Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 2/3/2016 (2308 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
There’s been a certain bludgeoning aspect to the Winnipeg Jets 2015-16 season, as the hopes of another trip to the post-season have been slowly sledge-hammered into a pulp over the last few weeks/months.
It’s made for a weird vibe out there in Jets Nation: part resignation that last season might have been a mirage and part hope the dramatic free fall since January means having a real shot at a lottery pick in the draft. There’s a simmering anger, too, but — and Jets management had better be thanking the hockey gods every morning for this — a vast majority of the team’s faithful seem to be still on board with this slow rebuild.
And so it’s come to this: the biggest moments in the Jets’ season will be after they pack up, with first the draft lottery and then draft day.
And, yes, it’s a damning indictment of a team’s handiwork over the course of a year when fans become more interested in how a ping-pong ball bounces than a puck.
Now, all of this is by no means an attempt to pile on with even more negativity here, especially knowing the next month is going to see an autopsy being conducted on a team still technically sporting a pulse.
Instead, let’s attempt to put some spring back in the steps of Jets fans by turning our attention to the World Cup of Hockey and Wednesday’s announcements of the eight team’s preliminary rosters.
Yes, circle Sept. 17 to Oct. 1 on your calendars, Jets fans, because that’s when the next meaningful games featuring some of this team’s talent will be played. And everyone across the hockey map, and especially in these parts, should be tipping their hats to the big brains involved in putting the World Cup together for their creativity in coming up with this format.
There have been both lukewarm and negative responses to the two new entries in the event — Team North America will feature players 23 and under from Canada and the United States and Team Europe’s lineup will include those not from the traditional European powers — but from this perch the idea is an absolute stroke of puck genius.
Look, if you love international hockey as much as yours truly, then this event should be spectacular because every game will at least be competitive. There will be no Canada vs. Norway snoozefests here. And as much as it can be occasionally riveting to watch a long shot such as Slovenia — featuring Anze Kopitar and a bunch of dudes with surnames with those squiggly accents you can’t even find on your keyboard — hold a hockey power close at the Olympics, it barely moves the needle on the drama meter.
Consider this: while the 2014 Olympic hockey tourney gave us the traditional medal hopefuls such as Canada, the United States, Sweden, Russia, Finland and the Czech Republic, it also served up no-chance-in-Hades countries such as Switzerland, Slovakia, Slovenia, Norway, Latvia and Austria.
Slovenia, Norway, Latvia and Austria, it’s worth noting, had six NHLers COMBINED on their rosters.
If you want to see Jets players on a bigger stage with the best on the planet, then the World Cup has provided the perfect opportunity for more of them to skate into the spotlight. Ondrej Pavelec (Czech Republic) and Connor Hellebuyck (Team North America) earned spots on preliminary rosters announced Wednesday, with Blake Wheeler and Dustin Byfuglien part of the U.S. squad.
There still might be room for Mark Scheifele and Jacob Trouba to be part of the Young Guns lineup and if Nikolaj Ehlers keeps having fans slide to the front of their seats, he’s got a shot at cracking Team Europe’s final roster, both to be announced before June 1.
All of this doesn’t happen, of course, unless the World Cup planners roll up their sleeves to punch up the event with a couple different looks. Gimmicky? Sure. But as we saw with the attempts to jazz up the NHL All-Star Game, gimmicky might not be for everyone, but it sure as heck beats boring.