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Photo Credit: © James Carey Lauder-USA TODAY Sports

Pilots Logbook 2018-19: Blake Wheeler

There’s no better way to wrap up our Pilot’s Logbook series than to look at the heart and soul of the team, Blake Wheeler. A leader in the room and on the ice, Wheeler has excelled over the past few seasons as he’s averaged more than a point per game over the last two years. Even though the playoff run didn’t end like Wheeler had hoped, his competitive spirit will hopefully guide the team back into cup contention next season. Let’s finish the series by looking at the captain.

Blake Wheeler
26 – Right Wing
6’5″ / 225 lbs / Age: 32

The Numbers

BLAKE WHEELER’S 2018-19 REGULAR SEASON STATS
Scor Scor Scor Shot Shot Shot Ice Ice
Season Age Tm Lg GP G A PTS +/- PIM S S% TSA TOI ATOI BLK HIT TK GV Awards
2018-19 32 WPG NHL 82 20 71 91 0 60 231 8.7 378 1698 20:43 53 81 42 33 AS-4
Career 11 yrs NHL 860 242 454 696 99 572 2286 10.6 3901 15847 18:26 538 1039 397 377
BLAKE WHEELER’S 2018-19 REGULAR SEASON ADVANCED STATS
Cors Cors Cors Cors Fenw Fenw Fenw Fenw PDO PDO PDO PDO PDO Zone Zone
Season Age Team Lg GP CF CA CF% CF% rel FF FA FF% FF% rel oiGF oiSH% oiGA oiSV% PDO oZS% dZS%
2018-19 32 WPG NHL 82 1257 1331 48.6 -0.2 952 1004 48.7 0.1 75 10.7 74 90.0 100.8 57.5 42.5
Career NHL 860 12903 11689 52.5 1.9 9685 8705 52.7 2.2 669 9.6 565 91.1 100.7 54.4 45.6

Contract Status

Blake Wheeler’s importance to the team is reflected in his contract. Currently the highest paid player, Wheeler’s contract has an AAV of $8.25 million. He signed the five year deal at the beginning of last season and it runs until the end of the 2023-24 season. Wheeler has a full no-move clause until 2022-23 where it becomes a modified no-trade clause and Wheeler can submit a five team trade list.

Player’s Season in Review

It was another extremely productive offensive season for Wheeler who tied his career high with 91 points and beat his previous career high in assists with 71. This marks the second straight season that Wheeler has averaged more than a point per game. Even though Wheeler is known for his passing ability, he still managed to score 20 goals for the seventh straight season (lockout season pro-rated).

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Wheeler’s ability to score is important because it makes him infinitely more dangerous. While some playmakers pass up opportunities to shoot for themselves, Wheeler had 231 shots this season, which was second on the team behind Laine. Not being afraid to shoot helps open up the passing lanes for and gives him even more space to slip the puck to a teammate.

While Wheeler’s boxscore stats are phenomenal, things start to veer off track when looking at the advanced stats. In terms of shot attempts, this was the first time since joining the organization that Wheeler finished with a CF% below 50%. He finished near the middle of the team in terms of xGoals% with 47.4%. Like usual, the scoring chances follow suit with the team only getting 47.84% of the chances with Wheeler on the ice.

The interesting part about the top line is that they didn’t need to out-shoot the opposition to score points. Because Wheeler and Scheifele are so skilled, they can out-score most other lines despite garnering fewer chances.

The one issue that started to repeat itself was the poor defensive play of the top line.

As you can see, the Jets gave up far too many chances from the most dangerous areas with Wheeler on the ice. This coincides with the eye-test as well because there were plenty of games where the top line struggled in their own end. Both Scheifele and Wheeler would try to leave the zone early in the hopes of getting a scoring chance the other way.

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This lazy style was likely due to the increased minutes that Wheeler saw this season. Even though Wheeler is in phenomenal shape, playing 20:43 per game takes it’s toll as the season progresses. There were many times that Wheeler appeared to just be tired, even causing some people to speculate whether or not he was playing through an injury.

One of the reasons for the big minutes is Wheeler’s heavy usage on the powerplay. Wheeler excels from his ‘office’ at the right faceoff dot where he can feed passes to one of Scheifele, Byfuglien, or Laine. If nothing materializes, he can try to shoot the puck himself or slide it over to Connor for a backdoor pass. Watching Wheeler on the powerplay makes it clear that this is where he really shines as an offensive threat. Check out how dangerous the shot map is with Wheeler on the powerplay.

As you can see, the Jets get far more chances from Laine’s spot on the left, Scheifele’s spot in the middle, and Byfuglien’s spot up top than the average team.

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Another unique part of Wheeler’s season was his exclusive usage with Scheifele as his centermen. These two players were attached at the hip every single game despite the team struggling throughout the season. Although it’s not Wheeler’s fault, this was a major point of contention among that fans as many people thought Scheifele and Wheeler could be used to anchor their own lines and spread out the Jets attack more evenly.

The Playoffs

BLAKE WHEELER’S 2018-19 POSTSEASON STATS
Scor Scor Scor Goal Shot Shot Shot Ice Ice
Season Age Tm Lg GP G A PTS +/- PIM GW S S% TSA TOI ATOI BLK HIT TK GV
2018-19 32 WPG NHL 6 1 4 5 1 6 0 10 10.0 22 121 20:11 4 15 2 1
Career 5 yrs NHL 48 6 27 33 -6 24 1 92 6.5 199 826 17:12 24 72 17 10
It was a decent series for Wheeler who scored nearly a point per game against the Blues. Obviously any time that a team loses, the leaders are held accountable. The top line definitely didn’t dominate the series, they were merely mediocre. It wasn’t necessarily the reason Winnipeg lost, but the best players should be held accountable any time a playoff series is lost. Wheeler took that responsibility and mentioned how he needs to be better going forward into next season.

What We Said A Year Ago

“You can make an argument for Connor Hellebuyck, but the true most valuable player for the Winnipeg Jets this season was Blake Wheeler. When Mark Scheifele went down with injury in late December, many thought that the Jets were in for a rough stretch of games without their number one center, but it was Wheeler who took on the task of playing center between Patrik Laine and Kyle Connor and the team hardly missed a beat…”

Pilot’s Logbook 17-18: Blake Wheeler

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Future Outlook

It seems that Wheeler is getting better with age. While most players begin to decline after age 30, Wheeler has been smashing personal bests. One of the most promising things about Wheeler is his durability as he’s only missed four games in the last seven years combined. Staying healthy will be extremely important for Wheeler who relies on his speed and strong frame to win battles all over the ice. Looking into the future, next year will likely be similar to last year with Wheeler playing big minutes with Scheifele and running one of the league’s deadliest powerplays from his spot in the faceoff dot.

FINAL GRADE: A-