With the 2013-14 season for the Winnipeg Jets coming to a close with a win Friday night in Calgary, it’s time to take a look at the studs and duds for the Jets organization this past season.
The Jets are a young team as it is. The team’s nucleus is comprised of a majority of young players with a little amount of polished veterans making a difference. This year, two of the Jets biggest contributors were rookies Jacob Trouba and Mark Scheifele. The former first overall draft picks found ways to shine in their respective ways. Despite a slow start, Mark Scheifele had a successful rookie season. He started out on the third line and had his struggles finding his place on the team. It looked like he wasn’t ready for the NHL game, physically and mentally. Fans and media thought that he needed to tweak his game and develop in the minors and he needed a stop in St Johns with the Icecaps. However, once December came along Scheifele began to take stride, tallying 11 points in 14 games. He found chemistry with Evander Kane and Blake Wheeler and eventually found himself comfortable and thriving in his role of second line centre. Scheifele was injured prior to the trade deadline. The teams decline in production showed how crucial Scheifele was to the team.
Meanwhile, on the backend, Jacob Trouba has thrived from day one with the Jets. The former Michigan Wolverine jumped into the lineup and has displayed the ability to log big minutes. He led all rookies with time on ice per game while averaging 22:36 per night. Not too shabby for a 20 year old. Though Trouba primarily focused on his defensive responsibilities he wasn’t one to shy away from a chance to get involved offensively. He proved this by finishing tied for 11th in rookie scoring with 29 points (10G & 19A). Trouba’s ability to play in all situations is impressive considering this was his rookie season. All signs indicate he is on the path to have a successful NHL career and be a franchise NHL defenceman in the years to come.
Disgust filled the hearts of Jets fans on the eve of January 11th. The Jets had lost their 5th straight game and it was apparent that something needed to be changed. The next day, Claude Noel was fired and Paul Maurice was brought in to replace him. The job was described by Maurice and Cheveldayoff as a sort of consulting position; a set of eyes outside of the organization to lend a hand in there evaluation period to prepare for next year. Playoffs were a distant thought and not the concern for fans. They just wanted to see some change. In Maurice’s first 10 games as the Jets coach the team went 8-2. It was a fun part of the season but still nothing much was expected in terms of playoff hopes. But as the Olympic break began playoffs looked like a serious possibility. Those dreams would soon be crushed but nevertheless fans enjoyed the ride and Maurice started winning over the hearts of Jets fans. Maurice has stated that it’s his family’s choice on wether he comes back next year. Maurice has stated he loves it in Winnipeg and has enjoyed his time but reiterates his family comes first. He is a family man. With a full training camp to get his message across to players, Maurice could implement a solid foundation and system within the group.
The Winnipeg Jets this season have been called a team with out a “star.” Wheeler might not be a star but as of late he has been playing like one. Wheeler finished the year with career high 69 points (28G & 41A) in 82 games. The speedy power forward is a force when he drives to the net. His admirable combination of size and speed in his game is lethal. He was named to the Team USA’s Olympic hockey team. Even though he did not play much, after the Olympic break he came back to Winnipeg engaged and ready to compete. Despite Wheeler’s rather slow start he found a way to bounce back and return to regular form. Wheeler has proven to be a leader on the ice, leading by example. When Wheeler is engaged he can truly be a game changer. This year Wheeler was the Jets best player. He has my vote for team MVP this season and he did everything well this season. He is a true warrior and competitor and a fun player to watch.
Honarable mentions: Michael Frolik and Bryan Little
I do not believe in a team being better than their record. That sort of chatter tends to be brought up a lot here in Winnipeg. There are a lot of unrealistic expectations with this Winnipeg Jets team. Lets say it how it is: This team did not have a chance to compete for a playoff spot. The lineup was not built to compete in the West. Cheveldayoff failed to put together a team with talent throughout the lineup. When Mark Scheifele was injured this become very apparent. Olli Jokinen could not step in and fulfill the duties as the second line centre, creating a gaping whole at the centre. The team lacked depth at forward. Due to the lack of depth the Jets had to play three lines and then fatigue came into play. The defenceman and goaltending need some work as well. Cheveldayoff needs to become less reluctant to make a move this offseason.
There always seems to be something to talk about with Kane. Wether it’s the infamous “money phone” incident, his alleged dining and dashing sprees or alleged assault lawsuit. In recent events Kane was scratched for missing a team function. Times have been tough for Kane off the ice. But on the ice things haven’t gone so smoothly either. Kane’s point production declined this year. Yes, Kane was injured at times but that doesn’t mean much. Kane is described as an elite player by some but I don’t buy it. An elite player isn’t invisible most nights when he isn’t with top players. An elite player can create offence by themselves and not from their line mates. I thinks it’s evident that its time for Kane to go. I also don’t think Kane would mind a change at all. The Jets should act fast and trade Kane as soon as they can when his value is still high. If the right offer comes around the Jets could get some picks and prospects to help Chevy with his plan of drafting and developing.
Setoguchi’s year in Winnipeg didn’t go as well as expected. The Jets traded a second round pick for the former 30-goal scorer. Before the season, some had penciled in Setoguchi as the second line right wing for the Jets. During the year, Setoguchi found himself on the third and fourth lines and having multiple stints in the pressbox. Setoguchi was brought in to put the puck in the net. He seemed like he could be a perfect compliment to Evander Kane. His struggles offensively and his poor effort every night make this acquisition a dud. The Jets did not trade Setoguchi at the deadline, which came as a surprise to some. The truth is, how many teams really wanted him? The Jets are left with horrible memories of his playing time here and the thought that they wasted a second round pick on nothing.
Honorable mentions: Zach Bogosian
Become an MVP with Winnipeg Whiteout and never miss a thing.