December 11, 2013 Sections
Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION
It's hard to measure leadership, especially as an outsider without the privilege of 24/7 access to the dressing room, onto the team's planes, trains and automobiles and all the other points in between.
But a scene from last week worth recreating which, in one small instance, speaks of why Andrew Ladd wears the 'C' on his Winnipeg Jets jersey...
It was last Thursday, just after the morning skate a few hours before what would be the Jets' last game of the 2013 season. Ladd had just finished another media scrum -- part of the captain's duties -- when a couple of reporters who cover the Montreal Canadiens began to ask him about the gaudy offensive totals he was posting this season.
Ladd finished with 18 goals and 28 assists this year which, extrapolated over a full 82-game campaign, would have equated to a career best 79 points.
"I'm pleased it's gone pretty well," Ladd began with a shrug, "but at the end of the day if we're not in the playoffs it's irrelevant to me and it's still a disappointing season."
That was a message that was pushed further after the Jets were officially eliminated and as the initial autopsies were being conducted. Ladd rather bluntly referred to the season as a "failure." And the not-so-subtle point delivered by a two-time Stanley Cup champion: Personal stats mean diddly, especially if they come in a season minus playoff hockey.
That's leadership. And that, in part, is what made Ladd the Jets' MVP this season in a poll of the three men who cover the Jets daily for the Free Press.
Dive in and debate among yourselves as we offer up a peek at others who jumped out for us for all the right -- and wrong -- reasons in 2013:
Tim Campbell: Andrew Ladd -- The leader led in spades.
Gary Lawless: Andrew Ladd -- Leading scorer with almost a point-a-game. Clutch, consistent, captain.
Tait: Andrew Ladd -- It's unanimous. His point production is up, but he's about much more than just goals and assists.
Campbell: James Wright -- Proves quickness is an important quality.
Lawless: Zach Bogosian -- Back from wrist surgery, Bogosian was arguably Winnipeg's best defenceman.
Tait: Grant Clitsome -- Many wanted him on the first Greyhound out of town early in the year, but he finished tied with Ladd with the best plus-minus and was seventh on the squad in scoring.
Campbell: The power play -- The league's worst; try to imagine having nine minutes of a five-on-three and never scoring.
Lawless: Zach Redmond -- Injury cut down his first season with the big club but he showed he can play in the NHL full time.
Tait: Redmond -- Proved before being injured that he is a Top 6 defenceman and the fact that he returned at all this season is nothing short of miraculous.
Campbell: Alex Burmistrov. So many are dying to see so much more.
Lawless: Olli Jokinen -- Brought in to bulk up the team's production, Jokinen was stalled in first gear all season.
Tait: Jokinen -- Methinks the Jets expected more than seven goals, 14 points and a team-worst -19 for the $4.5 million they are paying the veteran.
Campbell: Ron Hainsey -- Major minutes; considering the team's injuries, in my eyes doesn't get the credit that's warranted.
Lawless: James Wright -- What Wright lacks in scoring touch, he makes up for in smarts and responsibility.
Tait: Bryan Little -- He doesn't have the gaudy offensive numbers you might like as a No. 1 centre, but he makes that line go and is versatile enough to play on the wing.
Campbell: Jacob Trouba -- Note the look to the future here.
Lawless: Paul Postma -- Lots of offensive instincts with an excellent shot. Needs to develop a defensive presence.
Tait: Zach Bogosian -- We saw snippets of it this season in which he missed the beginning and the end of an already-shortened campaign. On the verge of becoming an elite defender.
Campbell: Mark Scheifele.
Lawless: Toss up between Jacob Trouba and Mark Scheifele although it wouldn't be a surprise if both started in AHL.
Tait: Both Scheifele and Trouba -- As much as the organization doesn't want to rush its' prospects, these two are both knocking on the door.
Campbell: Andrew Ladd's 46 points AND plus-10.
Lawless: The 129 points between Andrew Ladd, Bryan Little and Blake Wheeler. Jets top line grew into just that, a top line.
Tait: The number 9 -- as in the total number of unrestricted free agents. There is now a real opportunity for management to put its stamp on a roster that needs some changes.
Campbell: Goals against. Power play's a close second.
Lawless: The 144 goals against. Jets can't move forward until they learn to defend as a team on a consistent basis.
Tait: The power-play ranked dead last in the NHL (13.8 per cent) didn't score a single 5-on-3 goal and too often never even had possession of the puck to generate chances.
Campbell: Someone on Evander Kane's wavelength.
Lawless: Someone to play with Evander Kane. If the Jets aren't going to break up Little-Ladd-Wheeler combo, Kane needs some linemates to help him turn Winnipeg's second line into a consistent threat.
Tait: Building on the above: a speedy centre AND right wing to go with Kane. The Jets will remain a one-line club until this is resolved.
firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter: @WFPEdTait
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Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 29, 2013 C3