After going through three-quarters of a season where the prevailing theme around the Jets seemed to be “what misfortune will befall the team next?” the last few weeks of play since the return from the All-Star Game break seemed to be more positive for the team. The Jets had gone 12-6-2, the power play had remained a solid 22% success rate while the often maligned penalty kill had killed off 39 of 45 times the team was short handed for an 87% success rate.
Connor Hellebuyck was showing no signs of slowing down, Kyle Connor was on the verge of a 40 goal season and after a strong performance on the road against the Edmonton Oilers in a 4-2 win, the Jets held (or I guess still technically) hold the first wild card spot.
With the uptick in positives that the Jets were experiencing going into a stretch run for a playoff spot, you can maybe forgive Winnipeg Jets fans for feeling frustrated about the “pause” placed on the NHL 2019-20 season due to fears over COVID-19.
You can also count Jets captain Blake Wheeler as one of the many who hated to see it. As he shared with Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman for his latest “31 Thoughts” piece, Wheeler admits to coming into the season knowing it was going to be much tougher for the club than the previous couple of seasons, but the feeling of having so many predict a last place finish for the Jets going into the new season helped bond the team together.
And like many of us, while knowing that the pause is ultimately good for the health and safety of everyone involved, Wheeler admits that it’s hard not to be at least a little bit disappointed with the stoppage;
“That’s why I was so bummed we were put on hold because we were really starting to fire on all cylinders. Our defence was playing great and our goalie was out of his mind. Add that to some of the offensive weapons we have and the battle in our room and you never know what could happen.”
The captain also touched on the topic of changing his own personal mindset going into the season – something he admitted he needed to do after a rather emotionally taxing season the year before.
“I would say that I know myself a lot better today than I did a year or two years ago. I know that there are days when I come to the rink and I’m a little on edge. The combination of pressure from my job and having three small children makes me a little ornery sometimes. I wish it didn’t, but it does. So I know on those days how to carry myself a lot better.”
Wheeler goes on to talk a lot more about how he’s approached his leadership role and what games from this past season stood out to him as he shared some very insightful thoughts with Elliotte that you can read over on his 31 Thoughts blog.