Changing of the guard for Winnipeg

Jets name new captain, although alternates are more interesting

Blake Wheeler. Photo by Lisa Gansky

Last week the Winnipeg Jets announced their captains and alternate captains for the upcoming 2016-17 season. Blake Wheeler was – to no one’s surprise – named captain of the team, with Mark Scheifele and Dustin Byfuglien named as alternates.

Everyone had anticipated that Wheeler was going to be named captain after the departure of Andrew Ladd at the trade deadline last season. Ladd had donned the C since the Jets returned to Winnipeg.

Cheveldayoff said in a press conference that he felt Wheeler was the right choice.

“Blake has been involved in the community the whole time he has been in Winnipeg,” he said. “Over the past five years I have gotten to know Blake off the ice, and it is there that you can see what a true professional he is.”

Perhaps the most interesting choice was to make Scheifele an assistant captain. The young centre man is coming off his best season as a Jet, potting 29 goals and 32 assists in 71 games, earning him a nice payday coming out of his entry level contract.

With Wheeler entering the twilight of his career in a few years, Jets management are currently grooming Scheifele to one day lead the young core that they have drafted over the past few years.

Being given an A should be a sign to Scheifele that one day this will be his team. The Jets have a bright future ahead with players like Patrik Laine, Nikolaj Ehlers, and Jacob Trouba (if they ever re-sign the kid).

Kevin Cheveldayoff has decided that Scheifele is his future and that should excite Jets fans, as Scheifele has shown flashes of brilliance and if the Hockey News’ infamous prediction has any merit, Scheifele could be a key leadership cog in a Stanley Cup-winning team.

Taken 7th overall in the 2011 NHL entry draft, many scouts and critics raised their eyebrows at the selection, as many saw Scheifele as a late first or early second round selection. The Jets liked him enough to take him as early as they did and Scheifele should be proud in being named an alternate captain. Although his numbers have not been fantastic, Scheifele clearly has leadership qualities and seems to be in the long-term plans of the Jets.

Byfuglien, the other assistant captain, is a fan favourite and one of the league’s best defensemen, not to mention his experience winning the Stanley Cup with the Chicago Blackhawks in 2010. Even though he may not be the most open with the media like his now-captain Wheeler, Byfuglien has been cited as a leader in the Jets’ dressing room.

While Big Buff has had his issues off the ice, there is no denying what he can do on the ice. Byfuglien has an uncanny ability to flip the momentum in his team’s favour with one big hit or a rush up the ice.