A few members of the Winnipeg Jets have a lot riding on this season. For one, it will be each of their third seasons in Winnipeg and even though that nostalgic feeling in the city is still glowing. That does not deter from the fact that players, coaches, ownership and the dear fans of the Jets are setting their sights on something more. The organization has shown a fair bit of consistency through it’s first two seasons and at least fans of the team can be happy with that fact because that has been the plan in place here since day one. To build through the draft, secure core pieces and dip into trades that depending on how the playoff push and off-seasons go. But this year their are 5 to 6 players hoping for a chance to have the invite to dawn their own countries crest at the Olympics in Sochi.
New long-term signees of the Jets in Blake Wheeler, Zach Bogosian, Dustin Byfuglien and rookie Jacob Trouba (Who is yet to play an NHL game) were camp invitees for the US Olympic Team and Andrew Ladd was invited to Team Canada’s camp. Now I said there was a potential sixth player to have a chance, and though it is a long shot one has to see the potential upside of speedy winger Evander Kane and what he could bring to that big International ice surface. The kid is fast, strong, a workhorse and is driven. Many may take some of his social media antics as being immature and inappropriate, but in that same sense that outspoken Kane has not mixed words when asked or tweeting about the playoffs. Every chance he had during the playoffs he was mentioning how things would be different this year and that type of confidence is something any team would wish to inherit. He is young, cocky and even has a little chip on his shoulder and if he bursts out of the gate, don’t be surprised if his name starts being thrown around a bit as a ‘Surprise’ candidate that really should catch no one by surprise. He has improved each year and I see no reason for that not to continue.
On the other hand Captain Ladd may have a decent chance as well. Yes, the forward position is crowded with talented players but Ladd has shown some great leadership and his ability to get dirty along the boards makes him a solid 2-way player that you really know what your going to get out of every night. In professional sports, that’s what matters most. In sports, everything is a business, a business of winning. And one way to make things easier on the manager or coach is to have players that he knows what to expect out of. There are always talents that come and go because they don’t adapt, but even in baseball why do you think guys like Nick Punto, Johnny Gomes and Mark Derosa get picked up every year when there are way more talented players available? Because these guys compete on a nightly basis and their managers know what they’ve got, day in and day out and that provides a sense of security. When a manager has security all the questions go out the window and the lineup writes itself and I think Ladd could be a guy like that if he so chooses after his production stalls later in his career.
On the other hand the US team Olympic hopefuls have a great opportunity except for the 19 year old Trouba, who realises it will be tough to crack the roster he said he is treating this as a learning experience and what a great experience it is to be around some great NHL players. But for Wheeler, Byfuglien, and Zach Bogosian it is a different story and these guys all have great opportunities if they start the season strong. All of this can be seen as nothing but a positive for the Jets organization and having extra incentive to play for your country definitely does not hurt. When Zach Bogosian was asked about the Jets representatives he said,
“I think it says something about the organization and what we’re trying to build.”
“It shows that we have some guys that are well thought of, especially with USA Hockey. It’s exciting, especially for a kid like Trouba who hasn’t played an NHL game, yet they think enough of him to include him in this group. That just speaks to the kind of kid he is and we’re lucky to have guys like that in our organization.”
All in all we should hope that this added incentive should produce a higher performance on the ice. To have 5 players names even get recognized let alone invited shows a lot of growth as well as showing how the hockey world sees the Winnipeg Jets and that is the last thing that Winnipeg fans really wanted following their return. We are not a rental organization, we are here to stay and we belong. It’s nice to see others see this as well.