It's a pretty simple formula: When Andrew Ladd is scoring and hitting the Winnipeg Jets are winning.
This season, when Ladd has a point in a game, the Jets are 6-2-2. When the Jets captain has been blanked, the club is 3-7-0. When he scores a goal, the Jets are 3-1-0.
In Winnipeg's nine wins this season, Ladd has had 18 hits. In their nine regulation losses, Ladd has registered eight hits.
The Jets have won three games in a row and Ladd has five points over that stretch and seven points since the Jets began their four wins in five games burst. Ladd now has five goals and 17 points through 20 games this season.
When Ladd is feeling it, the Jets are winners. It's not just this season as Ladd's trends have correlated to Jets trends since the team moved back to Winnipeg three seasons ago.
In the 70 wins the Jets have collected over the last three seasons, Ladd has 71 points (34 G /37 A). In the club's 80 losses, Ladd has 42 points (17 G/25 A).
Ladd has collected 51 goals and 62 assists playing in all 150 games since the Jets returned to Winnipeg. He's been the team's most valuable player and person.
"Andrew has been very important for us. In today's world and sports, people look at the stats that you can see, and then make their judgments," said Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff. "But a lot of times, it's the numbers you can't see that show us more. It's the quiet leadership, when he takes his game on the ice and plays a hard, physical game, plays a game that when someone else sitting on the bench sees it done, feels like they have to play that game as well, that makes Andrew so valuable. It's a tough task to be an NHL player. It's a tougher task to be a player that everyone looks to for leadership."
Cheveldayoff made signing Ladd to a five-year contract one of his first moves when he took the job.
"I feel even more strongly about that decision today than I did when I made it," said Cheveldayoff. "I was proud of the fact Andrew wanted to commit to us and the program. When you're going down a path, you want people you feel strongly about and that feel strongly about the same values and core beliefs as you do. I had a history with Andrew from Chicago and had seen the way he earned the respect of teammates and people on a daily basis. There are lot of different kinds of leaders. Andrew's not a loud leader. He's a lot like Jonathan Toews in how serious they both can be. They lead with their games and the way they deal with people."
Ladd isn't shocked when he's told the Jets often win the games he has been able to combine physicality with offensive production. The 27-year-old captain understands his offence springs from his physical play.
"Some teams you can get hits against and some, like Chicago where they have that puck control, it's hard to get a hit. You don't want to run out of position. That can keep you from getting physical," explained Ladd. "For me, when I'm physical it's usually on the puck and in the opposition end, making things happen. I don't disagree that being able to hit is important to my game. But there's a time and a place for it too."
Jets coach Claude Noel is more aware of Ladd's contributions to his team than anyone else. Noel says it's hard to play the way that most often results in Ladd's success.
"Andrew and I both know where he leads best. For me, he's been an excellent captain. Because he's sincere and he has good core values," said Noel. "I would say he leads best when his will to win is intact. It's demanding to play that way for 82 games. It's demanding physically. I think it's his will. For a lot of players, they think the best when their intensity is up. When they're into the game physically, that's want gets them going and brings their A game. He's a little quieter but it doesn't make him any less of a leader. I think he's done a great job."
Ladd, like Cheveldayoff, is glad of his decision to sign long-term with the Jets. Keep in mind, Ladd signed this deal before the team had played a single game in this city. The Jets were an unknown. But Ladd knew Cheveldayoff and believed in him.
"I'm in a great situation here with a great group. I think there's a lot more in here than we've shown," said Ladd. "That's been frustrating but that's our job in this room, to get the best out of teammates and each other. I love it in Winnipeg and I want to turn this organization into a team that wins year in and year out."
Veteran winger Chris Thorburn says Ladd is this team's undisputed leader.
"He's won before. He leads through example and through his play. He's not a rah-rah guy but respect what he does on the ice and you try to emulate what he does. Look at what he's done over the course of time since we got here," said Thorburn. "He's really picked up his game. When we need a boost, he just goes out and does it. He's developed into a player who is really dangerous. From all aspects of the game. Penalty kill to power play to situational plays on the ice. Different times in a period, you can rely on him in all situations. He does everything you could ask your captain to do."
During Wednesday's national NHL on TSN broadcast, the panel was given a list of longshot names for Team Canada's Olympic roster. They all chose Ladd.
"I had a slow start and I've played my best hockey the last five to 10 games. So I'm trending in the right direction," said Ladd. "Hopefully I've done enough to put my name in the conversation. I can play a number of different roles and hopefully that works in my favour."
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