Reboots and previously mined intellectual property are pop culture ‘Hansel’ right now– so hot. “Top Gun: Maverick”, “That 90’s Show”, and even “Night Court” are all resurrections or reincarnations of previous iterations of media. Imitation, as they say, is the sincerest form of flattery, so let’s recreate some Winnipeg Jets magic.
With the 2023 NHL All-Star Game looming, it seems relevant to create a Winnipeg Jets 1.0 and 2.0 All-Star team. Comparing eras in professional sports has become largely subjective, so some ground rules need to be established:
· The WHA Jets were omitted from the selection. No disrespect intended.
· No Arizona Coyotes. I offer zero apologies for this decision.
· Players are nominated and selected based on their ‘best’ season as a Winnipeg Jet.
· Some current Jets are included despite not having put together a full ‘breakout’ season.
Resultingly, selections have been culled from 29 years of Winnipeg Jets hockey (17 for 1.0 and 12 for 2.0). This exercise will be rife with biases, but objectivity and fun were the singular goals.
Winnipeg Jets All-Star Team: Let’s start with our forward group
LW: Kyle Connor ('21) - C: Dale Hawerchuk ('84) - RW: Teemu Selanne ('92)
Ducky is the no-brainer here, and while Blake Wheeler has had the better overall Winnipeg Jets career, no Jets’ right winger had a better season than Teemu’s rookie 1992-93 campaign (76G -56A – 132P). Kyle Connor’s selection might seem like recency bias, but his Lady Byng winning season last year was comparatively more impressive than Keith Tkachuk’s best season as a Jet (95-96). Connor finished 13th last year in scoring whereas Tkachuk finished 15th in 95-96. Keith Tkachuk also spawned the Tkachuk brothers – so deductions were allotted for that blight.
LW: Keith Tkachuk ('95) - C: Mark Scheifele ('18) - RW: Blake Wheeler ('17)
Both Scheifele and Wheeler had multiple seasons of eligibility, and it is poetic that they once again find themselves as linemates. Outside of Connor Hellebuyck, no two players have meant more to the Winnipeg Jets 2.0 franchise. Contrived exercise or not, I really like this line and its combination of size and skill. The Tkachuk’s are renowned for ‘getting people’s goats’, and Scheifele owns a bunch of them – so the chemistry should be there.
LW: Morris Lukowich ('81) - C: Thomas Steen ('88) - RW: Patrik Laine ('17)
Luke!! Andrew Ladd truthers might be disappointed, but Lukowich led the WHA and NHL version of the Jets in goals three years in a row (1979-81). In 1981, he put up a line of 43G – 49A and 92 points – good to finish in the top 20 of NHL scoring. Similarly, Thomas Steen was top 20 adjacent in 88-89 with 27G – 61A and 92 points. At this stage, I think both players are underrated.
I’ve discussed my love for Patrik Laine in the past, but he is the best pure goal scorer in Winnipeg Jets’ 1.0 and 2.0 history (yes, over Teemu). Anyone who makes sartorial choices emulating a Vegas lounge singer is good in my books.
LW: Nik Ehlers ('22) - C: Pierre-Luc Dubois ('22) - RW: Paul MacLean ('84)
Bryan Little, Andrew Ladd, and Dougie Smail were snubbed you might ask? Yup, this is where the bias seeps in. Firstly, Little and Ladd, while admirable contributors – never played at an All-Star level. No shame in that, it’s just that you don’t hire plumbers to hook up your Wi-Fi. Smail actually did make an All-Star Game in 1990, so his omission should be rightfully chastised.
Nik Ehlers and PLD have All-Star talent, and both are realizing their full potential this season. Both are dominant in their respective ways, so they’re in. They’ll pair nicely with sniper Paul MacLean, who holds the 3rd highest shooting percentage in NHL history at 21.4%.
Winnipeg Jets All-Star Team: Let’s transition to defense
LD: Phil Housley ('92) - RD: Dustin Byfuglien ('13)
Arguably one of the greatest offensive defensemen in NHL history, Phil Housley registered 97 points in his last season as a Winnipeg Jet. At the time of his retirement in 2003, he was ranked fourth in all-time goals scored by a defenseman with 338 and fifth in assists by a defenseman with 894.
Dustin Byfuglien was an enigma wrapped in an offensive lineman. A three-time All-Star as a Jet, Byfuglien was a combination of size and skill rarely seen in the NHL. Enjoy the fishing Biff Buff.
LD: Randy Carlyle ('85) - RD: Dave Babych ('81)
Admittedly, there is some chicanery afoot here. Dave Babych played on the left side, but I wanted to recognize these two 80’s stalwarts together. Both were multiple All-Stars, and both combined defensive proficiency with offensive prowess. Both guys had distinctive sans-helmet looks, and Babych’s moustache was second only to Dylan DeMelo.
LD: Josh Morrissey ('22) - RD: Teppo Numminen ('91)
Let’s start with the snubs. Fredrick Olausson, Dave Ellet, Jacob Trouba and even Toby Enstrom deserve some recognition (in that order). Once again I am making a selection based on an incomplete season, but what a season it is! Morrissey has a robust track record of being an excellent defenseman, so I have a few reservations.
Teppo was an excellent Jet but wasn’t recognized as an All-Star (3 Times) until later in his career. The Jets have wronged many Finns in the past, so it is imperative to recognize the highest-scoring Finnish defenseman in NHL history.
G: Connor Hellebuyck
Winnipeg Jets All-Star Team: Conclusion
It should be noted that 3 of the All-Stars that made the cut (Selanne, Steen and Numminen), and honorable mention Toby Enstrom were all represented, and to an extent fostered by Winnipeg player agent Don Baizley. He is a well-deserved Manitoba Hockey Hall of Fame inductee.
This exercise will no doubt conflict with the sensibilities of some Jets fans, so suggestions are welcome at @AirportLounge55. Remember, if something doesn’t work the first time, you can always reboot it.