Winnipeg Jets captain Blake Wheeler talks about a disappointing season

It wasn’t the season the Winnipeg Jets had in mind, captain Blake Wheeler made it abundantly clear during a press conference Thursday.

Wheeler spoke to the media after the Vegas Golden Knights beat the Washington Capitals 4-3 in overtime on Wednesday night, officially knocking the Jets out of the playoffs.

« It’s the best part of the year to be a hockey player, except when you’re in our shoes, then it’s the worst, » Wheeler said. “It’s really disappointing. It’s hard to put into words, the feeling and, you know, how it feels. It’s like we’re back to square one. We’ve built so much time to get to a championship level and sitting here is pretty deflating.

The Jets had high expectations after a sweep of Connor McDavid and the Edmonton Oilers in 2021, before being swept in the second round against the Montreal Canadiens.

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« I said before the year, be careful what the word ‘expectations’ means, » Wheeler said. “There were years in the past when expectations were really low and we had really good teams and we were playing championships. this.

It was a season of inconsistency for the Jets, as they could only string together four three-game winning streaks this season and had only one four-game winning streak. It’s the seventh time in 11 seasons since moving to Winnipeg that the team has missed the playoffs, including losing to the Calgary Flames in the 2020 qualifying round.

“I hate what is happening right now. I hate losing,” Wheeler said. « It’s not just me, we have a lot of guys who don’t like to lose and don’t like the results we get. »

It was also a somewhat disappointing season for Wheeler. Although he has missed 17 games this season, his 13 goals to date are the worst of his career, including the shortened lockout season in 2013 and the shortened pandemic season in 2021, and his 55 points are its worst in uncut time. season since 2010-11. Add to that the fact that 18 of those points were secondary assists, and his 49.84% CF% and 46.37% xGF% at 5v5 are also among the worst numbers of his career, and it becomes a season to forget. for the winger. But, he takes his fair share of the blame.

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« It’s my job to build the culture here and I’ve taken a lot of pride in that over the years, » Wheeler said. “I certainly look in the mirror on that one, and where we got to, the team we were and the team we are now – I’m not hiding at all. I certainly take responsibility for the position of this team.

The Jets will have over $15 million in cap space this summer, but won’t have as much room to play once they re-sign pending RFA Pierre-Luc Dubois and re-sign Paul Stastny, either use this space to replace it. Beyond the moves in the offseason, Wheeler stresses that it’s about returning to the form and mindset of their past successful teams.

“Well, I think it was the idea, getting back to the form we had that made us a competitor,” Wheeler said. “I don’t think it’s about snapping your fingers. For the most part, we have a group of very good hockey players. How do you integrate this into a good team? It’s our job.

At the very least, the Jets have their core together for a while. Beyond Dubois and Stastny, the Jets have the rest of their top six, top five defensemen and starting guard all locked up until the end of 2024. But it’s whether it’s the right core to lock up that will determine if that team quickly returns to competitor status.

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