Team Profile: The Winnipeg Jets

I’ll be honest, half the time I forget the Jets are in our Division. Since relocating from Atlanta, the Jets have been fairly quiet. Because this team was established in 2011, this history will be super short and sweet.

  • Located in the Central Division of the Western Conference
  • Founded in 1999 as the Atlanta Thrashers (relocated for the 2011 season)
  • Located in Winnipeg, Manitoba
  • Arena: MTS Centre
  • Owner: True North Sports and Entertainment
  • GM: Kevin Cheveldayoff
  • Head Coach: Paul Maurice
  • Captain: Blake Wheeler
  • Minor League Affiliate: Manitoba Moose
  • Stanley Cups: none

 And here is a slightly more in depth history. Again, this will be super short. I went over the origins of the original Winnipeg Jets in the Arizona Coyotes Profile. So here I will focus on the Atlanta Thrashers since they are the team that became the present day Jets.

The Atlanta Thrashers were founded in 1997 as an expansion team. In their 12 years as a franchise they only made it to the playoffs once. They didn’t win a single playoff game during that run.
As early as 2009, True North Sports and Entertainment had interest in buying the team to relocate them to Winnipeg. They had put in a bid for the Phoenix Coyotes. Despite the fact that they were unsuccessful, their approach was praised by Gary Bettman and the rest of the owners, which would help them when it came time to make a bid for the Thrashers. Finally in 2011 it was confirmed that the Thrashers were purchased with plans to relocate them to Winnipeg.

Season ticket sales for the yet unnamed team exceeded expectations, selling out within minutes. The name was revealed as the Winnipeg Jets on June 24th when the team was introduced to make their first selection in the 2011 Entry Draft.
Since then, they have made the Stanley Cup playoffs once, in 2015. They were swept by the Anaheim Ducks.
This past season they finished 25th overall. They were able to win the 2nd overall draft pick this year in the lottery, selecting Patrik Laine.

 Notable Players:

  • Blake Wheeler
  • Dustin Byfuglien
  • Andrew Ladd

 Again, this team flies under the radar quite a bit, especially in the competitive Central Division. They are a young team, so they likely need some time to establish themselves. I’m not complaining. The Central Division is scary enough as it is.

I thought the Injury Gnome was a Pittsburgh thing…

Oh, Jamie Benn needs surgery? The dummy hurt himself training. No big deal, it’s the offseason. Even if he misses the World Cup, he’ll be fine for training camp. All is cool.Wait, now Tyler Seguin is hurt? It’s ok, they’re just taking him out because the tournament is too short for him to recover. He’ll be fine in 10 days or so…wait, a hairline fracture? Well that sucks. But ok, he’ll be back early in the season even if he isn’t ready for the opener. We’re still ok.

Faksa with concussion symptoms. That sounds bad…he’ll be cleared soon, though, right?

Hemsky left the game early… A groin injury? Damn man, that sounds terrible.

Ok, well at least the tournament is over for our guys. Training camp! We made it! Hold up, Eakin got hurt the first day? What the hell? How does that even happen? Now Shore? Dickinson out until early November recovering from hip surgery? Ok, maybe I’m getting a little concerned now…

Ok, Janmark is missing a preseason game. I’m sure he was just given an extra day to recover, no reason to panic about him being pulled from the lineup at the last minute. Hmm, well him being on crutches doesn’t sound too good, but I’m sure it’s just a bump…he’s out 5-6 months?!? 

Holy crap, ok, this is not funny anymore.  

Basically me for the last couple of weeks.

– Italia

The World Cup of Hockey 2016

Team USA’s exit from the World Cup of Hockey is something I have mixed feelings about.

On one hand, I’m sorry for the players. They did as they were told and as they had been selected to do. They were chosen for grit and for the physical aspects of the game. They played to those guidelines. It wasn’t enough.

So on the other hand, I hope that this will help spur the future Team USA management groups into considering all aspects of the game as opposed to only the physical ones. Coach Quenneville once said something that boiled down to: if a team is focused on hits, that means they don’t have the puck. The self-congratulatory way the Team USA management proclaimed that they had built a team to be gritty failed to take into account a need to score goals.

They decided that skill players could be interchanged for players that liked to play a physical game, and players on the blue line should be big and imposing as opposed to players inclined to moving the puck forward. How did they expect that to go? You can play a physical game all you want, but if the opponent is simply faster than you, how are you going to hit them? How do you catch them to get the puck back?

To me, after looking at the roster, I was skeptical, but it was really the coaching decisions that made me feel like the ending was inevitable. Starting Quick over Bishop? Byfuglien is the healthy scratch? I mean, okay, yeah, maybe, but you have to play smart. You have to make creative plays and you have to move fast. Just playing a gritty game isn’t going to win it for you.

And while Team USA going out is sad, it’s not surprising.

Team North America going out? Now that’s disappointing beyond imagination. This team is something unprecedented.

The amount of raw talent on Team North America is unreal. Not only are they fast, they’re creative. They’re willing to try plays and combinations that some of the more experience players won’t. Chris Chelios rightfully said that they’re willing to try things because they don’t see them as being impossible yet. The talent of this team, the unique blend of speed and skill is something we won’t likely see again. Even if the NHL does a World Cup with another Team North America, and McDavid, and Eichel, and Matthews are all still eligible, it’d be insane for their respective nations to allow them to play for anyone but their own country.

McDavid has already said he wants to play for Team Canada in the next one. And Team Canada would be foolish to not allow it. I would expect similarly with some of the other younger guys. If they even have another Under 24 team for the next World Cup.

Team North America was fascinating to watch. Dynamic, fast, smart, enthusiastic. It’s incredibly disappointing that we won’t get to see them play further.

I hope Team North America understands how much the hockey community appreciated them. The fastest game in sports, and they not only made it faster, but they played it with so much skill and genuine love for the game. This is the future of hockey, and it’s beautiful.

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To Team North America: Thank you. It was an absolute pleasure watching you play.

And to Team USA: what did you expect lol

-Caitlynn

Team Profile: The Arizona Coyotes

Hockey in the desert! I have a lot of respect for the Coyotes. Like the Stars, they deal with the challenges of building a franchise in a super non-traditional hockey market. They are also relatively young, both in terms of franchise and player age. They are under no pressure to be competitive right away, so they have the luxury of taking their time to build a team and franchise that will be great for years to come.

A brief overview:

  • Located in the Pacific Division of the Western Conference
  • Founded in 1971 (as the original Winnipeg Jets)
  • Located in Glendale, AZ
  • Arena: Gila River Arena
  • Owner: IceArizona
  • GM: John Chayka
  • Head Coach: Dave Tippett
  • Captain: Shane Doan
  • Minor League Affiliate: Tucson Roadrunners
  • Stanley Cups: none

So to clarify, this team was originally the Winnipeg Jets. The current Jets are a different franchise altogether. Since this will mostly focus on the Coyotes from 1995 onward, this will be a short profile.

The original Winnipeg Jets were founded as part of the short lived WHA. They eventually became one of 4 teams to be merged into the NHL after the WHA disbanded.

At first they struggled a bit competitively, but eventually they were making the playoffs pretty consistently, although they rarely won series.

In the 1990’s they began to struggle financially due to an increase in players’ salaries that affected Canadian teams the most. Despite a lot of protest by fans, the team was purchased by Phoenix businessmen in 1995 with plans to relocate them to Phoenix. The name Coyotes was determined by a fan contest.

After arriving in Phoenix, the team posted six consecutive .500 or better seasons, making the playoffs in every year but one. The one time they didn’t make the playoffs, in 2000–01, they became the first team to earn 90 points in the season and miss the playoffs.

The team struggled towards the later part of 2006 and onward. Attendance dropped, largely due to the poor conditions of the America West Arena they played in at the time, which wasn’t designed to accommodate a hockey rink. Eventually the franchise was sold to Steve Ellman, a Phoenix area developer, along with Wayne Gretzky.

Gretzky named himself head coach, despite having never coached hockey at any level. The ensuing 2006-2007 season was the worst in franchise history since relocating to Arizona.

2008 marked the beginning of some serious financial issues for the franchise, which led to the NHL having control over the team. The owner eventually put the team into bankruptcy, causing several issues with the NHL as they had been attempting to find bidders for the franchise. After several court proceedings, the NHL bought out the Phoenix Coyotes and assumed all its debts. It worked to find a new owner for the team for several years, as most bids ended up falling through at the last minute.

Finally in 2013, Renaissance Sports and Entertainment were allowed to purchase the franchise, also signing a 15 year lease agreement with the city of Glendale in the process. Had this deal not gone through, the team would have been relocated, Seattle having been the most likely choice.

In 2014 they changed their name to the Arizona Coyotes.

After this most recent season, GM Don Maloney was relieved of his duties. In his place, John Chayka was promoted from within the organization. Promoted at 26 years old, he became the NHL’s youngest GM in history.

Notable Players:

  • Shane Doan (he’s the only active player to have been with the original Winnipeg Jets before relocating).
  • Jeremy Roenick
  • Brett Hull
  • Max Domi
  • Anthony Duclair
  • Oliver Ekman-Larsson

With new management and several young stars on the rise, this team, despite having to overcome several hurdles to get to where they are, will be a force to be reckoned with in years to come.

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Bye, Val…

So it seems to finally be official. After months of speculating on when (or I guess if) the Stars and Nichushkin would be agreeing on a new contract, the RFA has decided to sign in the KHL this season. CSKA Moscow has reported that they have agreed to a two year deal with Nichushkin. The Stars will retain his rights (at least if he comes back before becoming a UFA).

I’ll admit I personally have mixed feelings about this whole thing. First, I am truly disappointed that Nichushkin is leaving. Despite a less than stellar showing this past season, the guy shows that he has some raw potential. The reports that he doesn’t like playing under Lindy Ruff are disheartening to say the least. Ruff’s patented line blender moves probably didn’t do much to help his development. So while I am sad to see him go, I hope he is able to have more time to develop. He claims he wants to return to the Dallas Stars after his contract expires. Hopefully he does and comes back a better player for it. In the meantime, I think the Stars have ample amounts of talent to fill his spot, between newly acquired Jiri Hudler and the up and coming forwards from the AHL. 

So best of luck, Val. Hope to see you again at some point…

– Italia

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Team Profile: Minnesota Wild

The Minnesota Wild may be a young team, but they certainly face a lot of pressure from the fans. Playing for a home crowd in the ‘State of Hockey’ is probably as terrifying as it is exhilarating. After several long seasons without a team, Minnesota puts a lot of pressure on the Wild to play their best. Thankfully with several star players, the Wild are up for the challenge.

Brief Overview:
Western Conference
Central Division
Established: 1997
Arena: Xcel Energy Center
AHL Affiliate: Iowa Wild
Owner: Craig Leipold
Coach: Bruce Boudreau
Current Captain: Mikko Koivu
Goalies: Devan Dubnyk, Darcy Kuemper
Notable Current Players: Zach Parise, Ryan Sutter, Matt Dumba, Nino Niederreiter, Charlie Coyle

Some facts:
The Wild began play in the 2000-01 season with the Columbus Blue Jackets, the two youngest teams in the league.

After the Minnesota North Stars moved to Dallas in 1993, St. Paul tried desperately to get another NHL team. Despite a Minnesota group buying the original Winnipeg Jets, the arena negotiations fell through, so the Jets moved to Phoenix and Minnesota was without a team for seven seasons.

In the Wild’s first game against the Dallas Stars, they won 6-0 in front of a sold out building. There is still some remaining tension between the Minnesota Wild fans and the Dallas Stars for the move from Minnesota that left them without a team for so long.

2008 the Wild won their first, and only, Division Championship.

The eye of the animal on the Wild’s logo is said to represent the North Star, as tribute to the Minnesota North Stars.

The Iowa Wild, their AHL affiliate, was once the Houston Aeros and played in Houston, Texas.

The Xcel Energy Center is ranked one of the best sports venues by ESPN. It is also considered extremely green, certified by LEED, Green Globes, and APEX/ASTM.
d APEX/ASTM.

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Minnesota vs Dallas in game 2 of the 2016 Stanley Cup playoffs

Stuff is Happening! (or it will be, in a couple of days)

So lets take a quick moment to recap important dates that are coming up this month and early October. The hockey season is right around the corner! I’m so excited! I can’t stop using exclamation points!

  • September 17th: The World Cup of Hockey kicks off
  • September 23rd-25th: Training Camp in Cedar Park

– Caitlynn and I will be making the drive to attend, so hopefully we’ll have some interesting content, plus some new photos to share. We will also be attending the scrimmage the last day of the camp.

  • September 26th: First pre-season game against the St. Louis Blues at the American Airline Center.
  • October 4th: Pre-season game against the Florida Panthers at the AAC
  • October 5th: Pre-season game against the Colorado Avalanche at the AAC
  • October 7th: Frozen Fury in Las Vegas (against the LA Kings)

-We will be attending this (for my birthday!), and are looking forward to getting a good look at T-Mobile Arena, where the new Vegas team will be playing. You better bet we will be documenting everything we can.

  • October 13th: SEASON OPENER AGAINST THE ANAHEIM DUCKS!!!!

So really, once the final weekend in September hits, we’re going to be a bit busy. But it’s the best thing ever.