By Scott Billeck – @scottbilleck
An inevitability became a reality on Thursday night for the Winnipeg Jets: another season deprived of playoff hockey.
A blown lead, thanks to three unanswered Pittsburgh Penguin goals, drove the final nail into the coffin of the Jets’ season with the 4-2 loss — a campaign that was already hanging by the thinnest of threads.
Not since the 2006-07 season, when the Jets were the former Atlanta Thrashers, had the franchise been to the promised land that is the Stanley Cup Playoffs. That streak now stands at seven years, a testament to the subpar team they have iced each and every year since.
They have been close. They have looked promising at times. But the reality of this team is a consistent flirtation with a .500 record and an inconsistency that has cost them time and time again, leading to another occasion to reflect on a lot of what ifs.
“We just didn’t have that clutchness in the last frame to be on the other side of those one goal games,” said Evander Kane, referencing the teams 44 games that were decided by one tally this season. “Even if you can push those games into overtime and get that extra point, we could be in a different position.”
Goalless droughts from some of their highest paid players, dubious performances between the pipes and a stable full of injured players led the litany of problems for this team.
Kane explained that the team needs to improve their confidence going forward, their hunger to win more games and not choke up on games they are winning.
“Just as a team, coming out and having that confidence that we want to get the next one – being more hungry,” the 22-year-old said. “Instead of just winning by one goal let’s beat these teams and step on the pedal a little bit. If it is 6-2 after a game we aren’t going to feel sorry for them because they aren’t going to feel sorry for us when they beat us like that.”
Asked if he has seen changes in the dressing room and in the culture of the team, Kane stated “I think so, but time will tell.”
In the meantime, the frustration of not getting it done is something the Jets will have to learn to get over.
“It has kind of been the story here for the last month,” said defenceman Adam Pardy. “It’s not like we are playing bad, we do a lot of good things and are working our asses off, we are just not getting results.
“It’s tough, it’s frustrating. We have battled a lot of injuries, it’s been a tough road for us.”
The road is where the Jets will head next. The team will board a flight on Friday for Toronto ahead of a Hockey Night in Canada matchup against the Maple Leafs. The Jets will have a chance to ruin the Leafs season with a win. Having already have their season spoiled, why not spread the cheer?