Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION
Posted: 02/13/2013 1:00 AM | Comments: 0
Blake WHEELER has been ordinary. For the Winnipeg Jets to make a step forward, that's just not good enough.
Wheeler was the team's leading scorer last season and appeared to be on the verge of becoming a top-line player while scoring 17 goals and 47 assists in 80 games.
So far, that progress hasn't continued this season and one could argue Wheeler has regressed. Too many nights he's seemed sluggish and uninvolved. The points have come -- he's got four goals and seven assists through 12 games -- but Wheeler has to be about more than a stats line. He needs to control games. He simply hasn't.
He can't be singled out for bad play, but that's a low bar for a player of his skill, size and hockey intellect. There were hints of dominance last season -- Wheeler took over games. He's not doing that this year, and Tuesday night was another example of a so-so outing for the 6-5 Minnesotan.
He had a pair of assists in a 3-2 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers, and most players could confidently call his results a good night at the office. But the Jets need him to be more than most players.
He's proven capable of being more than just a steady contributor. He's shown he can lead, and now he must live up to that ability. Not some games. Every game.
He will be a 26-year-old restricted free agent this summer and the Jets will need to determine what kind of bet to place on him. Big money and big term or just a placeholder deal?
Wheeler's play will determine that course, but right now he's not making a case for GM Kevin Cheveldayoff to go all in.
Some players can be criticized for lack of talent. That's not Wheeler. He's got it all, with speed, a big body and elite vision. He can score and dish.
Jets coach Claude Noel has only so many options. He can juggle his lines all he wants, but the players he employs with top-six abilities need to play at that level. Evander Kane has to score, Olli Jokinen has to play well in both ends and Blake Wheeler needs to stand out.
So far this season, Bryan Little and Andrew Ladd have been Winnipeg's most impactful forwards. Wheeler has more to offer than both those players, but he hasn't excelled.
Maybe it's an injury we don't know about. Maybe it's just a funk.
No matter. Whatever it is, he must break out of it.
If Blake Wheeler is ordinary, so are the Winnipeg Jets.
email@example.com Twitter: @garylawless
Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 13, 2013 D1
Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories? Please use the form below and let us know.
Having problems with the form?Contact Us Directly
Draft, develop, retain... sound familiar?
All husband wants is glee under the Christmas tree
A mouthful of magnificent
Tools fine, rational mechanic needed
Jets need help fourth-with
Ashton's ambition a divisive force
Tina's great-aunt moved to tears by cards, letters
Last-minute shopper needs thoughtful gifts fast
Year in TV comes to an end with a lengthy list of greatness
Oswald not looking like formidable force
Buff worth his weight in gold
Christmas perfection lives in every child's mind
Christmas concert will make wishes come true
Husband not interested in sex with mom around
Saxophones dominate on recent Canadian albums
Nordik Group's $11-million Thermëa spa opens Jan. 15
Curb your urge to splurge with these healthy tips for the festive season
Make a batch of presents with yummy home baking
'I don't want to die a drunk'
CentreVenture boss got a lot done
The measure of the man
Spinning truth in true-crime drama
It isn't freedom without access to markets
Hole for the holidays
The strange, sad and silly year that was
Fix hole in marriage before someone else crawls through
Many happy returns
Career tips for new mayors... and others
An oasis of sparkling wines
Happy Christmas — war is over
A time to reflect on all our blessings
NDP in tough spot for 2015 election
Ensure emotions can handle play date