I attended my first 2022-2023 Winnipeg Jets game Saturday afternoon, accompanied by my enthusiastic and ebullient eight-year-old daughter.
A good time was had by all, as the Jets rode roughshod over the Blackhawks 4-0. The Jets game day experience has both changed, and yet weirdly stayed the same over the years.
Gone are the assured sellout crowds, the “Organ Guy”, and the kinetic energy of the building. Remaining stalwarts include the ever-present “shoot the puck” guy, 50/50 haranguing, and the never-working T-shirt cannon.
What Did We Learn From Winnipeg Jets vs. Blackhawks?
As simple as it sounds, watching the game elbow-to-elbow with your fellow Jets brethren is the best way to evaluate both individual and team play. It is also the best way to see what cotton candy can do to the endocrine system of a young child. With that, here are the 10 things that I learned at Canada Life Centre on Saturday:
1. Outside their 4-0 win against St. Louis, this was the Jets most complete game. Hellebuyck was once again outstanding, Harkins added some energy (more on him later), and Capobianco was very competent filling the role of the ever-revolving 6th defenseman.
2. Blake Wheeler is dust. Overly harsh? Perhaps, but a regular Blake Wheler shift now consists of one aggressive forecheck (or backcheck), an unforced error, and then an early departure to the bench. As someone who also refuses to age gracefully, I can relate to Wheeler’s plight – but he needs to accept a 3rd line role STAT.
3. “Favorite players” are for kids, or stunted adults, so naturally I have 2 of them. Adam Lowry continues to be underrated, and Josh Morrissey skates like he was born with CCM’s on his feet. The most underrated aspect of Lowry’s game? His speed. Thought of by many as a plodder, Lowry is graceful and agile on the ice. His short-handed goal changed the entire dynamic of the game.
4. True North should implement a Winnipeg Jets “fans only” penalty box. If you yell “Shoot”, “Fight” or any four-letter word more than 3 times in a game, you should have to spend 2 minutes in isolation thinking about the direction of your life. The coaching vacancy has been filled – let it go.
5. Our bottom-six forwards are better than I had anticipated. Gagner’s contributions have been well documented, and Jonsson-Fjallby and Gustafson have both been pleasant upgrades. With Morgan Barron sidelined, we also have some much-needed depth. Well done.
6. Mason Appleton is NOT a top 6 forward. I know that the advanced stats back this up, but here is a good way to look at it. Before the Seattle Kraken expansion draft, we were willing to let the Kraken pluck him from our lineup without much ballyhoo. Now he is playing top-line minutes with our best forwards. Get better soon Nik Ehlers.
Some Tips for True North Entertainment
7. Bring back the troughs. I know as a society we are supposed to evolve, but the troughs provide the easiest mechanism to minimize time spent in a men’s bathroom at a professional sporting event. The whole experience should be like Ville Heinola’s Jets lineup participation – in and out.
8. Nate Schmidt and Brendan Dillon are playing better than they were last year. Side note: I had some fun with Nate’s goal song selection of “Mambo No. 5”. I will admit however that when it filled the arena after his goal, I too wanted to “jump up and down and move it all around”.
9. Jansen Harkins, while potent with the Moose, is more James Wright than Brandon Tanev. Those that remember the James Wright experience understand that this is not a compliment. We need more Road Runner saavy than Tazmanian Devil
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10. Winning is fun. Let’s be clear, we are outkicking our coverage at a 7-3-1 record. Statistically we had no business dragging out some of these wins, but when it all comes together – this team is fun to watch. I know peaks and valleys are all part of fandom, but hopefully we can avoid the troughs (except for one).