The NHL regular season is coming to a close and it appears the Winnipeg Jets won't be packing it in for the year. Rather, they will be gearing up for a seven game playoff series. Before we get into talk of a second season, let's do a bit of a recap on the first. The Jets season has been nothing short of spectacular and it was truly a team effort, but every team has to have a MVP, right?
So, Who was the Winnipeg Jets MVP this season?
The Guys Behind The Scenes
How could we not give Jets general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff and head coach Paul Maurice some credit for the Jets tremendous season? These guys are certainly key to the Jets success. Cheveldayoff made the moves necessary for the Jets to take the next step, in the future and in the present. His string of deadline deals provided the Jets with the extra boost that was needed to fend off the opposition in the cutthroat race for a western conference wild card spot.
Coach Paul Maurice should definitely be on the Jack Adams ballot. He would earn my vote. Maurice took a team that was predicted to be in the bottom of the standings for a fourth consecutive year and turned them into a team that is feared by many in the league. The Jets battled through injuries, adversity and all the obstacles that this year presented, in large part thanks to coach Paul Maurice.
3. Dustin Byfuglien
' Big Buff ' was at the center of some serious Norris Trophy talk at times this season and he has surely deserved it. Byfuglien started the season playing up front, but he returned to the blue line after a wave of injuries hit the Winnipeg Jets. Byfuglien stayed on the back end, and given the Jets a spark. Byfuglien brings a number of valuable assets to the team. For starters, he is a physical beast. His size and aggressive playing style help the Jets in multiple ways. He can change the pace of a game by laying a big hit or by roughing someone up. He also plays hard in front of the net. Byfuglien is also one of the Jets' best power play specialists. He often drives the buss from the back end. The sonic boom that his shot provides, is well known throughout the NHL and a big piece of the Jets powerplay and overall offence.
Byfuglien can does everything for the Jets. If you put him at forward, the opposing goalie and defencemen will have a headache after the game. Put him on the point and the Jets offence gets that much more dangerous. If he hits someone, that person might have to take a trip to the quiet room.
Byfuglien might have been higher on this list if he had not been suspended for four of the Jets final five games for cross checking New York Rangers forward JT Miller. The Jets have been winning without Byfgulien but despite that, a leader such as Byfuglien should not be pulling those type of antics especially in this crucial stretch of the season.
2. Michael Hutchinson & Ondrej Pavelec
I know, two players can't be the MVP, but this is my post and the Jets would not be on the verge of the team's first playoff berth, if it were not for the team's goaltending. Both of their goaltenders have contributed to the team's succes this year. The year started out with the rookie Hutchinson looking like the saviour for the Jets. Hutchinson was great early in the season and his name was thrown around in the Calder trophy conversation. Similarly, Ondrej Pavelec started hot then fell out of favor with fans and his coach. Everything seemed to slip past Pavelec, and his numbers of starts started to diminish. Then as the month of March rolled around, the tables turned between the pipes.
Pavelec transformed in to someone else. He has been nothing short of spectacular for the Jets in this stretch run.
Pavelec has been spectacular and Paul Maurice is riding him hard at this point.
"I got my goalie." Coach Paul Maurice said after the Jets defeated the Wild. "I’ve got our guy. He played a hell of a game tonight."
After shutting out the Wild, Maurice turned to Pavelec once again for the second game of the back to back against the Blues. A bold move by coach Maurice and Pavelec did not dissapoint. Pavelec shut out the St Louis Blues. Oh, by the way, he also had the flu.
If no for the strong play of Hutchinson and Pavelec, the Jets would not be where they are today. In past years, goaltending has been a real issue for the Jets. With Pavelec playing well and Hutchinson playing well, fans can be happy with regardless of who the Jets put in between the pipes.
1. Blake Wheeler
What has Blake Wheeler brought the Winnipeg Jets this season? The impacts of Wheeler's play goes far beyond the numbers. Watch him play in a Jets uniform and you will understand what he brings to this hockey team. Wheeler bleeds passion. Wheeler brings heart, leadership and he shows what it takes to win every night. An example of his leadership and determination was in a game against the Edmonton Oilers, Wheeler was struck in the face with a puck. After exiting the game to receive several stitches, Wheeler returned in the 3rd period to help lead the Jets to a 4-1 victory.
Wheeler leads the Jets in goals with 26 and is second on the team in points with 61. Wheeler reached the postseason twice while with the Boston Bruins and he knows what it takes to do it again. Blake Wheeler is my MVP.
Who gets your vote for the Winnipeg Jets regular season MVP?