For the last six seasons, the former Boston Bruins forward Blake Wheeler has worn the C on his chest for the Winnipeg Jets.
While this is a surprising move by the Jets, some could claim they saw it coming with the recent reports that have come out from former players regarding the NHL veterans’ leadership. There have been multiple claims of a poor locker room environment stemming from Wheelers’ leadership. Evander Kane and Patrik Laine shared their disdain for the Jets’ locker room after departing from Winnipeg.
With the change in head coach for this season, the organization has decided to shake things up and start fresh. Paul Maurice is no longer the head coach, and with Rick Bowness now behind the bench, there will be a culture change coming to Winnipeg.
The club shared the following announcement:
JETS ANNOUNCE LEADERSHIP GROUP RESTRUCTURING
The Winnipeg Jets announced today a restructuring of the team’s leadership group ahead of the 2022-23 season.
”It is the determination of the coaching staff that we will enter the 2022-23 season without a specific captain, but rather a group of assistants still to be determined,” said Jets head coach Rick Bowness. “It is our goal to expand the leadership base within our hockey team. We have high expectations for our core players, and we want to provide them with the opportunity to step into those greater leadership roles as a group.”
Wheeler is in the fourth year of a five-year contract paying him $8,250,000 per season. He has also had his name floated around this off-season as a player who could be on the move as the Jets head in a new direction. In 12 seasons with the Jets/Atlanta Thrashers franchise, the Minnesota native has appeared in 825 games, recording 246 goals and 511 assists, along with 33 points in 39 postseason games.
The 36-year-old was initially selected fifth overall by the Phoenix Coyotes at the 2004 NHL Entry Draft but started his career with the Boston Bruins. During his tenure in Boston, he played in 221 games and collected 50 goals and 60 assists before he was shipped to the Atlanta Thrashers o February 18th, 2011, with Mark Stuart in exchange for Boris Valábik and Rich Peverley.
It seems the writing is on the wall as this will fuel trade rumors even more as the Blake Wheeler era in Winnipeg is coming to a messy ending. The Jets most likely will have to retain some salary if they wish to move on from him but at this point just getting him out of the locker room may be the best bet.