Blake Wheeler entered his first season as the Winnipeg Jets new captain and performed admirably on a team that was not always up to the task themselves. He was a key contributor at even-strength, on the penalty kill, and on the power play. His speed helped him advance the puck and gain the zone for the Jets. Even though he is getting older, he turns 31 in August, he is still contributing at a high level and while his scoring is there, so is his possession game which is an important sign that he can maintain a high level of play in the NHL.
Not only is it hard to trace Wheeler’s contributions to just one area of the game, he effectiveness is not dependent on who his linemates are. Sure, he is better when not playing alongside Drew Stafford, but he is a capable contributor anywhere in the top six. He has also shown himself to be a capable captain of the you Winnipeg Jets. One of his key moments this season was when Patrik Laine scored a beautiful own goal it was Wheeler who comforted the young Finnish sensation and made sure he knew it was not his fault. It was a little moment, but it was a big thing for a player who made a stupid mistake.
Wheeler is one of the three top six forwards who did not have a collapse in possession at the end of this season. In fact, the only real dip in possession for Wheeler was when the whole team was in a death spiral and even then, he was barely under 50%. This means a couple of things: Wheeler had good line mates at the end of the year and that even when he is struggling, he is still very good.
What can really be taken away from Wheeler’s season? The fact is the captain is a fantastic skater who can score. He pushes the puck up the ice and is one of the players who excels when he is allowed to carry the puck. While he might not be a net front presence, that is okay. The NHL is not a league that has a Tomas Holmstrom anymore. Instead, multi-faceted players who can contribute in many ways are used in roles that accentuate their skill instead of being shoe-horned into a single role.
While Wheeler is getting up there in age, his skillset and the fact that he is not only a scorer, but a possession driving player with great skating ability means that he will be able to contribute in many ways, even once his scoring goes in decline. It is a good thing the Jets will be protecting him this summer for the expansion draft.