By: Mike "BCMike" Fraser
Edited By: Mike "The Deuce" Bailey
The title of this blog of course is a quote attributed to Winston Churchill, but it seems to fit nicely with what Jets fans have been going through in the first part of January. It also gives us wise guidance as we come off our first win in a long stretch of losses. Is this the start of the long journey back out of our hole? Or a rest stop on our way down the standings? Tonight’s game against New Jersey should be a sign of things to come.
There’ve been many blogs, columns and newspaper stories dedicated to the great month of December the Jets enjoyed - mostly at home and mostly injury free, so we won’t rehash that here. It’s easy to say though that the month of January started in almost the exact opposite direction and hasn’t gotten much better until last night’s somewhat surprising victory against the Ottawa Senators. In my opinion the slump started with a win against the Toronto Maple Leafs on New Year’s Eve that was more about what the Leafs did wrong than what the Jets did right (As was repeatedly pointed out to us by the HNIC broadcast crew). Both teams played a sloppy game, but more ominously the Jets seemed to play a different game that got away from the gritty hard work that allowed them to rise into eighth in the east. It was a signal of things to come as the Jets struggled to put together a solid 60 minutes of hockey on the road. Frustration led them even farther away from the Noelean game plan as they began to take untimely penalties leading to blown leads and missed opportunities to get back into games.
Just as the team looked like it might turn the bus around after a hard fought win in Buffalo, luck took another swipe at the Jets as the stomach flu ravaged its way through the dressing room. This caused a rotating door of game day scratches that where hastily filled in from the farm and again led to more losses.
So after bad play and bad luck what more could go wrong? Let’s talk about injuries. The Jets started their road campaign without one of their most valuable contributors; Dustin Byfuglien. The trend continued as Bryan Little got hurt, then Zach Bogosian and finally Blake Wheeler. All key contributors to the Jets scoring sheet, of which only Little has returned. The Jets were now faced with the prospect of playing one of the east’s hottest teams, the Ottawa Senators, with a depleted line up. The cold reality that the Jets might be in free fall began to descend on the faithful, and trade winds began to rise to hurricane force as fans debated the fate of their club. Yours truly, in a fit of rage and panic also succumbed to trade fever by floating outlandish trade ideas, only to be put in my place by my betters. Many like myself where hitting the panic button.
The Jets must have sensed the desperate state of affairs, because the players responded with what can only be characterized as one of the gutsiest performances of the year. The damaged crew went into the nation’s capital and played an almost perfect road game, holding the Senators to zero goals, a feat which has never been accomplished by any Jets team, new or old. Mechanics of the game aside, the Jets seemed to regain something that had eluded them in the first part of January and indeed through many parts of the season itself: team play. They played as a desperate unit, realizing that they would need all hands on deck to win. This is the mentality that can lead them to future success.
So will the Jets make it through to the other side and keep the wolves at bay until all of their weapons can return to the line up? We’ll see tonight against the Devils. If they maintain that team focus, mixed in with a little desperation and a full 60 minute effort then yes. If they let their foot off the gas and let old habits creep back in, then the Sens game was another rest stop on the way down an even darker hole.
The Jets desperately need to get this win under their belts tonight and return home as their closest rival, the Toronto Maple Leafs face a schedule against weak teams and have the opportunity to bury the Jets even farther down the standings. Either way as Jets fans we have no choice but to follow Churchill’s advice and keep going.