Jets' talent too thin

Jets forward Nik Antropov takes a shot during the warmup prior to facing the Capitals at the MTS...

Jets forward Nik Antropov takes a shot during the warmup prior to facing the Capitals at the MTS Centre in Winnipeg, Man., Dec. 15, 2011. (BRIAN DONOGH/QMI Agency)

PAUL FRIESEN, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:42 PM ET

WINNIPEG - It’s rare to find a pro athlete who admits his team just doesn’t have the horses to compete.

Probably 99 times out of 100, they’ll tell you they’ve got as good a shot at winning as whatever opposition happens to be next on the docket.

It’s the same in the Winnipeg Jets dressing room, where any questions about the amount of talent on the roster are shrugged off like a 90-pound penalty killer.

“We’ve beaten and played with the best teams in the league,” was forward Blake Wheeler’s response the other day. “There’s no question. There’s no pressing issues.”

Nik Antropov seconded the notion.

“If you look down the road, in the past, we’ve beaten some really good teams,” the big Russian said. “It’s a good dressing room, a lot of talented guys.”

And so it goes, everybody in a Jets sweater pointing to wins over Boston, Pittsburgh and Minnesota (when they were good) earlier in the season as proof.

And that’s the way it should be. Having doubts about how your talent stacks up makes you a loser before the puck even drops.

But that doesn’t stop the rest of us from acknowledging the obvious, which is this: the Jets probably won’t make the playoffs because they’re not good enough.

This team’s talent is thinner than a supermodel, and nowhere near as glamorous.

Even when everybody’s healthy, the Jets don’t have a forward combination you’d say without a doubt is a No. 1 NHL line.

They might have one, surefire, top-six player, Evander Kane, and he’s up one week, down the next.

Bryan Little? Blake Wheeler? They’d be great third-line players, occasionally second-line, at best. Ditto captain Andrew Ladd.

Beyond that, it’s equally thin.

And that, more than anything, is why this team is up against it trying to get into the top eight in the Eastern Conference, even with above average goaltending.

Just look at the teams the Jets are staring up at, and the marquee, point-a-game-type talent they employ that the Jets don’t.

Toronto, a point out of eighth place going into last night’s action, has Phil Kessel and Joffrey Lupul.

Pittsburgh, in eighth, has the great Evgeni Malkin.

Even seventh-place Florida has Kris Versteeg.

The Devils, Patrik Elias and Ilya Kovalchuk.

Do the Jets have front-line talent to match Ottawa’s Jason Spezza and Daniel Alfredsson?

There’s certainly no Claude Giroux (Philadelphia), Niklas Backstrom or Alex Ovechkin (Washington) here.

In the Big Apple, Marian Gaborik isn’t at a point-a-game clip, but he’s a better player than anybody in the ’Peg.

Of course, high-level talent alone doesn’t guarantee anything. Just ask the Tampa Bay Lightning.

But you could make similar comparisons throughout the rosters.

The Jets are a team with, at best, a second line, a third and two fourths.

That’s not a knock. It’s just reality.

So what about that hot streak in December, you say?

Occasionally a team can overachieve. The Jets got on a roll, found some chemistry and rode those energetic home crowds to a memorable month.

Assuming that was the real Jets is like assuming your favourite supermodel looks the same way in the photo spread as she does right after rolling out of bed.

Take two, high-level defencemen like Dustin Byfuglien and Zach Bogosian out of the mix, and it can get downright ugly.

We saw the Jets at their best last month.

The real story isn’t quite as pretty.

Until this roster gets a makeover, it can’t be.


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