Winnipeg Jets Soaring Under Paul Maurice, but Is It a Little Too Late?

Anthony CapocciContributor IFebruary 4, 2014

WINNIPEG, MB - JANUARY 13: Head coach Paul Maurice of the Winnipeg Jets makes a point at the bench as Bryan Little #18, Andrew Ladd #16 and Anthony Peluso #14 look on during third period action against the Phoenix Coyotes at the MTS Centre on January 13, 2014 in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. The Jets defeated the Coyotes 5-1. (Photo by Jonathan Kozub/NHLI via Getty Images)
Jonathan Kozub/Getty Images

The Winnipeg Jets are one of the hottest teams in the NHL.

The Jets have posted an impressive 8-2 record since hiring Paul Maurice to replace Claude Noel as head coach nearly three weeks ago. Their recent run makes it much easier to see the playoff line even though they’re not quite there yet.

During this 10-game run with Maurice behind the bench, the Jets have beaten quality teams such as the Anaheim Ducks, Chicago Blackhawks and Vancouver Canucks. Their only losses came against the San Jose Sharks and Nashville Predators, both by one goal.

Statistically speaking, the Jets have drastically improved under Maurice. They average 3.3 goals per game and only allow 2.1 goals against per game. While under Noel, the Jets averaged 2.6 goals per game and gave up roughly 3.0 against. It doesn’t take a mathematician to see why the Jets are winning games under Maurice.

Obviously, the numbers are one thing, but the work you do to achieve the results is what matters. Under Noel, the hard work just wasn’t there. The sudden coaching change sparked the team in ways Noel couldn’t. And Maurice has done a fabulous job working with the team in his short time.

Everything is going well in Winnipeg. There’s a lot more confidence, there’s a lot more urgency and the compete level has never been higher. The only regret that this organization has is that they waited too long to make the coaching change.

Maurice has taken over and re-energized Jets hockey. He re-energized an exuberant atmosphere inside the MTS Centre. It’s February, with only 25 games remaining in the regular season, and fans can once again chatter about playoff hockey.

Now the obvious question arises. Is this your typical “just a little too late” case, or are the Jets catching fire at no better time?

It’s always a difficult task trying to make the playoffs in the renowned Western Conference. It’s certainly not easy and it won’t get any easier down the stretch. As hot as the Jets are, they’ll have to be even hotter.

However, this isn’t a race the Jets should shy away from. It’s time this franchise starts embracing playoff hockey. It’s time to expect it now, not five years from now.

The Jets have proven that they can compete with the best of them. There’s no reason they can’t continue doing so.

As it stands, the Jets are in last place in the Central Division (yes, last place). In fact, the Jets are in 12th place in the entire Western Conference. It’s a testament to how good the West can be since they are two games above .500 yet sit next to the Calgary Flames and Edmonton Oilers.

What matters most is that the Jets are only four points back of the Canucks for the final wild-card spot. The only problem is they’ll have to leap three other teams (Phoenix, Dallas and Nashville) if they want to take that spot.

It’s not an impossible feat and the fact that the Jets were able to rebound and get to where they are now is impressive in itself, but there’s still a ways to go. The good news is that there's still plenty of time to get the job done.

It's not too late for the Jets to make the playoffs even in the highly praised Western Conference.

The Jets players, Kevin Cheveldayoff and certainly Maurice will not approach the final stretch with the mindset of it being a little too late. They’ll approach it with the mindset that they’re just getting started.