Winnipeg Jets: Why the Team's Sophomore Season Is Important to the Franchise

Anthony Capocci@CapocciJETSContributor IJune 27, 2012

WINNIPEG, CANADA - APRIL 7: The Winnipeg Jets salute their fans at the end of their game against the Tampa Bay Lightning in NHL action at the MTS Centre on April 7, 2012 in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. The game was the last of their season. (Photo by Marianne Helm/Getty Images)
Marianne Helm/Getty Images

The Winnipeg Jets returned to the NHL this past season, but it may have not been the return that many people would have liked to see. However, it was a return full of improvements, a return that took a dying franchise and restored hope. And now, the Jets need to take that positive and build off of it each year, starting in their sophomore year this coming season.

The Jets' second season will be important for the franchise as they look to build off of the previous season and establish a commitment to winning, not only for next season, but for the long-term. The Jets’ goal is to build a foundation, to be a winning team each and every season. It may not happen right away, but the plan is set.

The Jets don't want their franchise to continue the way it went in Atlanta, where it was nothing but losing season after losing season.

Most important, the Jets need to win games to allow them to annually compete for the playoffs. Next season could be the start of it. They have a young team, and making the playoffs for the first time (not counting the 2007 season in Atlanta) would provide some much needed experience for them.

The only way for fans to buy into GM Kevin Cheveldayoff’s way of managing is for them to see success on the ice. Everyone knows the direction this team is headed in and just how much potential this current roster has. That is important for a franchise located in Winnipeg where fans worship hockey as their religion.

It’ll be important for the Jets to establish themselves as a threat on. People still frown on this franchise because of its past woes from when the team was still in Atlanta with uncommitted ownership and awful management. Success is measured in wins and playoff appearances, which will ultimately differentiate the Jets of new from the Thrashers of old.

There are some concerns that exist, though.

What if the Jets struggle like the Thrashers did year in and year out? What if they don’t make the playoffs until eight years after their return to the league, just as it took the Thrashers eight years? I’m not saying Atlanta and Winnipeg are equivalent in terms of being hockey cities, but how long will Winnipeg be allowed to play poorly before being put on a short leash?

That can't happen.

It’s no secret; everyone knows how dismal the Atlanta Thrashers were for their entire existence. Although the Jets made massive improvements last season, they still missed out on the playoffs and looked woeful for stretches, reminding us that they’re still the Thrashers. The Jets have to branch off and start anew. And it can’t take years for it to happen.

So why am I blabbing on about the past?

The Jets need to make sure that their sophomore season is another step in the right direction. After the 2007-08 playoff season for the Thrashers, they declined enormously—a theme that haunted them. The Jets need to be able to string together positive seasons.

That’s why it is important for the Jets to establish themselves early, not eight years later and not once every eight years. It’ll be a challenge, but it’s an important one to overcome. The Jets need to establish themselves as a legitimate force, one to be reckoned with around the league.

There’s a lot of pressure on them. That’s the way it usually works with Canadian markets, but the fans understand that becoming a winning team doesn’t happen overnight. But it has to happen, and the Jets have to take this past season and build off it in their sophomore season.