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This article was published 17/11/2021 (191 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Just like Rodney Dangerfield, it appears the Winnipeg Jets aren't getting any respect.
How else to explain the latest edition of the ESPN power rankings, released Wednesday, which have them just 20th-overall in the NHL. This, despite a 9-3-3 record which has vaulted them into first place in the Central Division, including 9-1-2 in the past dozen contests. They're also coming off a dominating 5-2 victory over Edmonton on Tuesday night — the team the U.S. broadcast rightsholders actually have ranked No. 1. Despite all that, the Jets somehow plummeted from last week's 12th-seed.
Of course, the only standings that really matter are the official ones, and it's clear the Jets are making a concerted effort not to get too high about their current lot in life which has them one point ahead of Minnesota, two up on Nashville and three ahead of St. Louis. Dallas (seven back), Colorado (eight back prior to Wednesday's game in Vancouver), Chicago (11 back prior to Wednesday's game in Seattle) and lowly Arizona (16 back) round out the Central.
The Western Conference is jam-packed right now as teams approach the quarter-mark of the season. Leading the way is a scorching hot Anaheim club that has won eight straight games to jump ahead of Edmonton for top spot in the Pacific Division. Calgary, Los Angeles, Vegas and San Jose are also in hot pursuit.
"You’re feeling pretty good about your season but you’re only three points from being out of the playoffs. So there’s no sense getting too excited right now," Jets coach Paul Maurice said prior to the club flying to Edmonton ahead of Thursday night's re-match with the Oilers.
Indeed, Vegas (18 points in 16 games) and San Jose (17 points in 15 games) are both currently just outside the playoff line despite trailing the Jets by only three and four points overall.
"I think there’s really just a feeling that we can play better. There’s not a failing in our game right now, it’s not like we’re going ‘Oh, we’re playing poorly.’ We just see things… there’s been a lot of movement here, right?" Maurice said of what is the best 15-game start in Jets 2.0 history.
"Mark (Scheifele) misses the first game, then Blake (Wheeler) goes down, then Mark goes down, even Connor (Hellebuyck) was ill at the start of the year, then he has a baby, then he gets sick and gets locked in his basement for a week (in COVID protocol). We’ve had a lot of things going on. Still with injuries, Stas (Paul Stastny) is out, and I moved the lines around a fair amount. So we’re still kind of watching and learning a little bit about ourselves. I don’t think we feel settled yet, which is a good thing. We don’t need to be settled right now, we need to be constantly working and growing and finding out about ourselves."
There have been some suggestions Winnipeg has built it's strong early record off the backs of weak competition. But nine of the 15 games so far are against teams currently in playoff spots, including three against those suddenly mighty Ducks who are the early surprise of the NHL.
"Probably happy we’re done with them," Maurice joked of the Ducks, who went 1-2-0 against Winnipeg and are 9-2-3 against the rest of the league so far.
"All the things you think you know, every season you get a chance to re-invent yourself if you’re a developing team. They’ve got some real good young skill there and speed, they’ve got some confidence and they’ve got some real good goaltending going on there. I would also say, and this isn’t related to Anaheim, there are other teams that are out of the playoff picture now that are dominant teams and we know they’re going to make a push. It’s not necessarily Anaheim falling out of that picture."
Veteran Jets forward Adam Lowry, who opened the scoring against the Oilers in the latest victory with a nifty solo dash, said there's been a strong buy-in from every player this season to do whatever is necessary to have success over the long-haul.
"I just think in the grand scheme of things, it's the way your team plays," he said Wednesday.
"You're stopping on pucks. It's just these little details where you have guys getting in front of shots and you have guys taking hits to make plays. It's just a bunch of little things where it might not seem like a big thing in itself but you get everyone doing those things, it creates an environment where you can have success. You get pucks stopped in your own end, you get pucks out a little more efficiently, you spend less time in your own end, I think that's kind of what happens when you have guys buying into, whether it's the system or things like that. I think we've had a pretty good success with everyone playing on the same page so far this year."
The Jets will continue to be shorthanded for at least two more games. Stastny, who has missed the past four with a bone bruise on his foot, didn't join the club on the charter and won't play in the back-to-back contests in Edmonton and Vancouver.
"We expect him to skate while we’re away. So he’s an option, possibly, when we get back," said Maurice. The Jets will fly home Saturday, practice on Sunday, host the Pittsburgh Penguins on Monday and then hit the road for three more next week in Columbus, Minnesota and Calgary.
Mike McIntyre grew up wanting to be a professional wrestler. But when that dream fizzled, he put all his brawn into becoming a professional writer.