For the sake of argument, let’s compare the original Winnipeg Jets who left in 1996 to our modern day 2011 Winnipeg Jets.
In 1996, the Jets had a young, up-and-coming team with the likes of Keith Tkachuk, Alexei Zhamnov, Teppo Numminen, and Nikolai Khabibulin during the beginning of their careers.
Tkachuk was the 19th overall pick in 1990 and was the face of the team along with youngster Teemu Selanne, who was dealt before the Jets left in 1996. In his five seasons in Winnipeg, Tkachuk became the youngest captain in the league, while scoring 41 goals in 1993-94 and then 50 in 1995-96, along with a career high 98 points.
Khabibulin had his first full season with the Jets in their last season, going 26-20-3 with a 3.13 goals against average and a .908 save percentage. He became a full-time goalie with Phoenix and later on with the Tampa Bay Lightning, winning the 2004 Stanley Cup. He still plays with the Edmonton Oilers, one of only a few players still left from the 1996 Jets.
While Numminen, Zhamnov, and Ed Olczyk are no longer playing in the NHL, there are a few Jets besides Khabibulin still playing.
Shane Doan, an original Jet, is the last remaining player still playing for the Jets/Coyotes franchise as it’s captain. Doan played one season in Winnipeg, with 17 points in 71 games.
Teemu Selanne’s future in Anaheim is up in the air again, but he is still a possibility to be around in the NHL this season, coming off an 80 point season.
Two other players – Deron Quint and Scott Langkow – from the 1995-96 Jets are still playing overseas in the KHL and DEL respectively.
Moving forward 15 years and the NHL is much different.
But the Jets are still in a similar situation. They are young, with so much potential.
Is Evander Kane is the new Tkachuk?
Is Dustin Byfulgien the new Numminen?
Is Ondrej Pavelec the new Khabibulin?
And is Alexander Burmistrov the new Zhamnov?
For Kane, his numbers have improved from his rookie to sophomore season, from 26 points in 43 points. Tkachuk went from 51 points to 81 points in the early 1990s.
Byfulgien scored 20 goals last season from the blueline. Numminen never scored more than 11 goals with the Jets.
Pavelec had 21 wins last season; Khabibulin had 26 and then went to 30 in his first season in Phoenix.
Burmistrov had 20 points in his rookie season, Zhamnov had 72.
In some cases, there is no comparison with stats, but you cannot deny that the new Jets have many comparisons to those who played with the Jets who left in 1996.
Who will be the big body of Tkachuk? Who will have the defensive savvy of Numminen? Who will make the saves of Khabibulin?
These are questions that will be answered this season and, of course, these comparisons will be made and then forgotten.