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The Art Gallery: In Canada, It’s Winnipeg And Toronto And That’s It

On Monday, I received some validation of a nagging thought I’d had since the early part of July, although I was surprised that it came in the form of NBC Sports releasing their 2017-18 NHL TV Schedule.

Sure the five Jets game on US national television is great, and that in itself is proof that the Jets are truly a team worth watching this coming season, but it’s the game on October 24 that caught my immediate attention.

Toronto at Winnipeg.

Huh, go fig, an all-Canadian match up on US television. It’s the only such game that any of the NBC networks will carry this upcoming season and it’s not like it’s tucked away in some lame Friday or Monday night spot where there won’t be as many eyes it. The game isn’t being ran as a secondary option for certain parts of the country while a bigger, more marquee contest – likely featuring the Chicago Blackhawks – is airing.

Leafs @ Jets is that week’s prime time Wednesday night feature game for NBCSN. It’s going to get top billing in the week leading up to it. The NFL Sunday Night Football game between the Rams and 49ers on NBC before that Wednesday? They are going to run promos during that game telling America: “Hey, this game between the two best teams from Canada? You’re going to want to watch that…”

Yes the Edmonton Oilers actually lead the way for apperances by a Canadian team on the American network but Toronto and then Winnipeg follow on the list with six and five games respectively and unlike the Oilers which has it’s number boosted by a single player – granted that player is arguably the best hockey player on the planet – and no other reason, the Leafs and Jets rank high on that list due to talent spread across their rosters and expectations placed on them.

The Jets having a handful of great American born players while the Leafs having likely the best American born player certainly doesn’t hurt as well, but having a bunch of American born players on the roster didn’t sway NBC’s opinion on the Jets enough last season or the season before that, so that leaves us with only one other real reason why suddenly the Jets are going to be seen in a lot more homes this coming season.

There are two teams in Canada that have legitimate shot at winning a Stanley Cup this year, Toronto and Winnipeg. Edmonton and Calgary? They have some good pieces to work with, but too many question marks overall and one of them if not both likely won’t even make the post-season. Montreal and Vancouver? Rebuild (but deny you’re actually in one) City baby. Ottawa? Forget playoffs, if they can even keep Erik Karlsson for an entire season that should be considered a major victory.

In eight years, Winnipeg has gone from not even having an NHL club to having one of Canada’s two best bets to win the whole thing. That’s pretty damn cool right? Winnipeg sports fans are so used to having the rug pulled out from them time and time again that expecations are always kept low and that’s understandable. Having major media outlets commit to giving the Winnipeg Jets more attention than the city has ever seen directed at it’s hockey club is verification that many outside of Winnipeg also believe this team is for real.

Most Memorable Goal?

Recently on Sportsnet YouTube page, they posted a video of “the most memorable goals” for all 31 NHL clubs. When it came time to show what they had selected for the Jets, the pick was somewhat predictable if not a touch disappointing…

Look, I love Teemu as much as any Winnipeg hockey fan and the 54th goal during his rookie campaign is no doubt an iconic goal, but – and I really hate to kick at this hornet’s nest – he didn’t play for THIS current Jets franchise and you’re telling me that Winnipeg hasn’t had memorable goals since the NHL has made it’s return?

I don’t about any of you, but I still vividly remember the Jets opening goal a mere eight seconds into the game against the Penguins back on October 17, 2011 when the Jets were still looking for their first victory since moving north. Lee Stempniak’s goal in game three of the 2015 playoffs – the first at home in Winnipeg – was pretty cool wasn’t it? Heck, mention “The Flying W Goal” and you’ll likely get more than a few Jets fans nodding as they remember that marker in 2012.

Pick a goal from this most recent playoff run, Laine’s first career playoff, Buff’s big blasts against Nashville. There are a handful to go off in just that three series stretch alone.

But if we’re talking truly memorable Jets 2.0 goals, the no-brainer pick is Laine’s OT winner against Toronto isn’t it?

Hat trick goal that also happened to be the game winner that capped an almost improbable comeback, and the added bonus of seeing Auston Matthews fail in his attempt before Laine cashed in on his in the very first meeting between the first two picks of the 2016 NHL Draft.

You can’t get any more memorable than that.

At least… Not until they make a Stanley Cup Final anyway.

Mount Jetsmore

Over on ESPN, Greg Wyshynski has been revealing his listings of Mount Puckmore picks – basically a listing of four “influential” players in the history of each franchise.

Unlike Sportsnet, Greg didn’t – again, not wanting to kick up a hornets nest of bitter comments here – ignore Atlanta hockey history.

His picks for Mount Jetsmore? Byfuglien, Little, Wheeler… And Ilya Kovalchuk. Go check out the article for yourself to see his well thought out reasoning and who he felt just missed the cut.

My personal thoughts on his picks? Pretty much spot on given where this franchise is in it’s history. As pointed out with the memorable goals, there have already been plenty of moments in the last six seasons for the Jets to feel like it’s truly Winnipeg’s team and not just the “old Thrashers” (no matter how much trolls try to cling to that narrative still) but the truth is while players like Mark Scheifele and Patrik Laine likely will leave their mark on the franchise to the point of taking a spot from say Little or Kovalchuk, they aren’t there yet. Kovalchuk still holds the franchise lead in goals and points and likely will for another two to three seasons yet. Brian Little is also top three in each area of goals, assists, points and has the most games played with the franchise.

Do you agree with his list? Should Jets 1.0 have been included? If so, who makes up that list?

As always with anything related to the history of Winnipeg hockey and both versions of the Jets, there are multiple answers depending who you ask.