TEPID TAKE: Wheeler’s Record Reminds Winnipeg Fans They Were Once Thrashers

Photo via Winnipeg Free Press

It took seven years, but finally a player who actually played for the Winnipeg Jets now hold the franchise record for points, as Blake Wheeler surpassed Ilya Kovalchuk’s record of 615 points. Wheeler took 81 more games to do it, but he did have some carryover from when he played for the Atlanta Thrashers before they moved.

Now, more than ever, we need Kovalchuk on the Jets to battle it out with Wheeler for points. At least Kovalchuk still leads the all-time goals for the team by 111 goals over Bryan Little, as well as most goals in a season with 52– twice.

The interesting thing is how much the Jets are celebrating it now, even though the Thrashers history is not really promoted; mostly due to the Atlanta Spirit LLC. still holding the rights to the name and all the iconography with it. Plus, I don’t think the Thrashers name or history– outside of the rookies they were able to produce– is much to crow about. The Devils don’t tout the Rockies or Scouts all that much and there’s no reason they should have either.

But the Jets Centric Podcast had an interesting thread they put up on Sunday (FOUND RIGHT HERE) that’s really telling of where people in Winnipeg really stand when it comes to the Atlanta history. And if memory serves, I don’t think there was a big countdown for when Wheeler was to break Kovalchuk’s mark– but I’m sure I’m wrong in that.

With the lack of ties to Atlanta in Winnipeg, it’s easy to forget where they came from. When you go up to Winnipeg, there’s not much of a trace of the Thrashers history in the MTS Centre that I’ve seen at all. You’d think they’d want to be happy a team in the south fell or else they’d still be lobbying for an expansion team when other US markets are getting it.

Jets fans started their erasing of the Thrashers at the 2011 Draft when they were yelling down at people wearing Thrashers jersey, whether ironically or not, and just being jackasses to anyone and everyone. I get the hype behind getting a team back, but to do it in the face of people who just lost a team– not cool. They sure forget about how they felt when the actual Jets moved to Phoenix real quick when it comes to that.

In any case, the Jets are now seven wins away from tying the Thrashers win mark and I hope Bob Hartley and Curt Fraser are there to help usher the passing of the win torch to Paul Maurice.

Are The Jets Really This Good??

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As it stands right now, the Winnipeg Jets sit second in the Central Division and second in the Western Conference overall with a 15-6-3 record. After years of just hanging on in the Central, they seem to be breaking out of their shell and finally reaching their potential that many have said that they could have.

But are they really this good?? My buddy Brian told me on Twitter last night that he wasn’t buying into the hype and the main reason is Paul Maurice. I gave a counter of their goaltending being as unusual as it is– especially since they went out and got Steve Mason as a free agent this summer.¬†While the Maurice thing is a valid point, the owners are looking like geniuses locking up the head coach Maurice and GM Kevin Cheveldayoff to multi-year extensions.

Whatever the reason for hesitation to this success, the numbers aren’t hurting the success. Mark Scheifele has grown a long way from wearing a generic jersey at the 2011 NHL Draft to one of the faces of the team and being tied for the team lead in scoring and being tied for 10th in league scoring. The guy who he’s tied with, Blake Wheeler, has a great story of redemption– going from a first-round pick, hitting free agency rather than signing with his drafted team, never finding his footing with the team he signed with, to finally hitting a stride with Winnipeg over the past couple seasons.

And we haven’t even talked about Patrik Laine, who is a on a bit of a sophomore slump, or Nikolaj Ehlers or Bryan Little– who all have the ability to be primary or secondary scorers for this team.

In my point of contention, the goaltending is something that has never been too much of a strong point from Winnipeg. With Ondrej Pavelec leaving, it could have been a spot to get a big name to help get the team over that hump….and they got Steve Mason. And Mason was Mason in the first couple games (0-3-1 in four games). Luckily, Connor Hellebuyck has been a savior for this team with a 13-2-2 record on the season. How long that will last is anyone’s guess– but keep riding the wave of winning until it burst and work it from there.

Defensively, if the top guys can be healthy– they’ll be sturdy there. Tyler Myers is back and contributing in a decent way, Dustin Byfuglien is who he is, and Jacob Trouba could be doing more– but has been fine in his season so far.

Overall– it’s all about how long Hellebuyck can keep his good times rolling and adapts when people figure him out, as well as if guys like Scheifele and Wheeler can stay with their better than point-per-game clip. Add that to the secondary scoring and defensive side getting better offensively– this team could be a consistent force this season moving ahead.