Season’s unbelievings

You know how television shows often recap key plot developments to get viewers up to speed before the next episode? It feels like we could use that kind of montage right now when it comes to the Winnipeg Jets.

In case you’ve forgotten, the local hockey club had enough juicy storylines during the 2019-20 season to fill a daytime soap opera, whether it was the Dustin Byfuglien saga, training camp contract disputes, car accidents, freak injuries, health ailments, surprising rookie debuts, waiver-wire pickups, trade additions or enough saucy soundbites to give the whole thing a PG-13 rating, the Jets were anything but boring.

And that was before a global pandemic shut it all down indefinitely.

Speaking of which, the Jets were enjoying some of the best days of their recent lives when we last saw them on the ice. Four consecutive wins had them at 37-28-6 and sitting in a playoff spot with only 11 games left in the regular-season. The lineup was the healthiest and deepest it had been all year.

The Jets last game was on March 11 in Edmonton. They won 4-2. (Jason Franson / The Canadian Press files)

The Jets last game was on March 11 in Edmonton. They won 4-2. (Jason Franson / The Canadian Press files)

Since that 4-2 victory in Edmonton on March 11, it’s been nothing but re-runs for the past 122 days and counting.

But fear not, fans. The hockey hiatus is almost over, even if it’s not going to look and sound and feel anything like what we’re used to. The Jets’ record has been reset to 0-0-0 as they prepare for a unique, 24-team Stanley Cup tournament that will begin Aug. 1 in hub cities of Edmonton and Toronto, where players will live inside a bubble and play in empty rinks because of ongoing COVID-19 concerns.

Preparation officially begins Monday when abbreviated training camps open under extensive health and safety protocols, including here at Bell MTS Iceplex.

To get you ready for the immediate future, it’s helpful to look back at the recent past. So, without further adieu, let me clear my throat and go into serious announcer voice mode for a minute. Ahem.

Previously, on Winnipeg Jets…


“Let’s just put it this way — there’s nothing sinister to this.”

Sept. 12: Jets coach Paul Maurice on defenceman Dustin Byfuglien dropping a bombshell by contemplating his playing future just prior to the start of training camp.

Dustin Byfuglien said he was contemplating his future just prior to the start of training camp. (Mike Deal / Winnipeg Free Press files)

Dustin Byfuglien said he was contemplating his future just prior to the start of training camp. (Mike Deal / Winnipeg Free Press files)

“I had a few seconds when I realized, ‘Oh my God, we’re hitting.”

Sept. 17: Sami Niku, recalling a Friday the 13th car crash in which he and teammate Kristian Vesalainen were injured as they drove to the Iceplex on the first day of camp. Is this team cursed?

“We’re just starting to scratch the surface of what he actually brings to the table.”

Sept. 26: GM Kevin Cheveldayoff, on ending a contract stalemate by signing sniper Patrik Laine to a two-year, $13.5-million bridge deal.

“Term, everything. I wanted to be here, I love this team and the way it’s going, and this whole organization.”

Sept. 29: Kyle Connor on signing a seven-year, $50-million contract extension just in time to start the season.

“I felt like I played a lot better than five goals against. I don’t know, it just seems like the puck was always in the wrong spot for me.”

Oct. 2: Connor Hellebuyck on springing a leak in a season-opening loss to the New York Rangers on Broadway. Could a goalie controversy be brewing?

“I think no matter what happens the rest of the year, you still have that to fall back on.”

Oct. 3: Blake Wheeler on his club rallying from a 4-0 deficit to beat New Jersey 5-4 in overtime and get in the win column.

“Of course I was dreaming of that.”

Oct. 7: Ville Heinola, the 18-year-old rookie defenceman who made the team out of camp, after scoring his first NHL goal in a 4-1 win in Pittsburgh that snapped a Jets 18-game losing streak at PPG Paints Arena.

“He broke a bone in his foot trying to intercept a football.”

Oct. 25: Maurice, on forward Mason Appleton getting injured during a pre-practice warmup at Regina’s Mosaic Stadium prior to the outdoor Heritage Classic game with the Calgary Flames.

Mark Giordano and Mathieu Perreault fight for the puck in Regina on Oct. 25. (Liam Richards / The Canadian Press files)

Mark Giordano and Mathieu Perreault fight for the puck in Regina on Oct. 25. (Liam Richards / The Canadian Press files)

“The fireworks are going on, the (military) jets come over, ‘O Canada’ is on, it’s snowing out. I had said earlier, you just needed Santa and the reindeer blasting over and it would have been the perfect scene.”

Oct. 26: Maurice, on the snow-swept setting in Regina as the Jets beat the Flames 2-1 in overtime.

“When I heard we were playing outside I definitely had this one circled on my calendar and it definitely lived up to everything.”

Oct. 26: Bryan Little, just back from a concussion, on scoring the OT winner in storybook fashion.

“It’s a real complicated issue when it comes to answering any questions that you might have.”

Oct. 30: Cheveldayoff, on the Byfuglien situation, including the suspended blue-liner having undergone ankle surgery in Minnesota.

“He’s shut down for six months. Here’s the positive, because it can be a really tricky situation: he’s going to be fine. They have full faith he’s going to be back to complete health.”

Oct. 30: Maurice, on Mark Letestu being diagnosed with myocarditis, which is swelling of the heart caused by a virus.

“I think they kind of punched themselves out.”

Nov. 1: Wheeler, after the San Jose Sharks outshot the Jets 53-19 but lost 3-2, thanks to Hellebuyck’s heroics in net.

“I’ll answer all your questions about how horses–t we were tonight, tomorrow.”

Nov. 1: Maurice on the grand larceny pulled off by his lethargic squad.

“I just saw him drop down and saw him start bleeding.”

Nov. 7: Nikolaj Ehlers, on hitting Little in the side of the head with a slapshot that sent the veteran centre to hospital with a perforated eardrum, brain bleed and vertigo that ended his season.

Bryan Little got hit in the side of the head with a slapshot that left him with a perforated eardrum, brain bleed and vertigo. That was the end of his season. (Fred Greenslade / The Associated Press files)

Bryan Little got hit in the side of the head with a slapshot that left him with a perforated eardrum, brain bleed and vertigo. That was the end of his season. (Fred Greenslade / The Associated Press files)

“Listen, I work here. I’m willing and able to do whatever they need. Probably outside of playing goalie, I’ll try anything.”

Nov. 7: Wheeler, on moving from wing to centre to fill Little’s void.

“He’s standing on his head right now and it feels good for everyone in the room.”

Nov. 19: Ehlers on the solid play of Hellebuyck, after the Jets go a perfect three-for-three on the road through Florida, Tampa and Nashville as part of a November to remember for the club.

“I wish we played 82 against those guys, because I’d have a lot of goals. Thank God they’re in our division. I’m laughing.”

Dec. 3: Laine, after scoring his 18th goal in 16 career games against Dallas in a 5-1 victory, being his usual candid self.

“Same weight class, right?

Dec. 8: Ehlers, on dropping the gloves against the much bigger Ryan Getzlaf in a scrappy win over Anaheim.

“You’ve got to give them credit. Enough’s enough after a while.”

Dec. 12: Wheeler, after the Jets roll over and hand lowly Detroit their first triumph in 13 games.

“For a guy that works that hard every day, you deserve to have good things happen.”

Dec. 21: Maurice, after Wheeler becomes the franchise scoring leader in a 6-0 victory in his home state of Minnesota.

“It’s a pretty bad play. I was pretty pissed off, to be honest. I play a hard game, but I never do anything dirty. So I don’t understand where that came from.”

Dec. 28: A fired-up Mathieu Perreault on a nasty hit from behind courtesy of Philadelphia’s Joel Farabee that resulted in a concussion.

Mathieu Perreault is helped off the ice after being hit from behind by Philadelphia's Joel Farabee. He suffered a concussion. (Fred Greenslade / The Canadian Press files)

Mathieu Perreault is helped off the ice after being hit from behind by Philadelphia’s Joel Farabee. He suffered a concussion. (Fred Greenslade / The Canadian Press files)

“There’s no question the line to success for any National Hockey League team doesn’t go in a straight line. It doesn’t in life.”

Dec. 30: Cheveldayoff, on his team’s eventful season so far, with more likely to come.

“It’s goalie interference all day long for me. There’s not a lot of grey area in that one. But I’m not giving them any money. Not one dime.”

Jan. 4: A seething Maurice refuses to dish out any criticism of the officials after a controversial overtime goal stands in a 3-2 loss in Minnesota.

“I can’t use the words that came into my head… a free for all of fecal matter. It’s a s–t show out there and that’s great.”

Jan. 8: Vintage Maurice, after a wildly entertaining 4-3 shootout victory in Toronto in which defence was at a premium.

“Player safety, my ass. Now I’ve got to take matters into my own hands. Next time this happens, I get to swing my stick across his forehead and I shouldn’t get suspended.”

Jan. 16: An irate Perreault, after just returning from injury only to receive an elbow from Vancouver’s Jake Virtanen that went unpunished.

“Moms make you in a good mood. You can’t walk around growly because they’re just happy, right? They’re such a positive force in the big scheme of things. Two losses doesn’t mean you’re going to kick your kid out, so it’s nice to have some positive energy around the room.”

Jan. 20: Maurice, on the team’s first-ever mother’s trip happening in the middle of a tough losing streak.

“It just wasn’t our night.”

Jan. 31: Wheeler, after the reeling Jets come out of the All-Star break with their seventh loss in eight games despite a terrific effort against Boston.

“It’s a two-month sprint to the finish line right now, so you’ve got to handle it day by day. We’re playing like it’s the playoffs right now.”

Feb. 1: Andrew Copp, following an impressive win over Stanley Cup champion St. Louis that gets the good vibes flowing once again.

“We had a very cool relationship and we still do. I’ll definitely cherish those memories, for sure, of playing with him.”

Feb. 4: Josh Morrissey on Byfuglien, after news emerges that a mutual contract termination is looming.

“Selfishly, it hurts, but you’ve got to be respectful of the guy.”

Feb. 6: Wheeler, speaking on the Byfuglien saga for the first time.

Head coach Paul Maurice signed a multi-year contract extension in February. (Mikaela MacKenzie / Winnipeg Free Press files)

Head coach Paul Maurice signed a multi-year contract extension in February. (Mikaela MacKenzie / Winnipeg Free Press files)

“He’s built a form of accountability in this locker room, which a team needs to have.”

Feb. 13: Hellebuyck, on Maurice signing a contract extension to remain behind the bench, following earlier rumblings he could be on the move.

“I think I’m just a solid, reliable defenceman. I’m a guy that can log minutes against top lines.”

Feb. 18: Defenceman Dylan DeMelo, on being acquired by Winnipeg from Ottawa just before the trade deadline to boost the blue line.

“It should be fun coming home.”

Feb. 23: Forward Cody Eakin, on joining the hometown Jets following a trade from Vegas, to provide some depth up the middle.

“Sometimes you take it for granted. But being away and watching the guys on TV, you miss being a part of it. Just getting a clean bill of health, professionally it’s great, but even personally, it’s even better.”

March 3: Letestu, after returning to the ice with a clean bill of health and the possibility of getting back in the action.

Connor Hellebuyck has a league-leading six shutouts. (Chris O'Meara / The Associated Press files)

Connor Hellebuyck has a league-leading six shutouts. (Chris O’Meara / The Associated Press files)

“It’s a great milestone, but it’s a testament to the guys in front of me and how well we’ve been playing. When we bring it we know we can shut teams down.”

March 6: Hellebuyck, after posting a league-leading sixth shutout for his suddenly surging squad.

“I haven’t heard of any cases around here. I guess it’s more when we start travelling it will be in your mind a little bit. Try not to worry about that too much.”

March 9: Perreault, on growing worldwide concern over COVID-19, which included NHL teams closing their locker rooms to media as a precaution.

“It’s just an unusual kind of night, overall. I think the way things have unfolded over the last few days, certainly going into the game tonight, our pre-game meals, our pre-game skates, pretty much everything leading up to the game was talking about this. Shoot, we barely even got to puck drop and the dominoes were already falling. A crazy time right now.”

March 11: Wheeler, after Winnipeg’s fourth straight victory was overshadowed by news of the NBA abruptly shutting down operations while the Jets were on the ice in Edmonton. The NHL would follow suit the next day.


Turns out this most compelling show wasn’t actually cancelled and there are more episodes to come. Now that you’re all caught up, you might want to stock up on your favourite cold beverage and salty snacks and get ready.

Given what’s already occurred, we can only imagine the kind of plot twists still ahead. Stay tuned.

mike.mcintyre@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @mikemcintyrwpg

Mike McIntyre

Mike McIntyre
Reporter

Mike McIntyre grew up wanting to be a professional wrestler. But when that dream fizzled, he put all his brawn into becoming a professional writer.

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