My Favourite 2013-2014 Winnipeg Jets

My Favourite 2013-2014 Winnipeg Jets, For Different Reasons —

Well the Winnipeg Jets season is over and there are many months to bask in the inglorious times of being a Jets fan.  No playoffs again and a REALLY extended “summer” when compared to last year’s lockout season.

While things are still fresh of mind, I thought I’d get some thoughts down regarding individual players and the ones who grew to be my favourites due to different reasons this year.

In the Jets inaugural season back in Winnipeg, I was only able to watch about a dozen games. During last year’s lockout shortened season, I upped that number to about two dozen games much of that over the last half of the season.  However, many of those games were watched on smaller screens so I decided to make a larger commitment this year.  That turned into me watching all the games this time with the smallest screen being 20” but most on a big screen.  So while it didn’t change the non-playoff results, I certainly saw a lot I hadn’t noticed in the past.  Anyways, on to my favourites in no particular order.

Jake The Snake

Jets young phenom, Mr. Jacob Trouba, is by far the biggest surprise for me.  Gobbling up huge amounts of ice-time, he had a lengthy period this year where he was jaw-dropping  leaving me to wonder how good he might someday be in a Norris Trophy way.  He tired late, likely a combination of the huge minutes and the normal rookie wall.  The increased stress and physicality of an NHL schedule compared to college is tough even more so when one is given the kind of minutes that Trouba earned.  When at his best, he mimicked the fastest snake on the planet, diving through holes with the puck, using incredible skating speed and edge-work, almost impossible to stop.

I caution on the mean, physical game he plays at times.  “On the edge” can go both ways and I’d hate to see him have people return the favour and start running him.  He’s young and will find that balance.  Just a reminder, we need him on the ice.  I also noticed there was a large stretch where he was always leaning and cheating to the wrong side of the puck looking for breakaways up the wing opposite the puck, etc.  This came from his confidence at the time in that he thought he could always recover.  Well, he got burnt finally but his reading of the ice and his confidence bodes well for the future.  If he figures out that “cheating” a bit better and the coach allows it, we might see 20-30 goals.

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Jacob Trouba             image by Shawn Coates

Schife The Knife

He’s none other than the great rookie Mark Scheifele who finally, at least, quietened the non-believers crowd a bit.  As the 2011 first round pick, he’s had Sean Couturier shoved in his face since draft day and this year he finally gave some NHL evidence that he might someday challenge Couturier as the “best player”.  After all, HE didn’t draft himself ahead of Couturier.  But, this year Scheifele started slowly with Coach Noel leaving him in defensive roles trying to teach him the right way to play.  He eventually broke through that and went on a heck of a run points wise throwing himself into the Calder Trophy talk on TSN and other outlets.  His injury right at trade deadline obviously hurt.   The Winnipeg Jets went into a nosedive after GM Kevin Cheveldayoff chose to not replace him via trade.  He had a short window to work with but it shows Scheifele’s value to the hockey club.  It also shows that the cupboards that Jets are stocking with prospects have a ways to go…

For me, having watched him develop throughout his junior career, it was nice to see that wrist shot start finding more holes and his vision allowing some awesome dishes to NHL line-mates on a more regular basis.  And I’m pretty sure he fell down less.  😛

Team Canada thinks enough of him to invite him to the World Championships even though he hasn’t played in a month and a half.  Nice.

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Mark Scheifele               image by Shawn Coates

Little Big Man

If you remember back to last summer when the Jets had all those restricted free-agents, the Big Three were Bryan Little, Zach Bogosian and Blake Wheeler.  They were negotiated last, right before their arbitration hearings.  As one of a bunch of Winnipeg Jets fans who were playing GM on twitter, I had taken the position that UFA Mikhail Grabovski would be a great pickup for the Jets so decided the Jets needed to do some hard negotiating with one of those three for the Jets to have enough money under the salary cap to sign Grabo.

I suggested it should be Little who should take the dollars hit (he wasn’t going to starve :P) with Wheeler and Bogosian getting all their money.  Well, little did I know how my ranking of the three would turn out.

It’s now obvious to many that Bogosian is a distant third to Wheeler and Little at this point. He shows up in a future blog of mine so I’ll leave further explanation until then.

It’s funny I hadn’t watched much of Little in Atlanta.  I watched him play junior in Barrie where he would pull us out of our seats on a consistent basis with high octane offense.

Having watched all 82 games this year it has given me an appreciation for Little that is hard to sum up with a few words.  He has used his smarts to develop a complete game, driven to be the best he can with the tools he has which are substantial. His relentless work ethic and making the right play all the time make him my runaway choice for Jets MVP.

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Bryan Little             image by Shawn Coates

On twitter, I was told I was underestimating Little’s value when he was going through his RFA negotiations  last summer.

So a tip of the hat to @maximustacitus .  Max knows things.

Next up are my disappointments and my “I’m not sure how I feel about your play”  blogs.

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