Where They Stand: Winnipeg Jets

Record: 26-14-8

Ranking: 10th overall

The Winnipeg Jets are hands down Canada’s most improved team over last season.  Sure, the Calgary Flames and Vancouver Canucks have turned their franchises around and currently hold playoff positions in the Western Conference, but only the New York Islanders improved more since 2013-2014 (a +22 point differential) than the Jets.

Last season, the Jets had 45 points at the 48 game mark.  This season, they have 60.  That is a 15 point improvement in the standings.  They entered the All Star break on a 5 game winning streak, and have earned at least a point in their last 7 games against tough competition including the LA Kings, Anaheim Ducks and Chicago Blackhawks.

What’s better, is that the Jets have been successful despite a number of key injuries so far.

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Notable Injuries

The Jets’ biggest obstacle this season has been injuries to important players.  At one point in December, the team was without Evander Kane, Toby Enstrom, Zach Bogosian, Jacob Trouba and Mark Stuart.  Thanks to the leadership of captain Andrew Ladd, and other players like Bryan Little, Blake Wheeler and Dustin Byfuglian, the team continued to eke out wins in their absence; Byfuglian notably switched from forward to defense to cover for Trouba, the team’s stalwart defenseman.

Now the team is healthy.  Kane returned to the lineup in January, as did Enstrom and Bogosian.  Stuart returned from injury only to miss the final game before the break.  Jacob Trouba was back in the lineup for the team’s final game before All Star weekend, a 4-0 win against the Columbus Blue Jackets; posing the question, does Byfuglian return to offense or stay on d where he really shined?

Moving Forward

The Jets have not made a playoff appearance since 2006-2007, a 7 season drought dating back to their days as the Atlanta Thrashers.  Regardless of the team’s high standing this season, they still have an uphill battle if they want to make the playoffs.

The move to the Western Conference has been difficult and the Jets find themselves in the competitive Central Division; one that includes  the Chicago Blackhawks, St. Louis Blues and the upstart Nashville Predators who are ranked 2nd in the NHL. Because of the powerhouse teams ahead of them, the Jets find themselves not in a solid playoff position bu in the first Western Conference Wild Card spot.  However, they are only 5 points back of the division-leading Predators and 2 points back of the Blues and Blackhawks who hold the other playoff spots from their division.

The Jets return from the break with road games against the Pittsburgh Penguins and Philadelphia Flyers on January 27th and 29th respectively. They then return home to MTS Centre for a game against division rivals, the Dallas Stars, before heading back on the road.

It won’t be easy but if the team stays healthy and continues to play to their strengths, as they did against Columbus with a strong start and solid defense, the team might well be on their way to the playoffs in 2014-2015.

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