The Winnipeg Jets emerged as a force to be reckoned with this year and they did so on the backs of skilled players and young players with a dash of leadership from the likes of Blake Wheeler.
The Jets were able to emerge from having unskilled, veteran leaders peppered throughout their lineup. The key seems to be that while they lost the leadership of Chris Thorburn and Mark Stuart, they never lost leaders. Wheeler has been a fine captain since Andrew Ladd was traded and that continued this season. He went above and beyond when the Jets were demolished by injuries at centre and he stepped into the position until players started coming back.
This alongside the Jets depth that gave them the ability to whether multiple injuries at once, they emerged as a threat in the West. For once there was no relying on Patrice Cormier or James Wright to fill in for skilled players. It finally looked like all those years of aimlessly wandering through the woods with not clear direction actually had a direction at times.
The Jets did not need to have a bunch of “glue guys” to find success in the NHL playoffs. They found success because they could completely overwhelm a team. That is what happened to the Minnesota Wild; they were completely overwhelmed and without Devan Dubnyk in the first two games, they would have been beaten like it was game five all over again.
The Jets took a long time to build this team. You could argue they have been building it ever since the team was founded as the Atlanta Thrashers in 1999. There were bad players, there were missed draft picks, but in the end they got to where they were destined to go: playoff series winners. It is amazing to think that an eighteen year old team finally won a playoff game and a series after all this time, but it has taken that long.
If you were a Winnipeg Jets fan, it has been even longer than eighteen years; it has been 31 years. There are not many Jets who were born the last time Winnipeg witnessed a playoff series win. The city has been waiting for a long time for this. They supported the Manitoba Moose for the years in between the two Jets teams. The fans of old finally got to see their team fly again.
The Winnipeg Jets won a series without many of the glue guys that they said were important to the makeup of the team for years. Instead, they played skilled players who have character and are able to make the plays that win games. The Jets won with character and skill. If they did not have character and depth, they would not have been able to overcome their injuries. They have both in spades and so they won last night.