A few words on some guy named Andrew Ladd
As expected, there was a video tribute. There were plenty of 'No. 16' jerseys in the crowd, as well.
And as you might guess, there was a short standing ovation from the 15,000-plus at MTS Centre during a play-break in the first period, several minutes after those in attendance watched the former Winnipeg Jets captain start the game.
And then he scored a goal in the third, his 20th of the season, and the polite applause showered down onto the ice once again.
The return of Andrew Ladd didn't contain many plot twists in Winnipeg's 4-0 beatdown at the hands of the Chicago Blackhawks Friday night, and that's pretty much how history will define the 30-year-old's nearly five seasons of service.
Quiet. Expected. No fuss, no muss.
How Ladd, who was shipped off to Chicago last month, will be remembered in Winnipeg depends on how one evaluates the captain of a hockey club. There are different opinions on Ladd. There always have been.
He was never going to be the emotional leader who would blow up at a referee or an opposing player, just as he was never going to be that guy who called out teammates in front of the cameras after a sub-par effort. He would simply come out and answer the questions and deal with what needed to be dealt with behind the scenes.
That wasn't enough for some.
It's interesting as the final chapter closed on Ladd in Winnipeg this season, the Blake Wheeler campaign for captaincy picked up traction. Things have cooled on his nomination lately—just as Wheeler has (no goals in 10 games)—but he'll certainly be in the Jets 'C' conversation come next fall.
Ladd is a quiet player whose emotional investment was questioned in this city. Wheeler is emotionally invested and makes sure to let everyone know about it. This isn't a commentary on Ladd versus Wheeler, but rather a comment on what people deem to be effective leadership.
Remember when a local radio personality called out Ladd for choosing to be with his family following the birth of his child rather than join the Jets in Dallas for a late-season game in 2014? Being captain is a tough gig, man.
As mentioned, not everyone will agree on what Ladd meant—and that's cool.
From this keyboard, Ladd was the most consistent player the Jets had since the NHL returned to Manitoba. He was first or second in several offensive categories. He was never going to stickhandle through four guys and score, nor was he ever going to blast around a defenceman with an extra gear of pace.
Ladd just did the things that got him into the NHL in the first place: go and stand in front of the net, take the abuse that comes with it, and the puck will eventually find you. There was nothing flashy about it. In fact, it's how he scored his goal Friday.
No fuss, no muss.
Maybe some of Ladd's critics couldn't see what was going on in front of the net.
What the naysayers did see were the offensive zone penalties Ladd would take on occasion. Or the turnovers at the Jets blue line that led to an extended stay in the defensive zone.
Let's not rewrite history here: Ladd wasn't without his flaws on the ice. He autographed the occasional blunder. But if that's the game, then name one player in Jets 2.0 that's been perfect over the last five seasons. You can't. There's a reason this club has been stuck in neutral for five years.
This summer, Ladd will be on the open market as an unrestricted free agent. A lot has been said about what he wanted money-wise from the Jets, what the Jets offered him and why the two sides failed to find an agreement. Unless you were inside the negotiation, it's all speculation.
What isn't up for interpretation is how Ladd performed during his time in Winnipeg. If a perennial Stanley Cup contender and perennial salary cap manipulator like Chicago feels Ladd can help them win, it makes you wonder why the Jets didn't share the same thought.
Ladd would've been a good example for the young players on this roster, no?