Welp. That’s it for another Winnipeg Jets season.
It was a rebuilding year for the team, which sent off Captain Ladd and promoted numerous prospects to the big leagues. The young lineup and key injuries (and too many penalties and a terrible PP) contributed to missing the playoffs, and at one point flirting with the league basement.
When all hope of getting into the playoffs was lost, about half the Jets ‘fans’ on my Twitter timeline began hoping the team would tank its remaining games to get a better pick in the 2016 draft. While this may be pragmatic, it is also unsportsmanlike and nonsensical. You’re not a fan if you’re cheering for the team to lose, and you’re not a professional if you’re not fighting to win every game. To cheer for your team to tank is to hope that your team’s leaders have no pride or integrity.
It also makes less sense now than ever before. This year it’s not just the top pick that will be decided by a lottery — the first three picks are all up for grabs. The sad sad Maple Leafs finished dead last this year, yet may end up with no higher than 4th pick in the draft.
The benefit to the Winnipeg Jets of losing games down the stretch would have been negligible. Had they lost all three of their games on their final road trip, their odds of getting top pick would have only improved 4%. And who’s to say Auston Matthews will end up being a better choice than Alex Nylander or Matthew Tkachuk? We’re talking about marginally improved odds in a game that’s a crap shoot at the best of times.
It is far more valuable to the future of the team to build character right now, especially given the young age of many of the players. The knowledge that you can fight from 3 goals down to win a tough game, and the confidence that comes from winning 4 in a row against playoff contenders will pay off next year when the slate is cleared and a new season begins.
The tenacity that the Jets showed down the stretch (or “the compete” in hockey-speak) was highly entertaining, and I, like all true fans, was pulling for them right to the end.