No place like home for Jets
KIRK PENTON, QMI Agency
|A Jets fan cheers his team on against the Senators at the MTS Centre in Winnipeg, Man., Nov. 29, 2011.
(JASON HALSTEAD/QMI Agency)
WINNIPEG - Still trying to find the perfect Christmas gift for that special Jets fan in your life?
Wonder no more.
It’s the perfect present, and it will make him or her extremely happy in more ways than one. Tell me their eyes wouldn’t light up when they unwrapped this: airfare, hotel and tickets to a Jets road game.
Why not send your loved one to Denver on Dec. 27? Who wouldn’t want to go to Buffalo on Jan. 7? I hear Newark, N.J., is lovely in mid-January.
So call your travel agent and fork over the credit card number. The Jets fan in your life will be happy for two reasons: They’ll get to see their beloved Jets on the road, and, if enough of them are there, they might actually see them win.
You see, the irony here is the team called the Jets can’t win after they ride in one. They have dropped seven of their last eight road tilts, including Saturday night’s fatigue-fuelled flop against the Detroit Red Wings at Joe Louis Arena. They were in the rest of their road defeats but still ended up on the losing end. Conversely, they have won seven of their last eight at home.
It’s becoming increasingly clear that the Jets, who are 9-4-0 in the Manitoba capital, like their home cooking.
And why wouldn’t they?
MTS Centre is one of the loudest buildings in the NHL. Manitobans never want to let their team get away again, so they fill the building and roar until they lose their voices.
The Jets are feeding off that frenzy, but have been unable to find the drive and motivation to compete at the same level away from their friendly confines, where they are 4-8-4.
So there’s only one answer to this problem: Jets fans need to start filling opposing rinks.
I’m almost not joking, because they look like a different team when they don’t have their boisterous fan base behind them.
Granted, no NHL team spent more time on the road in the early part of the season than the Jets, and they were dealing with a new city, a new coach and a new system at the time. No squad had more obstacles to overcome, which perhaps skewed their road mark in the early going.
That’s not the case anymore.
The Jets have shown in the last month they can compete with the league’s best. They won a hard-fought clash with the Boston Bruins last week, snapping the defending champs’ streak of going more than a month without a regulation loss. However, against the Red Wings, another of the league’s elite, it almost looked like the AHL versus the NHL, to borrow one of head coach Claude Noel’s phrases from earlier in the season.
Now, you might be saying there’s nothing new about playing better at home than on the road, but the last few Atlanta Thrashers teams were pretty much the same squad at in their own barn as they were in someone else’s.
Last year, they had 17 wins on the road and 17 at home. The year before that it was 19 and 16, respectively.
It’s obvious why the Jets are strong at home, but it doesn’t explain their road woes. Is it their youth? Is it not having the last change? Is it playing in the Eastern Conference?
Luckily for them, they play eight of their next nine at MTS Centre and have a few weeks to figure it out.
As for you, get shopping.