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NHL: Winnipeg Jets acknowledge that honeymoon is over
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Winnipeg, Manitoba • The honeymoon is over for the Winnipeg Jets and their fans.

Tickets, once hard to come by, are now readily available. Those who do attend have booed their 16-18-5 team for inconsistent play that has the club sitting near the bottom of its new, tough Central Division.

Armchair general managers call for roster changes to the transplanted ex-Atlanta Thrashers team, while well-liked coach Claude Noel has had his job security questioned.

Players are fed up, too.

"It's what you do out on the ice. You can blow smoke as much as you want in the media," right-winger Blake Wheeler told reporters after the Jets lost a sixth straight game at home Dec. 14.

"We've been blowing smoke for three years — everyone, myself. Everyone that's stood in front of a microphone for the last three years, we've said the same [expletive]."

When the Jets were resurrected in 2011, fans enthusiastically embraced the return of the NHL after a 15-year absence. Thirteen thousand season tickets with a minimum three-year commitment were snapped up, and unlucky fans paid $50 to join a wait list.

The team was loudly cheered by 15,000 grateful admirers at home games and even received a standing ovation when the inaugural season ended with an overtime loss and no playoff berth.

After last season's NHL lockout ended, fans were just happy to head back to the rink, and their adoration continued despite another campaign without postseason action.

But in this third season, cracks are starting to show.

When the home winless streak finally ended with a 5-2 victory over Florida on Dec. 20, there was relief, but no fist pumping as the team headed out on the road for what wound up as losses to Vancouver and Edmonton before a three-day Christmas holiday.

Before boarding the plane for the road trip, Wheeler was asked if he senses the marriage with fans is hitting rocky times.

"I think the expectations have risen every year," he said. "We took a step last year and we just missed the playoffs. I think a lot of us felt we were a playoff team. And now, I think this is the best group we've had since we've been here, so I think the expectations have risen pretty linearly since we've been here.

"[The scrutiny] comes with the territory. It's a market that cares about the product on the ice, and they're very passionate. They're very enthusiastic when you're winning and very enthusiastic when you're losing — it's just a different kind."

Defenseman Zach Bogosian got a different view of fans when he recently missed 15 games with a groin injury. Did he feel the difference while sitting in the press box?

"It's a touchy subject," Bogosian said. "They're usually pretty loud, but sometimes if the team is not playing as well as we should, some people get unhappy."

Noel has known for a while that fans' expectations are growing.

"After the first year, we had that sense that they would like more performance and the honeymoon is over," he said. "We don't sit here and take our fan base for granted. They expect us to work, and they should, and perform." —

NHL standings

EASTERN CONFERENCE

Atlantic Division

GP W L OT Pts GF GA

Boston 37 25 10 2 52 106 77

Tampa Bay 37 23 11 3 49 106 87

Montreal 38 22 13 3 47 96 84

Detroit 39 17 13 9 43 99 108

Toronto 39 18 16 5 41 106 113

Ottawa 39 15 17 7 37 111 126

Florida 38 14 19 5 33 88 123

Buffalo 37 10 24 3 23 66 105

Metropolitan Division

GP W L OT Pts GF GA

Pittsburgh 39 27 11 1 55 121 88

Washington 37 19 14 4 42 117 112

Philadelphia 37 17 16 4 38 93 104

N.Y. Rangers 38 18 18 2 38 88 102

New Jersey 38 15 16 7 37 92 99

Columbus 37 16 17 4 36 101 106

Carolina 37 14 15 8 36 86 105

N.Y. Islanders 38 11 20 7 29 96 129

WESTERN CONFERENCE

Central Division

GP W L OT Pts GF GA

Chicago 39 26 7 6 58 145 107

St. Louis 36 24 7 5 53 128 85

Colorado 36 23 10 3 49 106 88

Minnesota 39 20 14 5 45 88 96

Dallas 36 18 12 6 42 106 107

Winnipeg 39 16 18 5 37 103 116

Nashville 37 16 17 4 36 85 109

Pacific Division

GP W L OT Pts GF GA

Anaheim 39 27 7 5 59 127 98

Los Angeles 38 25 9 4 54 106 76

San Jose 37 23 8 6 52 121 94

Vancouver 39 22 11 6 50 106 93

Phoenix 36 19 10 7 45 111 110

Calgary 37 14 17 6 34 95 118

Edmonton 39 12 24 3 27 101 135

NOTE: Two points for a win, one point for overtime loss.

NHL • Team says its supporters are right to be unhappy right now.
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