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MILLIONS: Winnipeg Jets have most – but not all – the pieces in place for a strong season

Roger Millions breaks down the Jet’s lineup as the 2021 season gets ready to go

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NHL training camps are scheduled to open on January 3, if things remain on schedule, despite COVID-19 restrictions. Before January 16, the beginning of the season, I will look at the four Western Canadian teams and do my best to project their near futures.

Let’s start with the Winnipeg Jets. 

I remember being assigned by Sportsnet to go to Atlanta, the day the franchise was officially awarded to Winnipeg. It was stiflingly hot that day, but not nearly as uncomfortable as the lack of interest in hockey. Few cared about the sport, and I was happy the team was Manitoba bound.

I grew up farming in Manitoba. My late father and his friends drove 3.5 hours from the south west corner of the province to watch their beloved Jets from the late 1990’s on. Their passion for the franchise and what it means to the province will never leave me. 

Throw in the small market accomplishments and they have my respect. A small city (by NHL standard) along with a not so densely populated province will always make financial challenges even more difficult. Toss in MTS Centre and its 15,000-plus capacity and dollars are hard to come by. Especially, with no projected cap space left at this time.

That said, the Jets have some very good pieces in place and a history of overachieving. They will need to do it again.

Goaltender Connor Hellebuyck is one of the game’s best netminders. His $6 million-plus price tag is not bad considering his ability. Like every team in the NHL without good goaltending, your chances are slim. Hellebuyck gives the Jets the opportunity to win each and every game unless another part of the team falls apart.

That leads us to the biggest question mark on the Jets; their defence. Calgarian Josh Morrisey is a very good player and is considered a star in many eyes. He is paid a handsome $6 million-plus and is required to do a great deal of heavy lifting. Unfortunately, the likes of Neal Pionk, Nathan Beaulieu, Dylan DeMelo, Derek Forbert, Luca Sbisa and Tucker Poolman do not put a much fear into other teams. While they may hold their own, they can be exploited. Other than Morrisey, this group must be considered the team’s weakest area.

Up front is a different story, led by Team Captain Blake Wheeler. Age 34, Wheeler is a very good player, but age has a way of catching up to you and I wonder how much he has left. $8 million a season is a hefty price tag, so Jets fans need to hope he has some left in the tank.

Same goes for recently acquired Paul Stastny, who is now 35. How will he perform? It’s too soon to say much of Stastny’s addition.

One of my favorite Jets is Mark Scheifele, now in his prime at age 27. Reasonably paid, you just have to love his two-way game. The question is, can he come back from the knee injury picked up in last fall’s years COVID-19 playoff against the Flames? It was a tough break. He will break in against the Flames’ forward Matthew Tkachuk, who was involved in the incident that injured him. Nothing like a little opening day drama is there?

Youthful stars Patrik Laine, Kyle Connor, Nicolai Ehlers should provide excitement and much needed offense; provided Laine continues to score and doesn’t tail off like he has shown some signs of last year. The Jets will need him to be the threat he was in the past.

Adam Lowry is a very good player and now has his dad Dave on the bench as the Jets’ Assistant Coach. Lowry is big, strong and mean enough to be a force. That will make his father proud. 

Throw in the remainder of third and fourth-line players and its clear the Jets have the capability of causing some damage in the newly constructed North or Canadian Division. 

To do so, injuries will have to be at a minimum and the overall team defensive group will have to make some progress. 

There is a rumor Winnipeg is dangling young Jack Roslovic to others in an attempt to shore up their defensive group. If they can get that move done, I say do it. 

The Jets have the potential for a great season, but they will need to make it happen and not simply hope for it.

Next up: the Vancouver Canucks. 

Roger Millions is the Sports Columnist for the Western Standard

Roger Millions is the Sports Columnist for the Western Standard. He was a broadcaster for the Calgary Flames for 39 years.

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2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. Mars Hill

    December 31, 2020 at 10:39 pm

    NHL lost me and I suspect many others to varying degrees because of their “wokeness”

  2. That's Dr. #SAND to you...

    December 30, 2020 at 3:20 pm

    Yabbut, are they ‘woke’ enough?
    Not for me.
    They don’t meet my high standards of virtue signalling.

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Sports

Alberta lacrosse: A Short History With A Bright Future

“While the book on Alberta lacrosse may be a short one, it’s an exciting one.”

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While Alberta may not have the rich history of lacrosse like B.C. or Ontario does, it’s without a doubt significant strides have been made over the past decade. Alberta has always been the ‘little brother’ of the lacrosse community, but this little brother is starting to grow up.

Alberta is starting to see success at every level of lacrosse at the national stage. In 2017 the Team Alberta Midget team did something that had never been done before — faced off against the top 25 players from each province/territory at the National tournament and against all odds, they made a statement by winning gold. Some skeptics in the lacrosse world might have thought it was a fluke and to make sure those skeptics kept those opinions to themselves, the Team Alberta Midgets did it again in 2018.

However Junior ‘A’ Lacrosse is a bit of a different story. Unfortunately Alberta teams have not had the same storybook ending as the Midget teams did. The Junior A Mounties first made history in 2016 as the first Alberta team to get a win in the Minto Cup against a B.C. and an Ontario team, defeating the Delta Islanders and the Orangeville Northmen in round-robin play. When the Mounties lost to Orangeville in the semi-finals, the dream died.

Fast forward to the 2017 Minto Cup, the Okotoks Raiders had arguably the most competitive National showing Alberta had ever seen. They lost three games straight, but those losses came by a total of four goals, once again showing Alberta is right there knocking on the door, demanding respect from the lacrosse community..

For the most part, it’s clear Alberta’s developing dexterous teams and demonstrating potential throughout the Junior ‘B’ division. Recently, in 2019, the Calgary Shamrocks became just the third Alberta team to ever win the Junior ‘B’ national championship, ending a nine-year winning streak of Ontario teams and taking home the Founder’s Cup.

Last, but not least, is the Edmonton Senior ‘B’ Miners, who I believe to be the most dominant showing of Alberta lacrosse at the national level, based on their players’ attention to detail, and championship culture. Prior to the Presidents Cup tournament getting shut down by the pandemic in in 2020, the Miners won three of the last four years and were well on their way to solidifying themselves as a dynasty.

Lacrosse is a beautiful sport with a rich history. While the book on Alberta lacrosse may be a short one, it’s an exciting one. The game is growing in the mid-west of Canada and with the success as of late, expect that growth to continue. We are seeing more and more prairies players make their way into the NCAA lacrosse, as well as working their way into the NLL. 

Highlighting the successes and achievements of recent Alberta lacrosse teams, players and personnel is crucial in growing the game. The intent of this article, and the ones that follow, is to feature, promote and acknowledge those involved in the continued development of this historic game within the province.

Look out Canada, looks like the little brother of lacrosse just hit puberty.

Jake Foster is a Calgary born athlete and journalist with a passion for sports and story telling 

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News

NHL releases update on rescheduled games

In the Battle of Alberta, the Calgary Flames will see eight home games and two road games pushed back., while the Edmonton Oilers have five home games and four road games rescheduled.

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A comprehensive update to the 2021-2022 regular-season games was released on Wednesday by the NHL.

The Vancouver Canucks have had six home games and one away game rescheduled.

In the Battle of Alberta, the Calgary Flames will see eight home games and two road games pushed back, while the Edmonton Oilers have five home games and four road games rescheduled.

The Winnipeg Jets will see six home games and three away games rescheduled.

The revised schedule includes:

  • New dates for 98 games that had been postponed over the two-month period from Nov. 18, 2021 through Jan. 18, 2022.
  • Date changes to 23 other games to accommodate the new dates for postponed games.
  • 95 games scheduled for the 16-day window from Feb. 7-22, designated previously as a pause to accommodate NHL player participation in the Olympic Games. Games are scheduled on all 16 dates, highlighted by a 10-game slate on Thursday, Feb. 17.

“We are profoundly grateful to our fans for their support and understanding during a challenging time and to our clubs, the NHL Players’ Association and the players for their cooperation in a rescheduling of unprecedented logistical complexity,” said NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly.

The complete 2021-22 regular season schedule can be viewed and accessed at www.nhl.com/flames.

Melanie Risdon is a reporter with the Western Standard
mrisdon@westernstandardonline.com

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News

NHL postpones another 8 games due to attendance restrictions

The league said all games will be rescheduled for a later date when restrictions can be eased or lifted.

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The National Hockey League announced Friday it has axed another eight games due to COVID-related Canadian attendance restrictions.

The league said all games will be rescheduled for a later date when restrictions can be eased or lifted.

Affected games include:

Monday, January 3
Minnesota @ Ottawa

Wednesday, January 5
New York Islanders @ Vancouver

Saturday, January 8
New York Islanders @ Edmonton

Tuesday, January 11
New York Islanders @ Calgary

Wednesday, January 12
Minnesota @ Edmonton

Friday, January 14
Vegas @ Edmonton

Saturday, January 15
Vegas @ Calgary

Sunday, January 16
Edmonton @ Winnipeg

As well, due to the New York Islanders three other road game postponements, the Islanders-Seattle game on Tuesday, January 4 in Seattle has been postponed.

The league has yet to establish make-up dates for the postponed games.

Melanie Risdon is a reporter with the Western Standard
mrisdon@westernstandardonline.com

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Petition: No Media Bailouts

We the undersigned call on the Canadian government to immediately cease all payouts to media companies.

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