Acclimatizing to a new environment is something we can all relate to. New school, new in-laws or new friends – it can all be difficult but the hardest is always a new job. Adapting can take time because its tough to get used to the new expectations of your employer. The newest additions to the Winnipeg Jets are just like the rest of us – sometimes it takes a little time to get used to the new environment. This is why we need to examine the expectations of the recent signings; will they meet, exceed or underachieve?
Nate Thompson – Meet
The expectations placed on Nate Thompson will be higher than the other Jets’ signings. The 36-year old Alaskan-native has played nearly 15 years in the league and, while the Jets will be the American’s 9th NHL team, his value as a consistent 4th line center remains. Signing the journeyman center to a one-year $750,000 is a calculated risk based on what the Jets expect from Thompson. The upcoming season will require depth down-the-middle and, while Thompson won’t be expected to light the lamp, he will be expected to maintain a faceoff winning percentage above 50% and provide valuable minutes on the penalty-kill. The caveat to this season is Thompson recently opened up about his addiction struggles with alcohol and drugs and expressed his determination to seize this second-opportunity, not only in hockey, but in life. Jets fans hope they can rally behind this positive story as Thompson suits up this upcoming season in the Manitoba capital.
The former member of the 2003 draft class has only managed to score 10 goals once in his career, which may taper Jets’ fans expectations of the journeyman forward. But goals aren’t what the Jets’ brass expect. They expect Thompson to maintain the same consistency he has in previous seasons – dominate the faceoff dot, help improve a mediocre penalty-killing unit and add veteran leadership to a relatively young locker room. The scoresheet will never be the indicator of Thompson’s impact on a game, which is why his statline should be taken with a grain of salt. Fans know that the intangibles matter in hockey more than any other sport. The timely faceoff at the end of a game, the blocked shot on a penalty kill or the 4th line suffocating an opposition’s top-line are all variables that won’t appear on the score sheet, but without them, the wins aren’t possible.
The Alaska native has expressed his excitement to join the Winnipeg Jets, sober and motivated so as to not squander his second opportunity. Jets’ fans embrace their players like a member of their family and Thompson has the potential to flourish as a fan-favourite. It takes courage to admit addiction issues, and even more to do so publicly. Jets fans are drawn to players that exemplify these attributes, so will recognize the aforementioned intangibles that Thompson brings and loudly cheer when he wins a timely faceoff. If the Jets intend to be contenders in a fiercely competitive Central division, they will need depth down-the-middle, an improved penalty-kill and a calming veteran presence in the locker room. The Jets’ expect Nate Thompson to help the team improve in these categories and, given his track-record, it’s safe to say this courageous centreman will meet these expectations.