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Are the Winnipeg Jets a playoff team?

The MTS Centre in Winnipeg is set to kick off its third as an NHL arena. (Photo by Jonathan Kozub/NHLI via Getty Images)

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The MTS Centre in Winnipeg is set to kick off its third as an NHL arena. (Photo by Jonathan Kozub/NHLI via Getty Images)

The NHL’s regular season is almost upon us, but I’m taking next week off before the games start to matter. In any case, thanks as always to those who submitted a question. Here’s the latest batch that made the cut:

Hi Adam, I've been so happy since the Jets returned and I was wondering if you think they will make the playoffs this year with the acquiring of Devin Setoguchi, Michael Frolik and Matt Halischuk from free agency and trades, since they are now in a new division that includes Chicago, Dallas and Minnesota?
David Alexander Mogk, Brandon, Man.

Hi David,

While I’m also pleased to see Winnipeg regain an NHL franchise, I don’t have particularly high hopes for the Jets this season. Their management has chosen the slow-and-steady approach to building the roster and, while that may pay dividends down the line, I’m afraid this season isn’t going to result in their first playoff berth.

Why? Well, for starters, there’s their new division, which includes the defending-champion Blackhawks, the Blues (the same Blues THN selected as our collective Cup-winning pick this season) and the Minnesota Wild. I think those three teams are playoff teams and more talented than the Jets, so right away, they’ll be up against it to claim a post-season berth.

In addition, we can’t forget the other Central Division squads: the Dallas Stars (who I also like a lot and think make the playoffs), Nashville (almost always in the mix for one of the lower post-season seeds) and the Colorado Avalanche, a team that also may be a couple years away from serious Cup contention, but also a team that has a slew of young superstar forwards to boast of. In other words, the deck may not be stacked completely against Winnipeg, but I’m betting most would agree it isn’t stacked in their favor, either.

Now, let’s say my suspicions are realized and the Jets finish dead last in their division (as THN predicted in our Yearbook). Is that the worst thing in the world? I don’t think so. This team needs more dynamic, cream-of-the-crop talents to run with the NHL’s big boys and they won’t get them by finishing ninth or 10th in the West. A step backward might be the thing the Jets need to break the cycle of mediocrity that extends back to this roster’s days in Atlanta.

Adam, how can you say Mike Babcock is even a good coach? A few seasons ago he had the best and highest scoring line in hockey, so what did he do? He broke it up, of course! With the amount of talent he has had over the years, a Toe Blake would have won four or five Cups! No, this guy is just lucky to be in Detroit. Put him anywhere else and he would be lucky to survive.
Howard Burns, Campbell River, B.C.

Howard,

The first flaw in your argument is assuming that, in the modern, 30-team NHL, Blake, Scotty Bowman, Al Arbour or Glen Sather would be able to reel off a string of successive Cup wins. It was a lot easier to do that in a six-team or a 21-team league than it is now. And I don’t see any coaches currently employed who have four or five Cup wins on their resume, so your standards for excellence are impossibly high.

Moreover, the fact Babcock has won a Cup, an Olympic gold medal and an IIHF World Championship – and that no other bench boss has accomplished such a thing – demonstrates he isn’t merely lucky enough to have been given teams with talent. Lots of coaches have that luxury, but not every coach has been able to balance the talent side of the game with the personalities involved the way he has.

Is Babcock infallible? Of course he’s not. Will there come a time he and the Red Wings part ways? Of course there will. And I hope you’re not suggesting that he’s unworthy of kudos simply because he broke up a line of talented players. That, too, happens often and will continue to be an option for coaches.

If there were a better coach out there who could guarantee the Wings a string of Cup wins, don’t you think GM Ken Holland would fire Babcock instantly? The fact he hasn’t tells you all you need to know. You can shrug your shoulders at what Babcock has already accomplished if that makes you feel better, but to do so is a disservice not only to him, but all the coaches who would kill to have his resume and who understand just how difficult the job really is. 

Ask Adam appears Fridays on THN.com. Ask your question on our submission page. For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, subscribe to The Hockey News magazine. Follow Adam on Twitter at @ProteauType.

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