It isn’t something that many fans of the Winnipeg Jets want to talk about at this point in the season, but with a loss to the Dallas Stars on Monday night, missing the playoffs seems likely for the club, as they are still two games behind the Phoenix Coyotes for the final Wild Card spot. Just because the season may end for the Jets on April 11th vs. the Calgary Flames doesn’t mean it’s the end of the season for some of the teams’ young players, however.
It happens every year: a team makes the playoffs, and they gut their AHL roster of the best talent in order to supply the club with enough troops to make a championship run. What is less-publicized, however, is the reverse: NHL teams sending players down so their AHL club can make a championship run of their own.
The St. John’s Ice Caps have been holding down a playoff spot in the AHL’s Eastern Conference, and are almost a sure thing to make the post-season, currently a fourth seed, after winning 13 of their past 14 games.
For players such as Mark Scheifele and Jacob Trouba, getting even more games under their belt this year would be a great help in their development, especially with a playoff intensity. Trouba hasn’t played for the Ice Caps in his first pro season, but Scheifele spent two stints with the team in 2011-12 and 2012-13, which included 10 playoff games.
Paul Postma, who is also contractually allowed to join the team, would benefit immensely from an increase of playing time. Postma played four games with St. John’s this season on a conditioning loan after injury, and has spent two seasons in Newfoundland in the past.
With the Jets adding farm-hand Patrice Cormier to their roster on Monday morning from St. John’s, they now have eight players that could join the team; the others include Keaton Ellerby, current back-up Michael Hutchinson, James Wright, and Eric O’Dell.
Wright and Scheifele are both weeks away from returning from injury, and the moves might be a moot point, shortening their recovery period for what would likely be an unnecessary trip Eastward. Jets’ GM Kevin Chevaldayoff also has to weigh the chances of injury taking place if a player is sent down, affecting their summer training or even the 2014-15 season.
Although the growth of the individual players takes centre stage in a situation such as this, having a successful year in St. John’s is also a key point: The club could be moving to Thunder Bay as early as next season, and giving the fans of the AHL’s most-attended team a high note on send-off would be a win-win for all.
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