Jets absent from world hockey championship rosters.
8 ìàÿ 2019 ãîäà. Winnipeg Sun. McIntyre, Mike
no question the Winnipeg Jets wish they were still playing hockey right
now. A first-round playoff exit at the hands of the St. Louis Blues
wasn’t exactly how they drew things up.
And yet, when presented with a golden opportunity to extend the season
— not to mention perhaps get some of the sour taste out of their mouths
— multiple members of the team curiously took a pass.
The world hockey championship kicks off Friday, and you won’t find a
single member of the Jets on any rosters of the 16 countries that will
face off in the annual spring tournament. (Marko Dano of the Manitoba
Moose will play for host Slovakia, while free-agent defenceman Bogdan
Kiselevich, who never played a game with the Jets after being acquired
at the February trade deadline, will suit up for Russia).
By my count, there are 107 active NHL players who will be playing in
the event, coming almost entirely from the 15 teams that missed the
playoffs and eight that were knocked out in the opening round. That
includes some of the biggest names in the game, including Alex
Ovechkin, John Tavares, Leon Draisaitl, Evgeni Malkin, Patrick Kane,
Johnny Gaudreau, Jack Eichel, Elias Pettersson and Henrik Lundqvist.
Considering the Jets have a deep pool of talent that would likely excel
on the big ice and an international stage, you would think they’d be
well-represented. So what gives?
A few players have built-in excuses.
Patrik Laine was battling back and groin injuries late in the season
and opted to rest and recover rather than suit up for Finland.
Same goes for Nikolaj Ehlers, who suffered a leg fracture during Game 5
of the Jets’ first-round loss against the St. Louis Blues. Although he
managed to dress for Game 6, it was serious enough to keep him from
Josh Morrissey would have been a great addition to the blueline for
Canada, but he was still dealing with a major shoulder injury
(separation) that sidelined him for the final six weeks of the regular
season. While he made it back for the playoffs, he clearly wasn’t
playing at 100 per cent. It makes sense to skip the event.
As for everyone else, your guess is as good as mine.
Mark Scheifele simply shook his head to the negative when asked if he
was going to play for Canada at the Jets’ season-ending media session
on April 22. There’s no indication of an injury, although perhaps he
was keeping it hidden. The 26-year-old clearly wasn’t the same player
down the stretch, and I’ve already spilled plenty of ink over the last
couple of weeks trying to get a sense of what was up with the team’s
No. 1 centre.
Tavares jumped at the offer once his Toronto Maple Leafs were
eliminated, and he and Scheifele would have given Canada a powerful
one-two punch down the middle, while joining other stars such as Mark
Stone (Vegas Golden Knights) and Sean Couturier (Philadelphia Flyers).
How about captain Blake Wheeler, who also declined but didn’t give a
reason? No doubt the 32-year-old would have been a key addition to a
United States squad that includes stars such as Gaudreau (Calgary
Flames), Eichel (Buffalo Sabres) and Kane (Chicago Blackhawks).
Defenceman Jacob Trouba and forward Kyle Connor would be obvious boosts
to the U.S. roster, yet are absent. In their cases, I suspect their
status as pending restricted free agents played a role. An agent
probably wouldn’t want his client going overseas to play and risk
injury with contract negotiations looming. Fair enough.
What about goaltender Connor Hellebuyck? I’d love to give you an
answer, but he didn’t make an appearance during so-called “garbage bag”
day down at Bell MTS Place for us to ask him. He would have been a
major upgrade over U.S. netminders Cory Schneider (New Jersey Devils)
and Thatcher Demko (Vancouver Canucks).
Same goes for fellow American Dustin Byfuglien, who bolted from the
rink before he could be called to the podium to meet the media. A squad
that has defencemen such as Brady Skjei (New York Rangers), Christian
Wolanin (Ottawa Senators), Alec Martinez (Los Angeles Kings), Quinn
Hughes (Canucks) and Adam Fox (yet to play an NHL game coming out of
Harvard) surely could have made room for Big Buff, had he been willing.
That’s at least nine members of the Jets who would have been obvious
candidates to play in the worlds: three of them (Laine, Ehlers and
Morrissey) have injuries; two others (Trouba and Connor) have contract
issues that may have factored in; and the other four (Scheifele,
Wheeler, Byfuglien and Hellebuyck) have big question marks beside their
All of which takes me back to a point I’ve made a few times now: this
year’s team, especially in the last couple of the months of the season,
was not having a lot of fun.
Is it any surprise, then, that key members of a club that came up well
short of expectations inthe playoffs were looking for the nearest exit
as soon as the season ended?
I get there was bitter disappointment, but find me a single player at
the worlds who is happy to have not qualified for the playoffs or got
bounced quickly. It didn’t stop any of them from representing their
It’s worth noting several current Jets have played in the event in the
past, including Scheifele (2014, ‘16, ‘17), Trouba (2013, ‘14, ‘17),
Hellebuyck (2014, ‘15, ‘17), Connor (2016), Ehlers (2016), Morrissey
(2017), Andrew Copp (2017) and Tyler Myers (2014 while a member of the
Sabres). Ondrej Pavelec, Olli Jokinen, Alex Burmistrov, Andrew Ladd and
Evander Kane also played while they were Jets, which makes this year’s
shutout all the more puzzling, and in my view, just more evidence of
the sour mood surrounding this team by the end.
I can’t help but think of that “bunch of jerks” in Carolina who have
advanced to the Eastern Conference final after upsetting the Washington
Capitals and New York Islanders. Is there a group of pro athletes
having more fun than the Hurricanes are at the moment?
At their practice Monday in Raleigh, players gathered at centre ice in
a big circle and took turns sharing their weekend activities, which
included a couple of well-deserved days away from the rink.
From Storm Surges, the team’s cheeky Twitter account and merchandise,
it’s obvious they’ve got a good thing going on, which is translating to
their spirited play on the ice, and in a copycat league, perhaps the
Jets might want to try and emulate some of the good vibes going forward.
Maybe they can start by sitting everyone in the circle at the start of
training camp and talking about how they spent their off-season. It’s
just too bad nobody will be able to talk about their experience at the
world hockey championship in Slovakia.