Jets' leadership race down to 2
Andrew Ladd was back in town Friday.
He used to be captain of the Winnipeg Jets. The Jets currently have no captain. See where this is going?
Everyone has already weighed in on the Jets' captaincy possibilities for next season, as the team has stated it won't name a new lettered leader until next fall.
What do we know about the process? Head coach Paul Maurice will probably have a say, as will the expanding core of young players. It feels like a group project. OK, let's breakdown the field (and guess on the odds).
(Note: this is under the assumption there will be no trades and no veteran free agents are brought in this summer. A huge assumption, indeed. Oh, and by the way, the Jets lost to the Chicago Blackhawks 5-4 in overtime Friday. Winnipeg (31-39-8) has one more home game left Sunday night versus the Minnesota Wild.)
Wheeler, 29, is the heavy favourite to be named the second captain in Jets 2.0 history, with his candidacy largely based on the strength of the season he's turned in thus far.
The eight-year NHL veteran has a team-leading 72 points. He surpassed his career high in points (formerly 69 in 2013-14), with two goals and an assist on Friday, and is creeping near the Top 10 in scoring in the NHL.
While this production is the foundation for his campaign, what's won the imagination of the electorate is the emotion he's shown both on and off the ice. This, according to the recent polls conducted at an unnamed bar, is what many wanted out of Ladd.
Does an animated presence on the ice and an occasional instance of calling out teammates off it demonstrate leadership this Jets club needs moving forward? In the eyes of many, it does.
Wheeler has three more years on his deal after this season. Chances for captaincy: a solid 85 per cent.
Scheifele, 23, is a player who plays a ton of minutes and has been touted as the "future of the franchise" since he was drafted in 2011.
The three-year veteran has already hit a career high in goals (26) and in points (55). Since Ladd was moved, he's assumed a bigger role in the team dynamic — which is a big reason for his emerging candidacy.
The concerns: what leadership characteristics has he ever shown and will the responsibility of the big letter weigh him down as he moves into the next chapter of his career?
Scheifele is coming out of his entry-level contract this summer. Chances for captaincy: 60 per cent and rising
Byfuglien, 31, signed a five-year extension in February and given his standing as the unofficial room-runner, it makes sense to throw his name in the mix.
Problem is, he probably doesn't want it. Being captain means more interviews, more attention and more responsibility. From what we gleaned over the last five seasons, that's not exactly his jam.
Chances for captaincy: 25 per cent
Candidate #4: Jacob Trouba
A couple years ago this was almost a lock. A young stud defenceman with a bit of a physical demeanor who plays in all situations being named captain? Yeah, sounds pretty good.
But there's a strange hesitation surrounding the 22-year-old in almost every conversation around him — like the expectations are so high that when they're not realized, people are disappointed. It's weird.
He's a long shot. Like Scheifele, Trouba is a restricted free agent this summer.
Chances for captaincy: 20 per cent (and that's probably way too high).
Candidate #5: Mark Stuart
Don't laugh. The organization loves him, with the coaches and general manager going out of their way to praise his leadership and the example he provides to the younger population on the roster.
Working against Stuart: he's no longer a core member (was he ever?) and he doesn't log the minutes a captain needs to justify the responsibility.
The 31-year-old is under contract for two more years. Chances of captaincy: 10 per cent.
Candidate #6: Adam Lowry
There was a moment last season, around this time 12 months ago, when the 23-year-old was earning "future captain" nominations.
Those days are over. His struggles as a sophomore have not helped his case.
Chances for captaincy: 10 per cent and dropping
Candidates No. 7 and No. 8: Bryan Little and Tyler Myers
Extremely doubtful, but let's throw these fringe candidates into the mix, anyway. It's called covering all the bases.
Chances for captaincy: less than five per cent.
Candidate #9: No captain named
A development could occur where the club passes on naming a captain next season. Maybe more time is needed to evaluate the ballot?
It is a process, after all.
Chances of this happening: one per cent.