WINNIPEG - Theyíre baaaaack.
After two weeks of uneven performances on our TV screens, the Winnipeg Jets are finally home, ready for a second chance to make a first impression.
These guys have been gone so long they probably needed directions to find their new homes again.
With more road games and fewer at home than any team in the NHL through the first five weeks of the schedule, it feels like we need a second set of introductions.
If you managed to set aside the yard and garden cleanup to pay attention during their two-week road trip, youíre forgiven if youíre a tad confused about this teamís identity.
One night itís in a 17-goal, Wild East shootout, the next itís a shutout, 1-0.
Taking their Jekyll and Hyde act to Gotham, the Jets spanked the Islanders one night, only to turn ugly again in a 3-0 spanking by the Blueshirts on Broadway, three days later.
They wrapped up the trip by exploding for five goals in Buffalo ó only to give up six.
No lead is safe with this group. Itíll come out firing in the first period, outscoring the opposition, 17-13, but by the third itís hanging by its fingernails, giving up nearly twice what it gets, 19-10.
In some ways, itís the Atlanta Thrashers all over again: 19th in offence, a mere 27th in defence.
And thatís with Ondrej Pavelec as its road trip MVP.
The young Czech is playing so much they might want to replace the water bottle in his net with an IV.
If Pavelec feels outnumbered, itís because for a league-leading 111 minutes the Jets have been.
Going into Wednesdayís games, theyíd been shorthanded 72 times, more than any team in the league. Only Philadelphia had taken as many minor penalties as Winnipegís 75.
As for the special teams, they havenít been ó both were ranked in the bottom third of the league.
Through it all, though, they show things that catch your attention, whether itís perennial underachiever Nik Antropov throwing his body in front of a shot, then finishing the game hurt, or fourth-liner-turned-leading-goal scorer Jim Slater throwing his body through an opponent.
Thereís hope for the future, in Alex Burmistrov, who, at 20, has probably been the teamís best player; a blast from the past, in Antropov, who seems to have rediscovered his zeal for the game; and a puzzle in the present, in Dustin Byfuglien, the defenceman who wonít be.
If thereís a poster boy for Team Unpredictable, itís Byfuglien, a now-you-see-him, now-you-donít presence in the Jets own end, a free-skating talent who ignores systems and restrictions like heís in a game of pond hockey on one of his native stateís 10,000 lakes.
Like a runaway train, the guyís fascinating to watch, even if you know heíll end up in a wreck down the line.
Trying to control this belching, lurching machine is Claude Noel, who must feel like heís coaching Sybil.
They say you have to leave home to find yourself, but Iím not sure the Jets have a handle on exactly who they are, just yet.
Perhaps this team can find its identity in its own backyard. Itíll get plenty of opportunity, with four of its next five here, then a month of December with 12 of 14 at home.
Eventually, surely, weíll see the real Winnipeg Jets.
Then again, maybe this is it.
If it is, you can call it a lot of things.
Boring is not one of them.