Josh on the Jets: at season’s end

What needs to happen for the Jets to make a deep run, predictions and more

When looking up the Jets’ schedule online, occasionally, I inadvertently plunk in “Winnipeg Jest.” In years past, I would smile with cynical amusement and think to myself, “How fitting — this team is a jest.”

Moreover, in what proves that I spend too much time either watching or musing about the team, the first time I really paid attention to the lyrics of the song “Pale Blue Eyes” by the Velvet Underground, I thought, “Wow! This sounds like my relationship with the Jets!”

As the song goes, “Sometimes I feel so happy, sometimes I feel so sad, sometimes I feel so happy, but mostly, you just make me mad.”

Mostly you just make me mad, indeed. And yet, not this year. From a team whose only point of consistency used to be its inconsistency, the Jets are now performing well above expectations, having clinched a playoff spot weeks before the Stanley Cup playoffs begin on April 20.

This success goes against the thoughts of most NHL pundits, who projected the Jets would miss the playoffs. However, the team looks formidable, boasting four lines of scoring and the best goalie in the league. It also loaded up at the deadline and is, at the moment, blessed with good health.

The memory of the 2018 run to the conference finals is etched indelibly in the minds of Winnipeg’s faithful. But it may soon be usurped.

On the playoffs

Likely, the Jets’ first-round opponent will either be the Dallas Stars or the Colorado Avalanche, either at home or on the road.

Much remains undetermined. Nonetheless, should the Jets reach the conference finals, they would have to go through at least one of these two central division foes — even if Winnipeg finishes first in the division.

Both seem daunting. Colorado has immeasurable firepower and a proven track record while the Stars’ team is fundamentally sound and robust. Moreover, both are leading favourites to win the cup from the Western Conference.

All in all, either matchup would elicit extremely entertaining hockey, which is all one could hope for. Well, maybe one could hope that the Vegas Golden Knights are eliminated early, too.

To go deep, the Jets will need excellent goaltending, excellent defensive structure, discipline, timely goals from all over the lineup, and most importantly, they need to win the war of attrition.

Ironically, health is often an integral factor in reaching later rounds. Hopefully, the Jets will have it. If they do, I believe the team can fly to new heights.

Award predictions

Hart Memorial Trophy — awarded “to the player adjudged to be the most valuable to his team.” It must be Nathan MacKinnon. It’s his year.

Ted Lindsay Award — awarded “to the most outstanding player as voted by fellow” players. The wizard, Nikita Kucherov. Those one-touch passes on the PP are simply magic.

James Norris Memorial Trophy — awarded to the defenceman “who demonstrates […] the greatest all-round ability.” Quinn Hughes from Vancouver. He does it all: so quick, so deft, so well.

Vezina Trophy — awarded to “to the goaltender adjudged to be the best at his position.” Connor Hellebuyck. He is altogether indispensable and altogether impenetrable.

Art Ross Trophy — awarded to “the player who leads the League in […] points.” Once again, Connor McDavid. You know he’s going to.

Lady Byng Memorial Trophy — awarded to “the player adjudged to have exhibited the best type of sportsmanship and gentlemanly conduct combined with a high standard of playing ability.” Gustav Nyquist. An unlikely choice but he’s producing with low penalty minutes.

Frank J. Selke Trophy — awarded to “the forward who best excels in the defensive aspects of the game.” Patrice Bergeron’s gone, so it should be Alexander Barkov. The Panthers have been brilliant all year. Reward their captain.

Calder Memorial Trophy — awarded “to the player selected as the most proficient in his first year of competition.” It’s Connor Bedard, the budding superstar.