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: Cash → Montreal Canadiens
IN: Ron Wilson → Winnipeg Jets
You have to spend money to make money. John Ferguson believed you had to spend money to improve your team but that it needed to be done the right way. Looking back at the history of Jets’ trades, the acquisition of Ron “Dog” Wilson in 1979 may not pop off the page but it largely altered the Jets DNA. There are few cash acquisitions that end up playing a significant number of minutes in the NHL, let alone playing nearly a decade for the team that paid for them. Wilson is the exception to the rule. The stingy center netted 21 goals in the Jets’ inaugural NHL campaign but was never able to reach the 20-goal mark again. This was an investment Ferguson was more than happy to make. He did not lose assets, prospects or picks for Wilson. Just cash. This was a one-sided trade that modern-day NHL General Managers will likely never experience in their careers.
Wilson’s statline may not be overly spectacular but, when examined through the lens of a ‘cash-consideration acquisition,’ it’s impressive. Ferguson made five trades during the Jets’ 1979 campaign and, other than Barry Melrose, Wilson was the most impactful of the five. While Wilson endured two tumultuous first seasons with the Jets, including the franchise-worst 9-win season, he always provided solid minutes during their high-flying 80s decade. In total, Wilson would go to play in over 800 NHL career games and score over 100 goals while amassing 415 penalty minutes. Wilson played hard-nosed hockey, was never afraid to mix it up in the corners, and brought the same mindset and determination into his future coaching philosophies. As such, the acquisition of Wilson altered the Jets’ DNA by proving there was no need to sell the farm to acquire a talented player. All you had to do was make good investments at opportune times.