But his support group isn't helping him. They don't have the personalities for it and it's not going to change. Good people? Sure. But leaders? The type to stand up and tell his best friend he's not getting it done? Nope.
Oh, and this line on Blake Wheeler:
This year, it's Wheeler playing like a point guard and firing up one three-pointer after another. The crease? That's something in Wheeler's pants, not an area on the ice with which he's familiar.
But doesn’t this problem speak to the overall clubby atmosphere of the Jets under GM Kevin Cheveldayoff? The core from Atlanta – and kudos to Lawless for not making this another reason to publish an Evander Kane hit piece in the Winnipeg press – has made it through two non-playoff years in Winnipeg and more back in Atlanta.
We’re still waiting for the first bold, roster redefining move from Cheveldayoff, who has been living the same honeymoon as his comfortable players.
This franchise obviously needs something to push it over the top, and especially now in an exponentially tougher division and conference. Essentially, Lawless is right: The core might be the issue. But they’re not breaking themselves up.