Winnipeg Jets Shake Up Their Leadership Group

Via Jetsnation.ca

September 16, 2022 is the day a new era began for the Winnipeg Jets. The results of this change could go both ways. Is it a promising change for the team or will it hinder their progression? Only time will tell.

Since 2016, Winnipeg Jets forward Blake Wheeler has been captain of the team. That all changed before training camp even got going for the 2022-23 season.

New head coach Rick Bowness addressed the elephant in the room, that being the uncertainty within his leadership group. The decision was made that the team would start the season with Wheeler being stripped of his C and moving forward with a group of assistant captains instead. Bowness went on to say…

“Some of the best leaders I played with and coaches never had an A, never had a C. What we’re trying to do now is get …. more guys in that group to take that responsibility and be proud of it”

-Rick Bowness

What now for Wheeler?

Wheeler seems to be saying all the right things after losing his captaincy, but let’s be honest, stripping a 36 year old nearing the end of his career can’t sit well. Maybe this move helps him focus on his on ice play and perform at a higher level without having to worry about carrying the leadership role on his shoulders.

It feels more like a Matthew Tkachuk and the Calgary Flames exit. Say all the right things to force a trade out of Winnipeg, and end up on a competitive team with a chance to win a Stanley Cup. Blake Wheeler is further on in his NHL career than Tkachuk. If he were to take a negative approach and imply a potential departure from Winnipeg, he could end up playing for a team in full rebuild mode with cap space like the Arizona Coyotes as a salary dump. That wouldn’t be an ideal way to finish a career.

This story is far from over, but it’s a must needed good step in the right direction. It should make the Winnipeg Jets an interesting team to follow this season and beyond.

Not Just Wheeler

What can’t be forgotten here is last season, defenseman Josh Morrissey and forward Mark Scheifele were the two assistant captains, no commitment was made to that happening again for the 2022-23 season, therefore also putting them on notice that they need to prove themselves as leaders.

What’s next for the Winnipeg Jets

Looking at some of the teams players who are signed long term, there are few options for a new leadership group.

Kyle Connor is the first player who comes to mind to become the next captain based on his on ice play having scored 47 goals and adding 46 assists in 79 games played in 2021-22.

Nikolaj Ehlers should be part of the next leadership group. His on ice play is untapped, has never been the center of controversy and just goes out and plays the game the way it should is enough to warrant a letter on his jersey.

Adam Lowry comes to mind but not many third line centers captain a team. His no-nonsense approach and willingness to stand up for teammates warrants consideration to become an assistant.

Pierre-Luc Dubois is the biggest wildcard of the group. If the jets are willing to name him their next captain, maybe it’ll convince him to stay long term. Which would be a massive win-win for Winnipeg.

Neal Pionk is a player to keep an eye on. Personally, I feel he was under utilized last season and should be ahead of Josh Morrissey when it comes to ice time and power play usage. Can he be a leader? Give him a chance to prove it.

Mark Scheifele and Josh Morrisey of the two, maybe Morrisey gets the assistant captain role back.

Scheifele’s golf tournament interview with Sara Orlesky, the appearance with Tim & Friends, and being part of the NHL media tour isn’t enough to convince me all is well in Winnipeg. His ego definitely got in the way last spring after the season ended. It also wouldn’t hurt to prove he can buy into Rick Bowness’ team first philosophy.

Uncertainty Ahead

Winnipeg Jets fan will need to have some patience to see how this team reacts to change. They have the talent to compete and prospects coming up, but it’s not a tear it down and start over scenario. That being said it won’t be fixed overnight, there are too many questions still needing to be answered.

Kevin Cheveldayoff has his work cut out for him but history shows he tends to figure things out at his own pace, and for the most part, does a good, if not great job doing so.

Stay tuned Jets fans. Training camps open this week.

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