Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Run Through the Jungle

Last week after the Tampa game, I stuck my neck out a little by going on Twitter to proclaim that the Jets were about to turn it around. There was no real magic in that proclamation, the jets appeared to have gotten their collective act together in the defensive zone and really in my opinion that was the only piece that was missing. They’ve rarely had trouble scoring, and Pavelac has been solid in net. So for once in my life I can stand up on my soap box and say I told you so (that almost never happens), although I do it with some fear and trepidation going forward.

Now I know what you’re thinking, trepidation? Fear? These guys are in the middle of a win streak, and not just any win streak, they’ve knocked off Tampa, Washington, and Philly. Why worry? Well reader as always you’re right,  there seems to be a new work ethic, but there’s still something lingering, something I can’t quite put my finger on that s giving me that feeling in my gut. One could make the argument that these guys needed time to settle in and get a feel for playing together and I can buy into that, but there still seems to be a willingness to take chances that I find both entertaining and alarming. These guys are going to have to figure out how to take those gambles to the edge of the envelope without getting burned and they’re going to have to do it under fire in the next few games.

What lies ahead of the Jets now is like a patrol into the territory of a desperate enemy. The Jets will be embarking on a three game road trip that is sure to test their mettle as a group. The first stop will be a besieged Washington team who will be playing in some form of desperation as Ovi continues to try and break his drought, while Boudreau holds on with his finger nails to maintain control of his meandering club. These guys are just 20 games in and their back is against the wall with no more rabbits to pull out of a hat. They’ll see Winnipeg as chance to get a streak going and regain some lost confidence. Look for Ovi and others to play the Jets hard, and physical. If the Jest can pull out of Washington with a win it will be a significant, but probably costly victory. One thing I think we can bank on; there will be more fight in this Capitals team than what we saw in Winnipeg.

There are a few underachieving teams in the NHL that are ready to push the panic button all the way up into the executive level of the organization and one of these teams is the Canes. If the Jets survive the initial firefight that is going to be the caps, the Carolina Hurricanes will surely be another ambush along the trail. The Canes will either bring it, or implode, with the consequences of implosion being big time changes in the organization. My bet is they will bring an A-game and the Jets will be hard pressed for a win on the road. If the Jets walk out of Carolina on a five game winning streak I will be the happiest Jets blogger on the planet, but I’m not betting my mortgage on it.

After the first two battles, a wall stands in front of the Jets on their way home, in the form of the Boston Bruins.  These bruisers are riding high after a shaky start while still recovering from their Stanley Cup hangover. They’re now on a roll and eating teams for breakfast in the east. This will be a game to watch as the Jets will either be looking to save a road trip or extend a winning streak, and we all know that the blue collar Jets are not going to take any physical BS from the bees.

So the Jets face a journey into darkness on what could be one of the roughest (albeit thankfully short) road trips of the year.  The first two teams they face are backed into a corner in more ways than one and winning is the only way out. If the Jets can hunker down and play a disciplined set of road games, focussing on not making mistakes in their own end, they may just get out alive. The Jets will also need to learn how to play with a lead and avoid their classic third period implosion.  I still think the Jets are better than their record and they certainly will have a chance to prove it on their tour of duty in the eastern seaboard. If they can come away with at least one win it will be a victory, if they walk out with two wins look for this team to go on a tear, if they come out winning every game, we may have something special on our hands. Here’s hoping they make a run through the jungle.

The Kid is Back!

This edition of Lucky 7 wouldn’t be complete without spilling some ink about the return of Sidney Crosby. Back in August I wrote about Sids situation: (http://www.lucky7hockey.com/2011/08/crosby.html) and made the prediction that pressure from the NHL, et all might force him back too early. Thankfully I was wrong and Sid made an amazing comeback last night getting four points in his first game. Questions still linger though. Will players back off? Will referees pay special attention to #87? And most of all will it happen again?

I think almost everyone in the league must realize that they owe a portion of their paycheque to generational players like Crosby, so I’m thinking Sid will be handled with kid gloves in the short term, but what happens when the playoffs start? Will the special treatment stop? The temptation of going for the Stanley Cup may bring out the worst in some, and the needs of the few may start to outweigh the needs of the many. I’m hoping not, because if Sid gets rocked again, that’s it, game over, not only for Sid but in a very real sense for everyone that loves watching hockey.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011


This blog entry is a day late and a dollar short. I was going to open my rambling with a short paragraph on how the Jets where stinkin it up, but of course they had to go and ruin it with a hard effort and a five to two victory over the Bolts. It was a marked departure from the five game skid that seen them hit rock bottom, losing to the worst in the league Columbus Blue Jackets. The recent winless streak was the first valley in what's sure to be a season of ups and downs for this new club and it’s had an interesting effect on the faithful.  A faction of fans have caught a common bug that is seen throughout the NHL; Schizofania.

The NHL owners in their infinite greed, uhhh… I mean wisdom have seen fit to give us an 83 game season over the course of which even the best teams in the league will simply suck at some point, this is the prime infection vector for Schizofania. When a team starts to notch L’s and flies down the standings, invested fans will almost always want answers. When the answers from coaches, players and GM’s start to wear thin, potential victims start making up their own remedies, leaving themselves unwittingly vulnerable to schizofanic tendancies.  This disease usually starts with trade talk. A player will be singled out and the schizofanic victim will invariably claim that if management would simply ship said player out, the home team would suddenly be Stanley cup bound. Of course the questions of trading with whom and for what, get conveniently pushed aside. Depending on who you talk to, during this particular outbreak said player was Dustin Byfuglien.  No one can dispute the fact that Byfuglien has been a defensive liability, but he is what he is. He’ll roam and get burned or he’ll roam and blast one in, that is the nature of his game. In good times we’ll only see the wicked point shot or the wrister in open ice created from the pinch and in bad times we’ll only see the two on ones.  With all of his faults though, Byfuglien, to me looks better in a Jets jersey than in the colours of a divisional rival. Defensive responsibility can be coached, size and scoring touch not so much.

If Schizofania is left to fester too long and the losing streak continues, stage two symptoms can become apparent. In stage two the fan will start to slowly grumble about coaching as trade talk is no longer satiating the need to express the victim’s frustration. In the early stages, commentary may revolve around an assistant but as the disease progresses there will be calls to replace the coach. The victim at this point has moved from the delusion of the perfect trade and on to the “If you can’t replace the players, replace the coach” Philosophy.  Even non shcizofanics may be tempted to jump on this bandwagon from time time. Full blown stage two will see phrases like “he’s losing control” and “they won’t play for him anymore” tossed around. Luckily for Noel the losing streak stopped in the early part of this stage because if that talk gets out of control and the media starts to buy in, it’s time to dust off the resume. In the totality of the situation I can’t really fault Noel much, although I do think he resorts to the stick over the carrot more than he should. It’s also still a bit of mystery to me why Kane is benched for long periods of time when the Jets seem to need all the offensive ability they can get. But don't listen to me, it's just the stage two talking.

Stage three is dark days. The Schizofanic can unmercifully linger at stage one & two almost indefinitely as organizations roll through coaches, players and finally GM’s looking for that perfect mix. However, if the losing streak is severe enough or the playoff drought reaches into a decade, the dreaded stage three can manifest itself in terrible ways. Basically this is when the faithful begin to lose faith. We are seeing this happen in Dallas and Columbus right now, and who can ever forget that it was stage three Schizofania in Atlanta that delivered us our Jets. Fortunately for Jets fans, the drought has neither been long nor severe (with a few losses still netting us a point), remission will probably occur after a couple of wins. You’ll know when it’s happening as the recovering victim will go into a manic stage where parade routes will be planned and the president’s trophy will be handed out in advance, forgoing the formality of actually winning it. All sins will be forgiven and the remarkable systems of coach Noel will be hailed as revolutionary, along with the amazing play of Dustin Byfuglien.

The best thing about an outbreak of Schizofania though, is the means of its infection. If you have schizofania or know someone who has it, it’s a wonderful thing.  It means that the NHL is playing in your city and your living and dying with your very own team. There is no more surrogate city, no more following from a far with fans you don’t know. Your team is back, so I say let the schizofania spread like wildfire. Just remember to never let yourself fall into stage three, because you might just find that the cure is worse than the disease. 

Monday, November 7, 2011

Are you kidding me?

I recently read an opinion piece by Sportsnet contributor Michael Gardner that had me questioning my faith in humanity. Now I know the old adage; no one ever went broke betting on the stupidity of the human race, but really I thought people hired to professionally write for a major sports network might be somewhat above that. Apparently I was wrong. On the Halloween instalment of Fan Fuel, which you can read here: http://www.sportsnet.ca/hockey/2011/10/31/fanfuel_jets_staying_power/  there is so much anti Winnipeg sentiment and Toronto cheerleading it really does make me question how something like this would get past any reasonably paid editor or fact checker.

Mr Gardners article is basically an attempt to breathe some life into the same old tired story that the Toronto based brain trust of writers loved to put out last winter. How can the lowly Oliver Twist of Canadian cities, Winnipeg possibly afford to join our exclusive NHL club? How would it ever be possible for them to compete with the shining light at the centre of the universe that is Toronto? Of course as we all know Winnipegers earned their place in the NHL club and they did it with a certain style and form that is not regularly seen in the NHL. So now Mr Gardner writes; Oh but how will the poor downtrodden unwashed hockey fans of Winnipeg ever stay in our club, it must be a temporary solution at best, merely a placeholder for when the team can move east to the glowing paragon of opportunity that is southern Ontario.

Are you kidding me?

In his article Mr Gardner also dredges up the old Gretzkian argument of no corporate support. Really? I thought we put that to bed when corporations started to line up and go on waiting lists to buy suites at six figures a year.  But wait Mr Gardner cautions, US lawmakers may pass tax legislation barring “entertainment as an inducement”, surely now corporations will flee from Winnipeg like a Wall Street protester from a riot cop. Whatever will Winnipeg do?

Again, are you kidding me?

First of all Mr. Gardner needs to figure out just what legislation he is talking about because from what I ‘ve seen any mention of barring entertainment induced tax write offs is fringe at best. I mean really has Mr. Gardner ever done business in the US? The whole corporate machine is greased with entertainment induced tax write offs. There is no way that anyone who has benefited from a night out on the corporate expense account (which is almost anyone in business or politics) is ever going to support such a measure. Even if, by some puritanical miracle, legislation that forbade using a hockey ticket as corporate write off became illegal would that wipe out the fan base over night? Oh wait in Toronto it might.  Of course this is all complete hogwash because Mr. Gardner cannot fathom the fact that US law has no jurisdiction in Canada, and yes I am quite certain that CRA will never pass a measure that outlaws giving away a hockey ticket to a client and writing it off. If that ever happens we might as well move because that place isn’t Canada anymore.

Mr. Gardner, as he copies and pastes his article from the year 2010, also dusts off the old naysayer standby of ticket price. It seems unthinkable to him that 15,000 people in Winnipeg could possibly be in good enough financial standing to afford an NHL hockey ticket 41 times a year. Again the 8000 on the waiting list for the next five years may have an argument against that. The simple fact of the matter is that Winnipeg has succeeded beyond expectations, why is that so terribly hard for the eastern Canadian elitists to accept?

I’ve spent a lot of this blog refuting Mr. Gardener’s ridiculous column, but what really sticks in my craw is why are these pieces still being written? That is the real core issue that has me so incensed. Is there a secret cabal of anti Winnipeg conspirators that pulls the levers of power and forces media types to write this stuff? Do they secretly meet in a star chamber somewhere and plot the downfall of the Winnipeg Jets? I really don’t understand how Winnipeg back in the NHL is threatening to anyone, but somehow somewhere it must be. Does it somehow rattle the owners in New York, Chicago and LA when they have to put Winnipeg on the marquee? Or is it that allowing Winnipeg back into the league somehow invalidates the great southern experiment?

In any event I would like to reassure Mr. Gardner that “entertainment as an inducement” tax laws will remain as they always have, Winnipeg does indeed have an abundance of corporate support, and there are more than enough fans that can afford NHL ticket prices. Please Mr. Gardner sleep easy knowing that the freshly poured, deep foundation of the Winnipeg Jets has absoloutly no cracks in it. Now can we say the same thing about Phoenix, New Jersey, Dallas, and the Islanders?