Winnipeg Jets: Playoff Contenders? Spoiler Role? What Are They?

Anthony CapocciContributor IMarch 16, 2012

WINNIPEG, MB - FEBRUARY 23: Mark Flood #36 Bryan Little #18 Evander Kane #9 Nik Antropov #80 and Johnny Oduya #29 of the Winnipeg Jets salute the fans after their victory during their NHL game against the Tampa Bay Lightning at MTS Centre on February 23, 2012 in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. (Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images)
Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images

The Eastern Conference is unique. Who’s in? Who’s out? Who knows?

The one thing that we all know is with an abundant of teams still competing for a playoff spot, the fate of those teams will likely be undecided until the final week of the regular season.

One of those teams whose surprisingly still in the midst of a playoff race is the Winnipeg Jets.

The Jets are just four points out of a playoff spot, and seven points out of the division lead.

It’s the middle of March, the Jets have 12 games remaining on their schedule, and they are within range of the playoffs… that’s unusual for this franchise.

It’s usually the time of the year where the Jets are solely playing the role of a spoiler.

This year is different… or is it? Just what are the Winnipeg Jets?

One week the Jets hold a playoff spot, and the next they find themselves on the outside looking in. It’s been a roller coaster ride, to say the least.

And right now, the Jets are on the outside trying to get back in.

The Jets haven't been consistent enough to remain a playoff team, but they've been just consistent enough to remain in the thick of things.

VANCOUVER, CANADA - MARCH 8: Blake Wheeler #26 of the Winnipeg Jets celebrates with Tanner Glass #15 and Bryan Little #18 after scoring against the Vancouver Canucks during the third period in NHL action on March 08, 2012 at Rogers Arena in Vancouver, Bri
Rich Lam/Getty Images

The majority of the games remaining for the Jets are against teams who already hold a playoff spot or teams battling to make the playoffs.

Nine of their final 12 games are against teams with winning records. Seven of those teams currently hold a playoff spot, while two of them are on the bubble.

It’s a high mountain to climb, and in the blink of an eye they could find themselves playing the role of a spoiler yet again.

But contrary to that, they could find themselves right back in a playoff spot.

The Jets aren’t bad enough to become all-out spoilers, just yet, but with only a 22.1 percent chance at making the playoffs, they need to put in a lot of hard work to make it.

It’s such a tight race, and with the Jets' inconsistencies it's safe to say the they are still a playoff contender, but also play the role of a spoiler—like a two-for-one deal.

With a huge showdown against the Washington Capitals on the horizon, the Jets could find themselves finished if they fail to win this crucial game.

The game is that important. If they lose, they will drop six points back of Washington which could end all hopes.

If they win, they inch closer to a playoff spot.

But just inching closer isn’t going to cut it anymore. Not this late in the season.

The Jets have been inching closer all season, only to fall back a few games because they still haven’t overcome one struggle.

If the Jets are going to clinch a playoff spot, they need to find a way to become road warriors—and no better time than now.

Still, it's been quite remarkable. The Jets cannot be counted out, not now, maybe not ever. They continue to battle and compete at a high level.

Just when you think they are all but done, they find a way to prove you wrong.

It’s time to prove everyone wrong. It’s time to prove that they can win on the road.

It’s do or die time. It’s the time of the year when the good teams prevail.

It’s time for the Jets to spoil other team’s goals, while capturing their own.