Oh, hey there. It's been awhile since we've chatted. I can sit here and blame it on the dreaded writers block, but to be honest I'm really just a lazy jerk that couldn't be bothered to write anything in a few weeks. Super sorry guys!
But since the Junos took place yesterday in The House That Chipman Built, I felt it was time to break my vow of not hustling to bring you another Love Hate.
Their entire 2013-14 season has been a macrocosm of the senseless progression featured in The Space Between; a song with poorly structured, choppy verses that are broken by the slow, melodic and quite frankly an enjoyable chorus.
Yep, that's about as symbolic as I get. But after having a discussion with Ryan Blight -- a man whose intellect is as sharp as it is critical -- it became clear that in light of the Junos taking place in our backyard, the music motif could roll on this week.
We're Taking Care of Business here at your favourite Jets' blog.
I'll argue that The Space Between may not have been the greatest song to set Winnipeg's 2013-14 season to, meaning I was wrong in my original commentary. A much more accurate song would be Death Cab for Cutie's Different Names for the Same Thing.
Hopes of grandeur and a playoff appearance wafted through the prairie air in the late summer months of 2013. The Jets were a team on the cusp making their trek to from the Eastern Conference's Southeast Division to the Western Conference's Central Division. While fans were cognizant that opponents the likes of the Chicago Blackhawks and St. Louis Blues would pose much stiffer competition than what they faced in the Southeast, it was concluded that the Jets stacked up relatively well against the Colorado Avalanche, Dallas Stars, Minnesota Wild, and Nashville Predators.
Surely they'd contend for a top three finish, we all boasted. Trades that landed Michael Frolik and Devin Setoguchi -- both free agents this summer -- from new divisional foes sent out the Batsignal that these Jets were willing to make their push this year. No longer would they play the role of little brother; no longer would they be pushed around. In 2013-14, they were as poised as ever to make the next step.
Except this year was no different than the two that preceded it as Kevin Cheveldayoff's roster once again was unable to clinch their first playoff berth since moving to Winnipeg. The only true difference was that the Jets' Death knell came a few weeks earlier than previously anticipated. In a year where major progress was expected, this was a most disappointing conclusion for fans.
A different crop of peripheral players, the same disheartening result.
Thus, Different Names for the Same Thing.
But though hopes of postseason glory are all but dashed, it isn't all doom and gloom here in Winnipeg. There were bright spots to this season, even if they were glossed over by a team hanging to a .500 record once again.
So, in spirit of the Junos, we will hand out hardware for all the positive accomplishments of the Winnipeg Jets' best of 2013-14.
Let's get at it.
Fan Choice Award: Andrew Ladd (winner), Jacob Trouba (runner up). Have you ever heard a bad thing said by fans about either of these players? If Justin Bieber can win this award despite his transgressions, surely Ladd and Trouba are superb candidates, the choirboys they are. Both have had monster seasons, with Ladd racking up his third 20 goal campaign in the last four seasons, whilst Trouba has tallied 26 points and his 22:33 in average time on ice leads all rookies. Both players will be depended upon for the 2014-15 playoff push and their play and demeanour has cemented them as fan favourites.
Artist of the Year: Blake Wheeler (winner), Bryan Little (runner up). He leads the team in goals (26). He was named to the USA Hockey men's Olympic team (suck it, Bobby Ryan!). He's smolderingly handsome. Blake Wheeler is your artist of the year, delivering a solid season after inking a fresh 6-year, $5.6MM contract. Little, to his credit, has posted the best statistical campaign of his young career and seems to be emerging as a very good two-way player. But unfortunately Little is no Serena Ryder.
International Artist of the Year: Michael Frolik (winner), Dustin Byfuglien (runner up). Yes, for some reason the Junos -- an awards show meant to celebrate Canadian talent in music -- has an international award. Go figure. But Bruno Mars wining it makes me feel a little better. His Superbowl performance was off the charts. It's designation this year goes to Michael Frolik, who is on pace to match his career bests set with the Florida Panthers during his rookie and sophomore years. Frolik has proven well worth the investment of the draft picks that were swapped for him and has been comparable to Little in terms of a solid two-way player. Byfuglien has had a shaky year having to transition from defence to forward but is still putting up points in droves, like the true rockstar he is.
Group of the Year: Ladd, Little, Wheeler, Frolik (winner). They truly don't come any better than Winnipeg's first line, a trio as energetic as Tegan and Sara's brand of alternative rock. A shutdown line that scores, the combination of Ladd, Little and Wheeler/Frolik have carried the team in all facets of the game. If the secondary talent on this team continues to improve, big things are on the horizon for this team, although the window for success is short.
Breakthrough Artist of the Year: Mark Scheifele (winner), Bryan Little (runner up). If you would have told me Mark Scheifele would be in consideration for this award back in November, I would have laughed in your face. Like A Tribe Called Red, Scheifele burst onto the scene after a slow start. Now insulated by actual talent in Blake Wheeler and Evander Kane, Scheifele began to soar through the middle portion of his season before an MCL injury cut his season short in early March. He finishes 2013-14 with 34 points (13G, 21A) in 63 games, setting expectations high for this coming fall. Bryan Little also had a fantastic season, miles better than anything we had previously seen and was a serious contender for this award.
Well, that was fun. Now let's get to the Love Hate.
Three things I love this week
A fond farewell: If this is in fact the last time we see Teemu Selanne, let's make this sixty minutes last an eternity. The Finnish Flash has dazzled fans for twenty-one career that is now reaching its twilight. I wish the Anaheim Ducks all the best in their playoff run and wouldn't be opposed to seeing Selanne hoist the Stanley Cup high over his head for a second time.
O'Dell's new digs: I love, love, love seeing good things come to Eric O'Dell. His recent promotion to the third line along Evander Kane and Matt Halischuk has created a bit of a spark, one which I hope gives O'Dell a good, hard look in this role next September. With Olli Jokinen likely on his way out, it could be O'Dell who fills the role as this team's third line centre moving forward, a prospect that excites me greatly.
Woah, Wheaties!: Not Jets' related but the seventh seed Brandon Wheat Kings dispatched the Regina Pats in four games, moving on to the WHL's Semifinals. Now that the Jets' season has basically concluded, I will be shifting my support to our boys out in Brandon.
Three things I hate this week
The apathy: I'm a hockey fan first, a Washington Capitals fan second and a Winnipeg Jets' fan third. So with two weeks left in the season and the Jets prepping for another spring on the links, I don't really care to watch them anymore. There are games with playoff implications happening all around us and I find myself more compelled to tune into those than watch the Jets determine their draft position. Oh well, there's always next year.
Guess who's back?: Ondrej Pavelec sure looked sharp against the Los Angeles Kings on Saturday, didn't he? I mean, he lasted a whole period before getting pulled, so there's some silver lining to be found there. The big loser here is Michael Hutchinson, a young prospect who has done everything right this season. Sure, he got a couple extra bucks sitting on an NHL bench, but when the team has a 0.1% chance at the playoffs, Paul Maurice could have done Hutch the service of a single start. Truly, it couldn't have been much worse than what we saw Saturday.
Entering the unknown: While I'm certain the Jets will do everything within their power to have him back, we are still left to ponder the contract status of Paul Maurice. There isn't a ton of solid candidates out there, and changing coaches twice in a matter of months is never a good thing. Here's hoping both sides can lock things down sometime in April.