Who are the Jets and time for me to let go...
If you have noticed the frequency of content in this space has been lacking. That's on me and there's an explanation; I've become too busy to provide the effort required into writing that is expected. With that I'm saying goodbye to HockeyBuzz.
Let me say this was not an easy decision but there are many factors at play here one of which is a return to work full-time, something I never planned on doing. It came unexpectedly but the challenge and opportunity are unique and I wanted to take them on for my professional life.
Even before then my own business had begun to grow in ways that I didn't expect and with this new point in my career where I can keep that and take on new challenges I have to let something go and it's this blog.
I have been a part of HB for some time, in fact since the lockout of 2004, when fans anxious to find out some sort of news found 'Eklund' and his chat room. I hung around, I participated in the evolving community and when the NHL came back and HB was born I was there- my handle was pigbanger- classy huh?
As a moderator for a few years I started posting my thoughts in the My HockeyBuzz section and after the many great writers for the Canucks who came through here gradually moved on Eklund asked me and that was almost 11 years ago in November of 2008. It's been fun, it's been trying, and it's been rewarding.
The 2011 cup run for Vancouver timed with the return of the Jets was one of the craziest springs I'll ever remember. I'll never forget my first game in the press box at the MTS Centre against the Penguins, a total nobody not sure what to do. The next day I flew to Toronto for business and there were many media members on that plane looking at this guy who was at the game the night before, looking at me with that 'wtf?' look. That night I arrived at my hotel and met Wayne Gretzky and then later Pierre Lebrun who was more than gracious with his time towards me.
From being in the building from the first puck drop in 2011, revealing Byfuglien's weight, to the final horn of the 2018 playoffs it's been a great ride here covering the Jets but all good things must come to an end.
There's a lot of thanks to go around to many great people. This list might be in chronological order or not but everyone was important in some way.
First and foremost to Eklund and EO. You guys took a chance, were patient and supportive in all ways imaginable. You opened some doors and stuck your neck out for me, a random guy on the prairies. Thanks so much!
To the OG HockeyBuzz mods- if you are still around what a ride! Some fun times then.
To some former HB writers like Eric Engels and Travis Yost- you guys were always top notch. To my Winnipeg media/blog friends in the "Gong Show" chat. The best of debates, support and advice from you all- thanks so much for listening and talking you have all be awesome and I look forward to more chats.
I don't think there is a person in Winnipeg who has anything bad to say about Ken Wiebe and he's always been supportive and candid and I won't forget his kind thoughts that would randomly arrive.
Mike Augello and Russ Cohen have been pod-casting brothers for the past 2.5 years. So great to hang with you guys and Anthony Mingioni too at the draft in Vancouver. So many good laughs with you guys.
Can't forget Gary Lawless and many other fine folks at TSN 1290 like Hustler and Rick Ralph too who have always been top notch, even Westwood, Toth and Ruwicki too :).
Finally a guy you wouldn't associate with a Jets blogger but Jason Botchford(RIP) of the Athletic/Province. I'll always remember our chats about hockey via the band Phish and their music.
There's probably more but that's who comes to mind right now however I can't forget the kind folks who read the blogs. You guys were critical, hilarious and challenging. You provided me corrections and made me laugh and most of all think and I appreciate the time and effort you put into the comments. THANK YOU.
With that I have been helping Ek try to find a new writer for this space hit me up via DM if you know some one or yourself that may be interested.
So who are these Winnipeg Jets?
I think that's the question that's been puzzling me most the last little while with this team. One that is either up or down and rarely in between so far this season. The team is certainly not what was designed or planned for and because things went off the rails the way they did is Maurice building a new identity for this group or trying to hold on for better days?
It's a difficult situation because some might say the inevitable decline of Wheeler has begun and with basically one true top 4 D on the back end there are many exposed issues on this team. There are bright points and perhaps the brightest might be Connor Hellebuyck as without his play this season the Jets are not in good shape let alone the mediocre shape they are now.
So again, who or what are the Jets?
They are a top loaded team of young talent with two aging vets taking up too much cap space for too few points. The team is in dire need of a dynamic force on defense and the two that seem best fit to fill that void are a rookie, the lone 18 year old to start the season, and a late round pick who shows much upside but can't earn the trust of the coach.
Ahh yes the coach. What can be said of how Paul Maurice is handling this situation? He's been given players that could develop but chooses ones have almost no chance of developing anymore. It's the trust thing and I think that finally I can say what Maurice trusts, it's not his vision of the team, nor is it certain players. He trusts his long-standing conventions of what makes a team work or successful. I don't think anything else really explains the use of Bitetto, Dahlstrom, Bourque or Shaw with the frequency seen this season. Sure some are call-ups due to injury, some so freaking weird no one could have expected it but here we are- Sbisa is in the lineup AFTER taking out Laine in practice.
What does that say to Heinola and Niku? What does that say the other players on the team who care as deeply about winning and success as the most passionate fans?
This is where the troubling part hits me as the question probably isn't who are the Jets? No. The correct question is who or what have the Jets allowed to become? There are unforeseen problems such as Byfuglien but to lose 2/3rds of your right side defense and have no plan to replace them seems unwise. To ice a bottom 6 that shows no cohesion or strategic thought is also unwise but here we are, the team and the fans together scratching heads.
That in itself is the most connected the fans have come since the 2018 playoffs. Curious, puzzled, tentative and a bit confused. It was never supposed to look like this right now. There was organization depth, there was talent spread across the line up, and there was a Hockey News cover. It's not going to plan and in some ways it could get worse before it gets better. That's the cold reality but it does not have to go that way and having an answer to the Byfuglien situation could go a long way to affecting fortunes.
I won't be writing about those but I look forward to seeing what happens no matter what happens.
Thank you for your years of support.