The Winnipeg Jets’ 2020-21 season was stuffed with ups and downs and ended with a second-round sweep by the hands of the Montreal Canadiens. On this sequence, we’ll have a look again on the season, participant by participant, and grade their particular person performances with an eye fixed towards their future with the crew.
Coming into the 2020-21 NHL season, it appeared Blake Wheeler was ageless.
The 34-year-old, who had back-to-back 91 level seasons in 2017-18 and 2018-19 and 65 factors final season, appeared to only be getting higher and higher at a time when most gamers start to fall off.
Sadly for the Jets’ captain and the crew that employs him, Wheeler’s wrinkles confirmed between January and June. His regression was noticeable in what he admitted was “by far the toughest yr of (his) skilled life.”
Factors Totals Don’t Inform the Entire Story
At first look, Wheeler’s season doesn’t look so unhealthy: 15 targets and 31 assists for 46 factors in 50 video games — good for a 3rd=place tie with Nikolaj Ehlers — and two targets and three assists in eight playoff video games.
However level totals don’t inform the entire story. A a deeper look signifies that indisputably, Wheeler was a detriment to success extra typically than he was a contributor to it regardless of working at almost a point-per recreation.
A Legal responsibility at 5-on-5
Wheeler was an atrocious -17, worst on the Jets by eight factors. At even energy, he was on the ice for 39 targets for and 52 towards.
By the point the shortened season was a month previous, it was clear Wheeler was a shell of his former self from a defensive standpoint, and was typically caught coasting, being indecisive, or just shedding his man altogether. Some thought, on the time, that it was merely a scarcity of effort or an indication of his inevitable decline.
Associated: Jets Being Damage by Wheeler’s Weak Protection
The explanations have been extra complicated than that, nevertheless. His struggles have been exacerbated by head coach Paul Maurice’s poor line mixtures: Wheeler principally performed with Kyle Connor and Mark Scheifele, though the trio has been caved in at five-on-five for years.
Another excuse for his struggles have been as a result of, unbeknownst to many, he was quietly enjoying with cracked ribs. He shouldn’t have been within the lineup in any respect.
Particular Groups Continued to be a Energy
Wheeler was nonetheless productive on the person benefit, along with his energy play numbers doing yeoman’s work to distract from his lack of even-strength manufacturing.
A fixture on the Jets’ prime energy play, Wheeler produced 4 targets and 11 assists for the membership that operated at 16.7 per cent effectivity.
Wheeler’s Position Should Be Diminished Going Ahead
Wheeler is just not the participant he was even two seasons in the past, and that’s alarming contemplating he nonetheless has three years left on his contract and can receives a commission a whopping $8.25 million in every of these seasons.
Father Time catches up with each participant, and the Jets can’t faux Wheeler remains to be suited to a top-six position. He was not held to the identical requirements as others this season due to the ‘C’ on his chest, however that may’t proceed.
Wheeler remains to be a proficient and devoted participant, and he confirmed flashes of his classic self when he was lastly wholesome down the stretch after getting back from a concussion. He’s additionally powerful buyer who nonetheless needs to win and believes the crew as at the moment constructed can do exactly that, regardless of their systemic issues being completely uncovered of their second-round sweep by the hands of the Montreal canadiens.
Regardless of his surliness with the media — and that he was seemingly at a loss to diagnose what ailed the Jets throughout their brutal shedding streak by April and early Might — he’s reportedly well-respected within the locker room.
With a modified no-trade clause and no-movement clause, Wheeler isn’t going wherever. The secret going ahead — if the 2020-21 Wheeler is the one the Jets can anticipate any further — is for the crew to deploy him in conditions the place they know he can succeed (akin to the facility play), and to maintain him out of conditions he can’t, even when meaning much less ice time and a bottom-six position.
Closing Grade: D
Declan Schroeder is a 26-year-old communications specialist and freelance journalist in Winnipeg, Manitoba. He holds a diploma in Artistic Communications with a serious in journalism from Purple River Faculty and a bachelors in Rhetoric and Communications from the College of Winnipeg.
Deeply rooted within the metropolis’s hockey tradition, the unique Jets skipped city when he was two and the two.0 model got here onto the scene when he was 17.