Winnipeg Free Press


Wheeler injury adds fuel to trade talk

Good morning, folks.

As usual, Mike McIntyre dropped by my office on Wednesday. Our resident sports columnist comes by at the same time each week to record our Jetcetera podcast — 40 minutes or so of priceless blah blah blah on the Jets, other sports and et cetera.

During the second period of the 59th episode of our show — there's three periods and an OT for those of you who have never listened — news broke that Jets captain Blake Wheeler will be out indefinitely with what could be a concussion.

At the time, Mike and I were opining on what the local NHL team should be looking to do in advance of Monday's trade deadline.

The overwheling consensus seems to be — and has been for quite some time — that the Jets absolutely need to add a defenceman if they hope to make a Stanley Cup run.

I'm not convinced the Jets need to make a deal of any sort to have a successful playoff run, but I've been saying on our last couple of podcasts that I personally think they'd be better served adding some extra scoring punch/depth for the stretch run and playoffs — and the Wheeler injury furthers that belief.

Since the departure of Dustin Byfuglien, Jacob Trouba, Tyler Myers, Toby Enstrom and Ben Chiarot there has been on-going hand-wringing over the team's defence. Prior to this season, most folks predicted the Jets would be lucky to stay ahead of the Ottawa Senators in the Canadian division standings with the guys they had on the blue line.

And yet, here we are with a month left in the season, and the Jets are second in the divison heading into last night's action and they rank a respectable 13th in the league in goals against average.

Oh sure, it helps to have an all-world goalie in Connor Hellebuyck, but 39 games into the campaign it seems to me the current blueline brigade has proven itself more than just serviceable. By the way, even if the team added a Norris Trophy winner, it's not going to help Nikolaj Ehlers and Kyle Connor get the puck out along the wall in their own zone.

Yes, the current defence corps is not what the last corps was — in some ways, like playing defence, it's actually better.

While a few late-game collapses early in the season were the result of some d-zone breakdowns, it's actually been a lack of offence that has resulted in most Jets losses. The team has scored two or fewer goals in 14 of its 16 defeats and in what's known as a 3-2 league, the Jets have often failed to pot that significant third marker. The Jets are actually only 11th in the league in scoring.

So if they're going to add a defenceman, it likely should be one who can score and generate offence.

The name of Nashville defenceman Mattias Ekholm keeps coming up on this subject, but as Mike mentions in our podcast, the Preds are probably not even sellers anymore, having now moved into a playoff position. Plus, adding a rearguard with term remaining on their contract — Ekholm has another year after this season — creates all kinds of issues with the upcoming expansion draft.

So if the Jets need an offensive-minded defenceman and another scoring winger — and we're all in agreement on that now, right? — there's no need to mortgage the future when you can use it.

And their names are Ville Heinola and Cole Perfetti.

Be sure to tune in to Episode 60 next week, where we are sure to debate what the Jets did or didn't do at the deadline.

As always, I'd like to hear your thoughts and you can pass them along by replying to this mailing or by sending me an email here.

Our Coverage

Double duty: Following our podcast, Mike headed home and spun a column for you on how the Canadian Football League may be caught between The Rock and a hard place right now regarding its future, but he's having a difficult time drumming up a lot of sympathy given the shady way they're treating their loyal foot soldiers. Hear, hear, Mike;

Oh captain, their captain: Jason Bell has details on the Blake Wheeler injury and the rippling effect it will have on the lineup in this report;

Connor Hellebuyck


Connor Hellebuyck

Cup runneth over: Jay also has a notebook on the encore planned by reigning Vezina Trophy winner Connor Hellebuyck; Mark Scheifele’s numbers at the faceoff dot taking a turn for the better after he got a tutorial from veteran middleman Nate Thompson; and reaction on the Jets not having to deal with Habs superpest, Brendan Gallagher, who is sidelined for up to six weeks;

Game on?: All things considered, last summer was a success for the local sports scene in Winnipeg. But with daily COVID-19 cases no longer in the single digits like it was back then, and the pending risk of variants spreading, it remains to be seen how sports will be able to operate this summer. Taylor Allen chatted with organizers from golf, tennis, soccer, slo-pitch, and beach volleyball on Wednesday and files this report on what they're planning for the coming months;

Next man up: Mike Sawatzky has game story on how the injury-depleted Winnipeg Ice made out in their game versus the Moose Jaw Warriors on Wednesday night.

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