When asked about the infamous line shuffle, Mark Scheifele didn’t miss a beat.
The Winnipeg Jets‘ top centre responded, “It happens every year,” referencing, as an example, the 50 games he played without Blake Wheeler on his right side last season when Wheeler stepped in and stepped up as the second-line centre after the injury to Bryan Little.
This time, though, the duo’s split is different. It’s forced as the line has gone cold.
But the shakeup shouldn’t be looked at as a negative — it’s a positive. The split is able to happen because other players have emerged.
After developing in the shadows of the Jets’ top line, Andrew Copp (4-5-9), Nik Ehlers (5-6-11) and Adam Lowry (4-4-8) have all taken a step this season, illustrated in their respective play — each a point-a-game player (or more) sitting in the top five in team scoring.
The Jets need these players to step into larger roles.
Let’s not forget, Wheeler, who’s been “the guy” in Winnipeg for years now, is 34 years of age.
By no means is the captain being put out to pasture, but time will force a natural transition of his role on this team.
I do expect to see Wheeler and Scheifele reunite sooner than later, but at some point in the near future, the team needs to solidify its succession plan.
Perhaps the latest line shuffle is a first step toward the future.
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