It’s the slow news period for the NHL so lets compile teams of Jets players (current and former) based on the countries they were born in, and rank them in terms of who would be the best. Who would win this hypothetical tournament?
First, some general rules:
NHL Jets only – 1.0 and 2.0. No Jets players who only played in the WHA, and no Atlanta Thrashers.
Each team has three forwards, two defense, one goalie. I tried to get a center on each team.
The player must be born in the country listed, with a couple of exceptions which will be explained.
There is a team World for players born in any country other than the countries that have their own teams, and for countries with too few current or former Jets to form their own team.
The player must have played for the NHL Jets. However, I’m not basing the selection on their best Jets season only. I’m using the player’s entire career measured against every other player. So, there may be a player on a team who had his best seasons elsewhere, but did play for the Jets. For example, Bobby Hull was not at his peak as an NHL Jet. But, peak Bobby Hull is a top 20 player all time.
Make sense? It will. Here we go, in order.
First Place – Canada
Forwards: Dale Hawerchuk; Bobby Hull; Mark Scheifele
Defense: Serge Savard; Randy Carlyle
Goal: Bob Essensa
Comments: No surprise to Don Cherry, or anyone else. The goaltending situation is not great, but, we’re talking about four hall of fame players, and Mark Scheifele. Dave Babych had some consideration over Savard. But, peak Savard was better than peak Babych. No other country of Jet players is beating this team.
Second Place – USA
Forwards: Blake Wheeler;
Craig Janney; Keith Tkachuk; Kyle Connor
Defense: Phil Housley; Dustin Byfuglien
Goal: Connor Hellebuyck
Comments: Very good talent level, and with Canada, I would consider elite talent. Peak Hellebuyck is the best NHL goalie the Jets have ever had. You could make a case in one game they may be able to beat Canada because of hot goaltending. Peak Craig Janney was a good NHL player. Lots of depth for Jets players born in the USA. Tough choices leaving off Paul Stastny, Dave Ellet, Jacob Trouba.
Moment of clarity edit: I substituted Blake Wheeler in for my original Craig Janney choice, thanks to a smart commenter. My excuses - I tried to go with a “pure” center, and possibly doing this after an Irish whiskey..
Third Place – Finland
Forwards: Olli Jokinen; Patrik Laine; Teemu Selanne
Defense: Teppo Numminen; Sami Niku
Goal: Markus Mattsson
Comments: I almost put in Petri Skriko instead of Laine, but didn’t want to risk rioting at the Arctic Ice Hockey offices. Numminen was a very good NHL defenseman. Niku is unproven but has potential. Goaltending is pretty weak.
Fourth Place – Russia
Forwards: Alexei Zhamnov; Igor Korolev; Evgeny Davydov
Defense: Oleg Tverdovsky; Boris Mironov
Goal: Nikolai Khabibulin
Comments: The Bhulin Wall! Probably at his peak the second best goalie the NHL Jets have had. Zhamnov was talented. Tverdovsky as well. Could not beat Jets Team Finland in terms of talent however.
Fifth Place – Team World (country of birth in brackets)
Forwards: Paul MacLean (France); Michael Frolik (Czech Republic); Nikolaj Ehlers (Denmark)
Defense: Don Spring (Venezula); Jan Kostalek (Czech Republic)
Goal: Ondrej Pavelec (Czech Republic)
Comments: I forgot that Paul MacLean was born in France. And Don Spring, while a pedestrian NHL player, has to be Venezula’s best hockey player ever. Pretty strong forward line (probably better than Russia), but much weaker on defense. Pavelec at peak form was pretty solid. I’ll give them the nod over the last place team because of the forward line and goaltending.
Sixth Place (Last) – Sweden
Forwards: Thomas Steen; Willy Lindstrom; Bengt Lundholm
Defense: Tobias Enstrom; Lars Erik Sjoberg
Goal: Scott Langkow*
Comments: Not much love for the tre kronor. Asterisk for Langkow as he is not Swedish, but, did play professionally in Sweden. I could not find an NHL goalie for the Jets from Sweden. Let me know who I missed. I had to rank them below team World as I don’t love the forward line. Not a lot of scoring there. Plus the defense is a bit undersized. Props though to Sjoberg who at his peak (in the WHA) was a better version of Enstrom.
Thoughts, revisions, omissions, polite debates – always welcome in comments.