It’s a moment I still remember pretty vividly even five years later.

It was the 2013-14 season. Claude Noel was the head coach and the Jets were barely a .500 club. Fans for weeks had been trying to figure out just what the Winnipeg Jets were trying to accomplish on a nightly basis. What was this team’s “identity”? How did they want to go about winning games? Did they have a system in place? Were they trying to be a hard, heavy checking team? Did they want to beat teams with skill and offense? What exactly was Claude Noel doing to try and help save the season? No one seemed to know.

After a fourth straight loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins, the confirmation of pretty much everyone’s suspicions. The Jets didn’t have anything really.

Dejan Kovacevic who at the time was with the Pittsburgh Tribune offered up this damning series of quotes from anonymous Penguins players in trying to explain the 2013-14 Winnipeg Jets…

“I heard much the same yesterday about the Jets. One player said they have “no structure.” Another said they had “no real plan for what they’re doing.” Yet another called them “really just a strange team.” All concerned, it should be noted, praised the talented individuals on the Winnipeg roster. It was hard not to be impressed with some of them on this day alone. But the focus clearly was aimed at Claude Noel’s system or, if he has a system, the evident failure to execute it.”

It was strange validation for the Noel naysayers from those who would know best: other NHLers. It also felt like multiple alarms going off because rarely do hockey players ever comment on the status of other teams and when it does happen it feels like a huge deal. I think that’s why it sticks out in my memory like it does.

One week and two more Jets losses after those comments, Noel was fired.

The Jets brought in Paul Maurice and right away it felt like there was at least some sort of defensive structure to their game. There was an identity of wanting to be a fast, relentless team that couple punish opposing teams with their size that was starting to be formed.

Fast forward five years later.

It was asked maybe one game past a bad loss in Pittsburgh, but the question felt familiar.

What is the Jets identity? What exactly are they trying to do on the ice?

“I don’t know. I don’t know,” said Blake Wheeler to a media scrum after the Coyotes game. “I wish I had a better answer. I’m not sure exactly.”

At the very least, they seem to know what they want to do which is maybe more that what we could have said in 2014.

Paul Maurice’s comments weren’t as encouraging.

It seems like someone has been taking night classes at the Kevin Cheveldayoff School Of Non-Answers.

Right now from an outsider’s point of view, the Jets identity is one of a very bad defense that isn’t committed to being physical, isn’t skilled enough to move pucks out of the zone and is too inexperienced to handle other teams that apply pressure with the forecheck.

The Jets still have some time to figure things out and establish that identity, but they had better figure it out sooner than later because fans are starting to lose patience and openly questioning what this team is and the last time things were like that, it didn’t end well for the guy in charge in 2014.

A few other thoughts on last night’s game…

The penalty kill is awful.

The Jets have almost given up a power play goal in half the times they’ve been on the penalty kill. Six goals against in the 15 times they’ve been short-handed puts them 30th in the league on the PK as of Wednesday morning. It’s not hard to understand how they’ve become so bad when you see goals like this last night:

Ignoring the fact that it was an own-goal, somehow three Coyote players got behind three of the four Jets on the ice leaving Josh Morrissey to try and defend on his own.

Four defenders just kind of standing, letting the Coyotes toss the puck around the zone before one skates in and take an uncontested shot on Connor Hellebuyck while Carl Soderberg practically sits on Hellebuyck’s lap.

The Jets penalty kill is astoundingly bad.

The power play was slightly better.

Another gem from the captain last night…

Hooray for progress!

It’s worth noting maybe that the Jets second power play unit looked better than the top unit in terms of being able to set up and get actual shots on goal, but really it’s that whole “we didn’t give up a goal” statement that is not exactly the kind of moral victory we’re hoping for at any point in the season, but it’s something.

That Kyle Connor backhanded shot from about two feet in front of the net did bend the very fabric of time and physics though and we have an early contender for Jets goal of the year.

David Gustafsson was good… Not that it will matter.

In the very short time that David Gustafsson was on the ice (5:56 to be exact) he made a couple of nice plays to win some puck battles along the boards, helped with one of the few clean zone exits the Jets had in the game and picked up a shot on goal in a high danger area. All in all, not a bad night for the kid making his NHL debut.

Sadly given how we know about how Paul Maurice feels about younger players as opposed to older veterans, he likely won’t have a chance to improve on that debut, especially if Bryan Little makes his return on Thursday.

They had lots of shots, but it’s kind of deceptive.

I always find it a tad amusing when people point to the shot clock and the team’s inability to score as a reason why they lost.

Yes, the Jets out-shot the Coyotes 40-35. 20 of those shots came after the Jets fell behind 3-1 midway through the third period. That number was also helped by a double minor and another late penalty in the third. Before then, the Coyotes had the advantage.


5v5 the Jets were outplayed and out-shot and when the Jets did manage to shoot the puck playing at even strength, it was from distance with very little in front of the net to give Coyotes goalie Darcy Kuemper a challenge.

Courtesy: Natural Stat Trick

While the Jets did out-shoot the Coyotes, they didn’t out-chance them. 5v5 scoring chances for the game were in favor of Arizona by a 13-10 and that was after the Jets had a 4-1 edge in that department in the final period.

The Jets for a second straight game were smacked in the mouth at home. Unless there are some dramatic changes, that trend won’t stop any time soon.