Despite having his captaincy relinquished — in what was for certain anything but a mutual agreement between him and the hockey club — Blake Wheeler is still an extremely important player to the Winnipeg Jets.
Last week’s demotion certainly changed the course of the team’s leadership structure superficially, but make no mistake, Wheeler will still command a presence in the team’s dressing room this season and his ubiquity as a top-six forward is still very much relevant.
How he truly absorbs the indignity of losing the ‘C’ is unknown, but for someone who has watched and covered the franchise-leading scorer for over a decade, it’s likely to be motivational.
Moreover, in shedding the pressure and responsibility of being the team’s ultimate leader, it should allow Wheeler to recoil and refocus on his game and nobody else’s — a pressure valve release that just might ignite a bounceback season for him — and by extension, his teammates.
At 36 years old and with two years remaining on the richest contract on the team, you know Wheeler would like to reaffirm his value and be a vanguard in a Jets revolution back toward playoff hockey next spring.
And while his point production the last two seasons wasn’t close to his pair of 91-point contributions of the recent past, he was still close to a point-per-game player each of the last two years despite enduring a bout with COVID-19 and some injuries last season.
As a new season starts to lift above the horizon, part of the excitement of it is not knowing how it will finish until its conclusion. This year for Wheeler also mirrors that sentiment.
Simply put, perhaps his individual and his personal objectives can help the collective overall, and Blake Wheeler’s biggest contribution yet to the Winnipeg Jets is still to come — even without a letter on his lapel this season or next.
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