The Winnipeg Jets have reached the quarter mark of the schedule, and while that should no longer be considered a “small sample size,” it still might not be the right time to make any judgment calls on what the Jets are — and aren’t.
At 13-6-1, Winnipeg is right there with Vegas, Dallas, Colorado and Seattle in the battle to be best in the West.
But because of the extended absences of Nikolaj Ehlers, Mason Appleton, and up until last night, Morgan Barron, do we really know what this team is fully capable of?
We saw what Dylan DeMelo can contribute the past two games after he was sidelined for the previous four. And Barron made an impressive return Sunday night after missing 10 games following wrist surgery.
With all due respect to those who have filled in admirably, the Jets are a better team with DeMelo and Barron in the lineup. And they will be even better when Ehlers and Appleton eventually return, estimated to be anywhere between the halfway mark of the schedule in the middle of January, and following the All-Star and players’ break in mid-February.
Until then, we’ll see this team use a variety of ways — and players — to build off what they’ve accomplished thus far.
That list includes the occasional act of grand larceny from Connor Hellebuyck, 3-on-3 heroics that have added up to an NHL-best 6-1 record in overtime, and ongoing contributions from a collection of “diamonds in the rough.”
It doesn’t matter whether your name is Mark Scheifele or Mikey Eyssimont, Kyle Connor or Saku Maenalanen, Pierre-Luc Dubois or Axel Jonsson-Fjallby.
Play the right way. You’ll be rewarded. Performance over paycheque.
Rick Bowness knows what he wants this team to be.
From what we’ve seen so far, Jets fans should be reasonably optimistic that goal is attainable.
Especially if, or when, the day arrives that all hands are on deck. That’s when we’ll have a true understanding of the identity of the 2022-23 Winnipeg Jets.