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Winnipeg Jets Preview: New name, location but still the Thrashers

Get used to it Jets fans, you may be getting an NHL hockey team, but you still are getting the Thrashers.
Get used to it Jets fans, you may be getting an NHL hockey team, but you still are getting the Thrashers.
(Getty Images/Marianne Helm)

The Atlanta Thrashers are days away from officially being nudged out from the record books. A new NHL season is about to begin without a team in the eighth-largest television market in the United States.

Abandoned by a league that went to the mat in Glendale to “save” the Phoenix Coyotes (aided by the NHL-patented two-step municipal shakedown) and thrown away by the litigious and business tone deaf Atlanta Spirit, the Thrashers will begin a new chapter in Winnipeg – a metropolitan area 1/7th the size of the ATL on Canada’s prairie.

Of course, hockey was born in Canada and like some folks may protest – size doesn’t matter. And those in Manitoba’s capital hope that their second attempt at hockey – the “resurrection” of the Winnipeg Jets – doesn’t end up like Atlanta redux.

Enthusiasm abounds for hockey there. Hockey is Canada.

Sellouts are certain and Jets fever abounds ahead of Winnipeg’s season opener against the Montreal Canadiens at the MTS Centre on Sunday.

Unfortunately for those hockey crazed fans, no matter how hard they try to make it look like they are getting something special in Winnipeg, no matter how much they dress up the “Return of the Jets” (last time I checked that team is still playing in Phoenix), Peggers are still getting the Atlanta Thrashers.

Yep folks… that same cursed Atlanta Thrashers franchise that is still looking for its first playoff W.

There’s not much of a difference between this year’s Jets team and their 2010-11 Atlanta Thrashers counterpart that jetted out of the gate strong, only to plummet the earth and miss the playoffs for the 10th time in the eventual 11 year history of the franchise.

True North’s business model seems to just be: Hey guys! We have NHL hockey.

Sure, the Jets have made some minor changes. Gone are Atlanta fan favorites Eric Boulton and Anthony Stewart, replaced with mainly local kids from Canada, who either grew up in Winnipeg (Derek Meech) or have had some sort of affiliation with either the True North-owned Manitoba Moose or their parent club, the Vancouver Canucks.

But at the end of the day, the only thing that’s not the same is the name – or as U.S. President Barack Obama once quipped, “you can put lipstick on a pig, but it’s still a pig.”

The Thrashers were unimpressive when the Spirit sold them off the highest "legitimate" bidder and they remain unimpressive today.

Winnipeg failed to improve the Atlanta roster in the offseason, they failed to sign a marquee free agent, and they failed to pull the trigger on any sort of blockbuster trade to elevate the team from also-ran status in the competitive Southeast Division.

Much like in seasons past, the 2011-12 version of the Jets will live and die on “potential” and hope that their nucleus matures. And much like the former Atlanta Thrashers this Jets team will have its share of struggles and should be on the wrong side of the ledger come playoff time in April.

Atlanta hockey fans have seen it before.

  • The team is pinning its hopes on an untested rookie (Mark Scheifele) to make serious contributions on a team that lacks a scoring punch.
  • The team did nothing to address its glaring need for a top-six forward talent, instead signing a number of third and fourth line pieces, while trying to keep up with the potent Washington Capitals and resurgent Tampa Bay Lightning in the Southeast.
  • The team pins its hopes on an improving young goalie (Ondrej Pavelec) and a couple of offensive weapons (Andrew Ladd and Evander Kane) that are looking to meet all-too-lofty expectations.

Sure, if everything goes right, the Jets could potentially make the playoffs. IF everything goes right. Yep, there goes word potential sprinkled in with that word if again. Get used to uttering it, Jets fans. Thrashers fans certainly did.

You inherit that “potential” too.

While you can put lipstick on the Thrashers, they are still the Thrashers.

Y’all enjoy NHL hockey there Winnipeg!

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