It seemed like the exact second that the Winnipeg Jets left for the desert in 1996, fans were already asking the question of when will the NHL come back to the city. Fans got their answer on May 31st, 2011 when it was announced the Atlanta Thrashers were relocating to Winnipeg. The fans poured onto the streets of Winnipeg in celebration of NHL’s return to the city.
It’s now almost been six years since the Jets came back and there has not been a whole lot of celebrating to do. The team has managed to make the postseason just once and they failed to win a single playoff game. There are a certain few players who deserve some of the blame when it comes to the lack of success for the Jets. If these players actually played up to their potential, things could have been different for the team. While there hasn’t been a whole lot to cheer for in the past five years, there have still been some Jets players who have performed spectacularly.
Without further ado, here are the current 8 Best and 7 worst Winnipeg Jets since the team’s return to the NHL.
15. Best: Michael Frolik
When the Jets acquired Michael Frolik in the Summer of 2013, there was little fanfare about the trade. It seemed like the fans of the Jets had little to be excited for as Frolik was coming off a few uninspired seasons with the Blackhawks. As it would turn out, the acquisition of Frolik might have been the best trade in Jets 2.0 history.
Frolik would resurrect his career in Winnipeg, scoring 42 points in each of his two seasons with the team. While the team loved the offense he provided, they loved his defensive game even more. Frolik was arguably the hardest working player on the team. After not coming to terms on a new contract with the Jets, Frolik would sign with Calgary in 2015. In the two years since he has left the team, the Jets have yet to find a suitable replacement for Frolik.
14. Worst: Ondrej Pavelec
When the franchise made to move over from Atlanta, it seemed like the team was set in goal for the future with Ondrej Pavelec. While Pavelec remained the team’s starter for the first five seasons, his performance was underwhelming for the most part. While it’s true that the Jets would have never made the playoffs in 2015, if it wasn’t for Pavelec getting hot down the stretch, he was mediocre at best for most of his tenure in Winnipeg.
Besides his one great season in 2014-15, Pavelec’s numbers were not that impressive. His goals against average always hovered around the 3.00 mark and he barely managed to have an above .900 save percentage. While Pavelec made some absolutely incredible saves during his time as a Jet, he has also allowed some very soft goals in at the worst times. After six seasons in Winnipeg, it seems like Pavelec’s time as a Jet is done. Chances are that the Jets could have made more playoff appearances if they had more consistent netminder than Pavelec.
13. Best: Jacob Trouba
Jacob Trouba’s tenure with the Winnipeg Jets has been a roller coaster ride, to say the least. The nineth overall pick of the 2012 NHL Entry Draft had a fantastic rookie season in 2013-14. The defenseman recorded 29 points in 65 games while showing he could play on both sides of the ice. Trouba’s next couple of seasons were mediocre at best, and things seemed to only get worse from there.
Prior to the 2016-17 season, Trouba held out in order get a big contract thought he deserved. He even at one point asked to be traded. When Trouba finally joined the team in November, he regained his rookie form and he hasn’t looked back. If Trouba can continue to be the team’s best all-around defenseman, he has a good chance of making it near the top of a future rendition of this list.
12. Worst: Paul Postma
Paul Postma has surprisingly been with the Jets since the very beginning, as he was an original draft pick of the Atlanta Thrashers back in 2007. The fact that he remains on the team, despite not bringing a whole lot to the table, goes to show you the lack of depth the Jets have on defense.While Postma has only been used in a bottom pairing role with the team, he’s not even skilled enough for that role.
Postma has size at 6’3″, but he rarely uses it to his advantage. He is lucky to still have a job in the NHL. How many other NHL teams have employed a borderline NHL defenseman for long as the Jets have? The answer is no one. The Jets need to cut bait with Postma after this season, and give his spot to someone who actually has some upside.
11. Best: Bryan Little
In the team inaugural season, Bryan Little was still a fairly young player at just the age of 23. However, Little already had shown some great potential with one 30 goal season already under his belt. While hasn’t recorded another 30 goal season since he has arguably been the Jets must consistent forward season to season.
During his time as a Jet, Little has recorded an impressive 0.72 points per game while still being a solid two-way player. The big knock on Little is his inability to stay healthy. There were a couple of seasons where he was on pace to have career years, only to be cut short due to injury. Little is still under thirty years old and should have a few great seasons as Jet left in him.
10. Worst: Anthony Peluso
Before he was claimed off waivers by Winnipeg in 2013, Anthony Peluso had spent four seasons in St.Louis’ minor league system. While the tough guy was never good enough to crack the lineup with the Blues, the Jets were a different story. Peluso did add some grit to the lineup, but it was still a puzzling move when the team decided to resign him to a new two year contract.
The role of the enforcer was dying in the NHL, and Peluso brought almost no offense to the table. To makes things worse, Peluso is a below average skater. He was actually a defenseman in junior, but his skating was so poor he had no choice but to switch positions. Since signing his new contract, Peluso has a had a hard time finding a spot in Winnipeg’s lineup, and has spent all of this season in the minors.
9. Best: Patrik Laine
While Patrik Laine may only be in his rookie season with the Jets, it has been such an incredible year for him that he definitely earned a spot on this list. The second overall pick of the 2016 NHL Entry Draft came into the league with a ton of hype, and so far he has more than lived up to it. The Finnish winger has already established himself as one the best pure goal scorers in the game. He is currently on pace to score 40 goals, and that’s even with him missing time with a concussion.
It’s hard to believe that Patrik Laine is still just eighteen years old. He is only going to get better in the next few years. If he can start using his size a bit more, he has the potential to be one of the most dominate forces in the entire NHL. If Laine continues to play the way he is right now, there is no reason why he wont be on the top of this list one day.
8. Worst: Zach Bogosian
When it came to the players that came over from Atlanta, no other defenseman arguably had more upside than Zach Bogosian. The former 3rd overall pick of the 2008 NHL Draft showed a ton of promise in his first few seasons on a poor Thrashers team. Bogosian’s first season as a Jet turned out to be his best NHL season to date. In 65 games, he recording a career-high 30 points while still providing a physical element to his game.
Unfortunately for Bogosian, everything for him in Winnipeg seemed to go downhill from there. For the rest of his tenure as a Jet, he couldn’t stay healthy for the life of him. When he was healthy enough to play, he wasn’t all that effective. As time went on Bogosian became more expendable, and he was eventually shipped off to the Buffalo Sabres in February of 2015.
7. Best: Andrew Ladd
The last ever team captain of the Atlanta Thrashers, kept the “C” on his jersey when the team made the move to the Winnipeg. Andrew Ladd would go on to play parts of five seasons with the Jets, where he was a quiet but still great leader for a young team. While the team relied on him for his leadership in the locker room, they also needed him to produce on the ice as well, and that is exactly what he did.
While Ladd wasn’t a top tier offensive talent, he still led the team in points on two different occasions. Even when Ladd wasn’t putting points on the scoresheet, he was always setting an example of what it meant to give 110% every single shift. While things did end perfectly for Ladd and the Jets, he no doubt set the bar when it comes to future Jets leaders.
6. Worst: Johnny Oduya
While Johnny Oduya’s tenure with the Winnipeg Jets lasted just 63 games, he still made an impact, unfortunately it was not a good one. In Winnipeg’s very first game back in the NHL, Oduya made an awful turnover which led to the very first goal agasint in Jets 2.0 history. The fans in Winnipeg would never forgive him for that, and became a scapegoat for the team defensive woes.
Luckily for the Oduya and the Jets fans sake, he was traded to Chicago at the 2012 trade deadline. After leaving Winnipeg Oduya went back to being the reliable defenseman he was known for being. For whatever reason Oduya and Jets just were not a good fit.
5. Best: Mark Scheifele
Mark Scheifele has the distinction of being the very first draft pick in Winnipeg Jets 2.0 history. At the time he was drafted, experts and fans alike were not so sure that Scheifele was the right choice to be taken at the 7th overall spot. It may have taken a few years, but Scheifele has proven he was more than deserving to be a top ten selection. After only getting a cup coffee with the Jets for a couple of seasons, he finally made the team for good in 2013-14. He had a solid rookie season recording 34 points in 65 games.
Since his rookie year, Scheifele has gotten better each season. This current season has been sort of a coming out party for him. He got off to a really hot start in the 2016-17 season, he was even leading the league in points for the first month. While he has cooled off a bit, it’s still been a career year for Scheifle. Not only is currently on pace to lead the Jets in points, but he should finish among the leagues top ten in points.
4. Worst: Eric Fehr
It’s always extra special when a player gets to play in his hometown. The Winkler, Manitoba native got that chance when he was traded to Winnipeg ahead of the 2011-12 season. It seemed like Eric Fehr would be a good pickup for the Jets considering he was a just a season removed from a 21 goal campaign with the Washington Capitals. As it would turn out, Fehr’s one and only season with the Jets was a complete disaster.
Fehr battled injuries all season, but even when he was in the lineup, he produced almost nothing. In 35 games with the team, he managed to record just a paltry three points. Luckily for Fehr, his time in Winnipeg didn’t completely end his career. He would resurrect his career back in Washington and he would even lift the Stanley Cup as a member of the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2016.
3. Best: Dustin Byfuglien
Whether you are a fan of the way Dustin Byfuglien plays the game or not, there is no denying he is a one of a kind player. There are no other defenseman in the league who are capable of being a devasting force on both ends of the ice quite like him. Byfuglien is capable of laying out crushing hits in his own end, while blasting pucks in on the opposing end. Of course, Byfuglien isnt a perfect player by any means. Sometimes Byfuglien finds himself caught out of postion after joining the rush. He also can tend to go over the line physically.
Despite being a being a polorizing player, the Jets are more happy to have on their team than not. Byfuglien has been far and away the team’s best offensive defenseman. He has led all Jets defenseman in points every single season, while scoring double-digit goals in every full season he’s played.
2. Worst: Ron Hainsey
Ron Hainsey’s career seemed to be trending downward when he made the move over to Winnipeg with the Thrashers. The defenseman had three consecutive seasons where he recorded at least thirty points. However, in his last two season’s in Atlanta, he had seasons of 26 and 19 points respectively. He continued his downward trend in his first season with Winnipeg recording just 13 points. To make matters worse for the Jets was that Hainsey was getting paid $4.5 million a season for his poor production.
Fortunately for the Jets, Hainsey would only stay one more season with the team. In the combined 103 games Hainsey played as a Jet, he failed to register a single goal with the team. For his two season’s in Winnipeg, Hainsey had the displeasure of being the Jets fans whipping boy. It’s safe to say it was justified considering he brought almost nothing to the table but a massive cap hit.
1 .Best: Blake Wheeler
There might not have been a player who was more happy that the Thrashers moved to Winnipeg than Blake Wheeler. He wasn’t shy about the fact that he loved playing in a real hockey market. This was the reason he refused to sign with the team that originally drafted him in the Phoenix Coyotes. Almost six seasons into his tenure in Winnipeg, it seems like the Jets and Wheeler are a perfect match.
The Jets Captain has been the team’s best offensive player since the NHL returned to the city. The big power forward had a career season in 2015-16, finishing tied for fifth in the league with 78 points. While he has been overshadowed in points this season by Mark Scheifele and Patrik Laine, he has a physical presence that the others don’t. The Winnipeg Jets are a young team, and Blake Wheeler is the exact type of veteran the team needs.
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