It’s the end of Blake Wheeler’s career as a member of the Winnipeg Jets.
The former captain and 12-year Jets veteran was bought out by the team Friday morning.
In many ways, it should be a bittersweet day. After all, it leaves just Mark Scheifele as a member of that Jets team from October 2011 when the 2.0 version of this team returned to the NHL to face the Montreal Canadiens … and who knows how long Scheifele’s tenure will last here?
To sum up Wheeler’s time here — before, during and after he was the team’s captain — one would use the same words that describe this team: mercurial, passionate, frustrating, agonizing.
No player in this team’s franchise exemplified the ups and downs of the team more than Blake Wheeler. He had the size that every team envied in the Jets, and when he was on his game, he was the best of the Jets. Only he wasn’t always on his game, and the Jets inevitably fell short.
Wheeler wore the game and the Jets on his sleeve. He’s a big personality, in a big body, with, oh yes … a big salary.
Sometimes personalities can sour. Bodies break down. But the money keeps getting paid.
In reality, it had to happen. If this team is to turn over a new leaf and build a new solid culture, Blake Wheeler can’t be part of it. And the money saved against his hefty salary could help the Jets build a deeper, faster, younger team.
And for Wheeler, at age 36, maybe a new start with a new team is just what is needed to rekindle his career. While he can’t skate as he once did, perhaps his passion and his hands will make a difference for a team. Just not this team.
At the end of the day, after 12 seasons, 897 games, 262 goals, 812 points, it’s just business. And having Wheeler out just makes too much sense.
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