The prospect that the only captain the Jets 2.0 have ever known could potentially be traded by the Monday trade deadline had hung over the heads of the players on the Winnipeg Jets like a guillotine. Now that this is a reality fans have already set their sights on next season. This vision for the fan base includes a shiny new Top 5 prospect in the Jets fold.
Young players on the Jets roster like Mark Scheifele (22), Jacob Trouba (22), Nikolaj Ehlers (20), Andrew Copp (21), Adam Lowry (22), Joel Armia (22), Alexander Burmistrov (24) and Marko Dano (21) can probably afford one lost season as they continue in their NHL development. This isn’t to say that they are happy to lose and that will simply use the 2015-16 season as an opportunity to grow. No player is going to be happy with that prospect. It just isn’t in their DNA and it isn’t what got them to the NHL.
But what about the veteran players on the current roster? What does a lost season mean to a guy in his late 20s/early 30s who is finally looking to make some noise in the playoffs with this current Jets roster?
Forwards: Little (28), Perreault (28), Stafford (30), Thorburn (32), Wheeler (29).
Defencemen: Byfuglien (30), Enstrom (31), Myers (26), Stuart (31), Pardy (31), Postma (27).
Goalie: Pavelec (28).
Last Summer when there was all this hype about the Jets prospect depth and The Hockey News projected the Jets to be 2019 Stanley Cup champions many of the players who were asked about this knew there was a good chance they wouldn’t be on that roster. When discussing the prospect of raising the Cup in 2019 former captain Andrew Ladd spoke about the focus on winning right now and not in the future (he will certainly have the opportunity with the Blackhawks this year). Only Blake Wheeler, Tyler Myers and Dustin Byfuglien are currently signed to contracts that reach the 2018-19 NHL season.
When Blake Wheeler was asked about playing for next year during the pre-game chat in Dallas yesterday, just a few days before the trade deadline, he responded as you would expect “I’m going to be 30 here pretty soon. I’m trying to win every game I play in. I think I’ve made that clear. I am never going to be looking forward to anything other than the next game. I said it the other day, I’m the eternal optimist and I am going to hope until their is no more hope.”
Players have finite careers and usually within that time frame their opportunity to win the ultimate prize in hockey may be even shorter. So asking them to have a long term vision of a situation that could occur years down the line may be a tough pill to swallow.
After the Dallas game when coach Maurice was asked about the need to win now he indicated that the team will “probably put a few more (kids) in next year as well….we come in here with the twenty guys in the room and my job is to try to figure out how to win a Stanley Cup with that team. We are not putting everything on the back burner and saying we are going to wait three or four years until these guys get older. Our job is to push as hard as we possibly can right now, develop as fast as we possibly can and win every single night.”
Of course with a slew of prospects like Connor Hellebuyck, Kyle Connor, Josh Morrissey, Nic Petan, Brendan Lemieux, Chase De Leo potentially knocking on the door of the NHL perhaps it might not be too long a wait.