VANCOUVER - The name and logo on the jersey have changed but the picture hasn’t for the Winnipeg Jets, who came to life as the Atlanta Thrashers in 1999.
The Thrasher-Jet franchise has been in the NHL playoffs just once – in 2006-07 – and it failed to win a game against the New York Rangers that spring. Since then, it’s been one bagel after another trying to reach the post-season. The drought is six seasons long and it’s threatening to become seven after another disheartening result Sunday.
The Jets, now in their third year in Winnipeg, outplayed the Vancouver Canucks for large portions of Sunday’s game but eventually fell 2-1 and failed to gain any ground on the pack sitting ahead of them in the Western Conference. The 11th-place Jets have 37 points, eight behind the eighth-place Minnesota Wild. They also squandered an opportunity to move up on Phoenix and Dallas, the two teams directly ahead of them.
“It’s been the same story with our team a little bit,” lamented Jets winger Evander Kane, the former Vancouver Giant star and lone goal-scorer Sunday for Winnipeg. “We play well for portions of the game, we have that mindset we’re going to pressure and stick to the game plan, and we do for extended periods, but we have to find a way to stay strong with that mentality throughout the course of the game and not be satisfied with where we’re at.
“We’ve played in a lot of one-goal games and, unfortunately, found ourselves on the other side of those games.”
The Jets dominated the Canucks from the midpoint of the second period, when Kane tied it 1-1, to the midpoint of the third. They held the Canucks without a legitimate scoring chance but couldn’t conjure up the go-ahead goal. Instead Canuck defenceman Chris Tanev did.
For Kane, who won a Memorial Cup with the Giants and a world junior title for Canada, the constant losing is a source of deep frustration. This is his fifth season with the Jets’ franchise.
“I had a lot of success before I got to this league and to not have team success now is frustrating and not something you want to be a part of,” said the 22-year-old Kane, a product of the North Shore Winter Club’s hockey factory. “You want to change that and we’re going to have to figure out a way to change that and get out of this reputation.”
Jets netminder Ondrej Pavelec has been living the same non-playoff nightmare as Kane. He broke into the NHL with Thrashers in 2007-08, the year after they made their solitary playoff appearance, and has yet to see a single minute of post-season action.
Sunday’s result was further annoying to the Jets after the Wild lost 4-1 in regulation to the New York Rangers. It was another opportunity squandered. The Jets play once more before the Christmas break, Monday night in Edmonton.
“Every loss is frustrating and, if you look at our division, it’s pretty hard,” said Pavelec, 26. “Chicago, St. Louis and Colorado, it seems like they never lose two games in a row. I had no idea that Minny played but we have to just look at ourselves because nobody is going to help us. It’s up to us.
“We had a chance tonight (to gain ground) and we lost. We were there, we were in the game, I think it was an okay game but it wasn’t good enough to win.”
The Thrasher/Jet franchise last won in Vancouver on Feb. 13, 2004, a full 10 seasons ago, but it has only played at Rogers Arena four times since then.
© Copyright (c) The Vancouver Sun