There are challenges and then there are Winnipeg Jets challenges. The latter has transformed what was going to be a hopeful season into something closely resembling a nightmare, where everything that can go wrong is going wrong.
But, amazingly, it could be worse.
The Jets are fourth in the Central Division following a Tuesday shootout loss to the New Jersey Devils.
It was in that game that they lost Bryan Little, who is out with a perforated ear drum and vertigo after taking a puck to the head. That was a scary sight and it put him right back on the injured reserve list, with no timetable for return. The good news is that he’s expected to make a full recovery. He received 25-30 stitches and was examined in the neurological unit.
“Bryan is so well liked in the locker room that everybody, you know, you feel sick for him,” head coach Paul Maurice said.
The Jets also announced Thursday that forward Gabriel Bourque is out at least four weeks with a lower body injury. Joona Luoto was called up from the Moose to help the beleaguered NHL club.
All this on top of what’s already been a tumultuous season for the Jets. If you want drama, we’ve got it.
There is the storyline of Dustin Byfuglien, which seems to deepen in both mystery and hopelessness by the day. According to the Jets, he finished last season healthy and entered the new season with an injury and a need for personal leave. That led to ankle surgery.
But amid this were reports of a desire to retire for the defenceman.
It’s hard to know exactly what to make of the Byfuglien situation, but you have to imagine it’s going to get worse before it gets better. The case may go through the arbitration process, with the physical from last season’s conclusion presumably the deciding factor. As the team – and the league – assert, Byfuglien was pronounced fit to play. And he didn’t dispute those results all summer.
When he started skating again, however, the complaints about ankle pain arose and so did a disputing of the season-ending physical. And that’s where the trouble lies.
There was also the storyline of Patrik Laine, who didn’t seem to like where he stood on the roster and said as much to a Finnish reporter. That is all water on the proverbial bridge now that he’s signed to a two-year deal, but the wounds may remain – especially when those two years run out and it’s time to talk turkey again.
Add to this a series of injuries and difficulties and you’ve got a recipe for disaster in Winnipeg. Somehow, the team has held it tight so far and are playing relatively well through adversity.
“Every bad thing that happens truly is an opportunity for you to get a benefit,” said Maurice. “You just may not see the benefit this week or you may not feel it tonight behind the bench. But there’s a potential benefit here, if you handle it right, and that’s how we’re moving every day.”
Photo credit: NHL