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The Art Gallery – Fare Thee Well Pavs

The end of Ondrej Pavelec’s time in Winnipeg was very befitting of his entire time in Winnipeg and maybe perhaps I should say “presumably” the end, because you never know what the summer may bring right? The Jets still could be in the market for a veteran backup right?

But if this is indeed the end, then the Pavelec era in Winnipeg ends much like it began: A little bit of mystery, some controversy and promise left unfulfilled.

How are you as a Winnipeg Jets fan going to remember Pavelec and his six seasons with the Jets? If there was a goalie who was more polarizing to his own team’s fan base than Pavelec was from the span of 2011 to 2017, I’d like to hear the argument which I am almost certain I could shoot down.

Pavelec had his detractors. Many of them. They were not unwarranted by any stretch.

After a so-so first season in Winnipeg where his numbers actually dipped from his previous year as the Thrashers/Jets full time starter, he ended up with a DUI conviction in his native Czech Republic that summer and then promptly hid it from Jets management as he was in the middle of negotiating his five year contract.

Hindsight being 20-20, that should have set off all sorts of warning bells about him, but in a city still crazy about the return of pro hockey, desperate for hockey heroes to embrace and taunted by a lockout that delayed the second season of Jets 2.0 until January – a good seven months after the incident – it was glossed over fairly quickly.

On the ice, Pavelec didn’t get much better. We waited for it, we hoped for it from the 24-25 year old kid and it never happened. His numbers were at best on par with your average, but most of the time the were below league average. Worse yet, after a particularly bad goal, it wasn’t uncommon to see him gesture to a missed assignment by a defenseman with a rolling his eyes and throwing up of arms as if he had been forsaken by the defensive gods.

Pavelec had his fans. Many of them. They were not unwarranted by any stretch.

There was moments of brilliance from him. Games where he’d play a smart, positional game that made one think “ok, he’s starting to understand.” but then the very next game, or sometimes the very next shot he’d face it would go all wrong. He’d do his best Dominik Hasek routine without the athleticism or “control under chaos” of a Dominik Hasek, but it still made for some really eye popping saves that would regularly make national highlight reels.

And there were those three games in April 2015. 187 minutes and five seconds of shutout hockey that essentially propelled the Jets into their first playoffs. 73 saves of brilliance against the Wild, Blues and Avalanche only marred a bit in Denver by his nemesis: the shootout.

It was one last gasp of hope that Pavelec would be the franchise goalie the Jets had hoped they had signed for back in 2013. It was followed up by a devastating injury the year after that took him out months and opened the door for Michael Hutchinson and Connor Hellebuyck.

Even in the end, Ondrej still found a way to make life difficult for both his critics and supporters. A late season call-up when it became obvious that the kid goalies needed relief, followed up by a three game win streak with number 31 in the net – only no one seemed to be able to answer the question of if they had reached that win streak due to or in spite of Pavelec’s play and then an injury that didn’t seem to be serious at first that has now taken him out for the season.

It was a long, strange trip Pavs. You will be long remembered in the history of Jets 2.0 – it will just depend who you ask if that remembrance is with fondness or utter disappointment.


He Gets His Kicks…

Speaking of long, strange trips: Josh Ho-Sang of the New York Islanders.

The latest chapter in this kid’s remarkable career that has often fraught with drama was his number of choice upon being called up from the AHL to dress for the Islanders.

66

It’s not the first time Josh has wore the number – he wore it in juniors with the Windsor Spitfires. He wears it for the exact reason a level headed hockey fan would assume he wears it for: A tribute to his hero Mario Lemieux. Nothing more, nothing less.

Although if he had said “Hey, double numbers are cool but everyone wears 88, 55 is kinda lame, 44 belongs to defensemen and no one really wants to be 22” as his reason, I would have been behind that as well.

Josh isn’t wearing it because he thinks he’s some sort of Mario replacement (although you could argue with his skating and puck handling ability, he could put up some serious all-star numbers) the 21 year old simply wears it to honor Mario. This isn’t some sort of Brain Lawton thing where he gets picked first overall and then picks the number 98 as some sort of “I’m just a step behind Gretz” type deal.

That’s not good enough for uptight hockey fans who are livid that anyone would dare step on the hallowed ground that is Mario’s legacy.

“66 should be retired just like 99 is!” they cry out. “This is hockey sacrilege!” screams a group that is upset over a blue-chip prospect wearing Mario’s number, but are somehow cool with Kris Russell of the Edmonton Oilers wearing Bobby Orr’s number. (Not to mention it was Taylor Hall’s number as well, but Oiler fans are still a bit sensitive about that.)

How is this a thing? Come to think of it, how are retired numbers still a thing?

Retired numbers jumped the shark the moment the Colorado Avalanche retired Ray Bourque’s 77 after his 15 months of service and one Stanley Cup with the Avs. The moment the Avalanche announced they were going to retire 77, the NHL – and all pro sports really – should have stepped in and said “Ok, we’re getting carried away with this now and we need to stop.”

I won’t even get into the debate of Wayne vs Mario or their importance on the game. Mario may have saved a franchise in Pittsburgh. Wayne not only saved one in Los Angeles but transcended the sport itself and also made it possible for the game to grow in non-traditional markets such as San Jose, Dallas, Florida and Atlanta…

Well ok maybe that last one not so much.

As for Josh Ho-Sang, I would question some of the methods to the madness he’s displayed at times in his hockey career and wonder if he is putting more pressure on himself than needed. I don’t question his wanting to wear the number of a personal hero and neither should any one else.


Quick Hits

The first ever member of the Vegas (we’re seriously not going to add “Golden” are we? We’re all just going to call them the) Knights is Calgary boy and Brandon Wheat King forward, Reid Duke.

Because Twitter never disappoints, The “Duke is now a Knight” jokes flew like hats after a Patrik Laine hat trick shortly after the signing. It got me to thinking though, can the NHL just not enforce a rule where players on the Knights have to have similar type names? Dwight King, Ben Bishop, Shane Prince… There is a kid in Texas playing in the NAHL by the name of Ricardo Regala and that’s close enough to “Regal” for me. I need this to happen.

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Kids and their video games… A few months after Patrik Laine let out an all-timer gaming blast on his buddy Nik Ehlers by stating his then scoring slump also extended to his PlayStation 4 NHL17 skills playing, Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner are taking shots at teammate Fredrik Anderson who apparently isn’t great with shooting in Call Of Duty.

We’ll take more of this kind of chirping between players and much, much less of mocking a man who gets rightfully emotional after being traded from his long time home.

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I’ve enjoyed making GIFs for you all this season on our Twitter account and my own personal account and I have a few favorite Paul Maurice ones high on the list – the 14 second long red faced explosion being one of them.

But Monday night may have brought my favorite…