The old adage states, “Rome wasn’t built in a day.” Well, neither was the ‘Peg. The Winnipeg Jets have been building their empire in the WHA since 1972 and later joined the NHL in 1979. The foundation of the team has always been grounded in their belief in tough hockey, never being afraid to take a risk and, most importantly, there being no better night out than a ‘Whiteout’ night out. We all know that before anything of real value can truly flourish, time must be taken to cultivate it to grow. While the Jets’ exodus from town was certainly a blemish on the empire’s reputation, it should not diminish the moves the team has made to better the franchise and the city as a whole. The Jets didn’t waste any time to start wheelin’ and dealin’ and neither should we. So without further adieu, here are the trades that altered the Jets’ DNA.
OUT: Dave Christian → Washington Capitals
IN: 1983 1st round pick – Bobby Dollas → Winnipeg Jets
The moment a player publicly expresses discontent with the team their time in the city starts ticking. The last thing John Ferguson and the Jets’ front-office wanted to do was trade their second-round pick from the 1979 entry draft, but Dave Christian forced their hand. At the conclusion of the 1982 seasons, Christian arrogantly stated that he didn’t know where he would play the next season, but that it definitely wouldn’t be in Winnipeg. The American right-winger was upset with Canadian tax-laws, the poor exchange rate and a lack of post-playing job prospects in Canada. Initially, Jets’ fans held no hard feelings towards Christian, but – in the end – losing a sniper that scored seven seconds into his first-ever game in exchange for a first-round defenceman that would only play three lackluster seasons left most fans with a bitter taste in their mouths.
On paper, there is no doubt the Jets lost this trade. They let a ‘Miracle on Ice’ sniper who would go on to play over a thousand NHL games and amast 773 points go for a defenceman that only played three seasons with the Jets and never scored a goal for the blue and white. Having said that, it needed to be done. Misery loves company and if Christian would have been forced to stay, his discontent would have likely spread amongst his teammates. The term locker room cancer is not synonymous with Christian but it likely would have been if he had been forced to stay. While Bobby Dollas would go on to play over 15 seasons in the NHL with a career high 30 point season in 1995 with the Anaheim Ducks, he never filled the void that Christian left. This trade not only altered the Jets’ DNA on the ice, but also off of it. Notably, American players began considering Christian’s grievances when contemplating free-agent destinations. This had a ripple effect that expanded from Winnipeg to Canadian teams’ abilities as-a-whole to attract American players. In hindsight, Dave Christian’s departure was inevitable but his decision to publicly air his grievances was not. By forcing Ferguson’s hand, this decision permanently altered the Jets’ DNA.