Hextall on Hockey: Jets’ schedule will clarify team’s identity

Entering the season, many expected the Winnipeg Jets to be competitive and challenge for a playoff spot in the Scotia North Division.

So far, that’s exactly what the Jets have done.

But it’s not clear where Winnipeg fits in when it comes to the competitive balance of the league, because… well, because of the schedule.

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Yes, all teams are only playing within their respective divisions. But what makes the Jets’ competitive identity hard to nail down is the lack of games against the top two teams in their own division.

The Jets have played 16 games and so far have been fed a steady diet of teams to the west, only playing once against an opponent from the east — a 3-1 loss to Toronto in the Jets’ second game of the season.

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But a nor’easter is about to storm the prairie province.

Half of the Jets’ remaining schedule will be against Toronto — first in the division and the NHL standings  — and Montreal — second in the north division, seventh overall.

Winnipeg will face the Maple Leafs and Canadiens nine times each, to account for 18 games of the Jets’ remaining 36.

Which means Winnipeg will either weather the winds from the east to skate under blue sky and sunshine, or cloudy days might be ahead.

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Either way the question of how competitive the Jets are in the North is soon to be answered.

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