Tale of two Jets teams

Jets head coach Claude Noel watches a game against the Canadiens from behind the bench at the MTS...

Jets head coach Claude Noel watches a game against the Canadiens from behind the bench at the MTS Centre in Winnipeg, Man., Oct. 9, 2011. (FRED GREENSLADE/Reuters)

PAUL FRIESEN, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:22 PM ET

WINNIPEG - Youíve got to hand it to Mark Chipman. That sly devil sure pulled a fast one, back in May.

When Winnipegís white knight bought the Atlanta Thrashers, nobody knew he was actually getting two teams for the price of one.

Forty-six games into the season, itís become plain as day: there are the good Jets, and the bad Jets.

And theyíre playing a sneaky little game of now-you-see-them, now-you-donít.

Thereís no denying which is which, though.

The good Jets donít have a big payroll, but everybody works their tails off, plays smart team defence and wins close, tight-checking games.

Their goalies make key saves when they need to, their head coach is as encouraging as a first-year, grade school teacher and players are all on the same page, from the goal-scoring stars to the fourth-line pluggers.

With the good Jets, it doesnít seem to matter if a few good players are hurt ó itís all for one, one for all.

The good Jets are home bodies, occasionally venturing out on the road, but, by and large, preferring their own beds and home cooking.

Then there are the bad Jets.

These guys donít have a big payroll, either ó and a work ethic to match. To them, team defence is a foreign concept, too many players seem to be reading from their own page and the head coach is wont to deliver tongue-lashings in public.

The bad Jets are often on the road, although they have made the odd appearance in downtown Winnipeg, much to the chagrin of hockey fans who came out expecting to see the other version.

Which team shows up on which night is hard to predict, but you should be able to bat .500 without breaking too much of a sweat. All you need is an NHL schedule.

Start by checking the area code of the next game. If itís not 204, thereís a good chance the bad Jets will show up.

Then look at the previous game. If it was just one day earlier, youíre guaranteed to see the bad Jets. Thatís a slam dunk.

Another clue that youíll get the lousy team is if itís coming off a road trip. The bad Jets often take that first game back home. In fact, the good Jets havenít shown up for a game like that since October.

If itís an extended home stand, though, chances are theyíll take over the dressing room for a good chunk of it.

Nobody seems to know where the good Jets go when they disappear.

Nobody knows where the bad Jets go, either, but then nobody really cares.

When the good Jets go missing, though, people tend to ask questions, and sometimes the coach doesnít like that. The coach of the bad Jets, that is.

The coach of the good Jets doesnít seem to mind tough questions.

Which brings us to Thursdayís game against the Buffalo Sabres.

The Sabresí advance scouting staff is no doubt examining the evidence to see which Jets team itíll have to deal with.

This is a tricky one.

Itís at home, which would suggest it might be the good Jetsí turn.

But itís the first game after a two-game road trip, so the bad Jets are probably raring to go.

Interestingly, the trip saw one appearance by each, and how the organization flew one team into Ottawa, Monday, then switched it for the other in New Jersey, Tuesday, is beyond me. I guess with charters these things are possible.

No wonder it costs so much to run an NHL franchise.

Looking at what happens right after the bad Jets are really bad, like they were in New Jersey, doesnít tell the Sabres much, either.

The eight previous times the Jets lost by three goals or more, in the next game the good Jets showed up half the time, the bad Jets the other half.

So who knows what team weíll see, Thursday.

Youíve got to hand it to the Jets for one thing, though.

Theyíve got the advance scouts guessing.

Both of them.


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