Their last trip to Las Vegas didn’t exactly go as planned, as the Winnipeg Jets lost both Western Conference final road games on their way to an eventual season-ending series loss.
Now three key members are back in Sin City, hoping to sew a silver lining into their memorable, but ultimately disappointing season.
Goalie Connor Hellebuyck, captain Blake Wheeler and general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff are all nominated for individual awards as the NHL hands out the hardware Wednesday night in their glitzy year-end ceremony on the Strip.
Hellebuyck is up for the Vezina trophy as the league’s best goalie, coming off a terrific year in which he went 44-11-9 with a 2.36 goals against average and .924 save percentage during the regular season. He faces strong competition in Nashville netminder Pekka Rinne and Tampa puck-stopper Andrei Vasilevskiy.
Wheeler is a finalist for the Mark Messier leadership award after helping take the Jets to franchise bests in wins and points while putting up his strongest-ever offensive campaign with 23 goals and 68 assists, tied for the most in the league. Philadelphia’s Wayne Simmonds and Deryk Engelland of Vegas are the other nominees.
And Cheveldayoff is in the running for general manager of the year after years of solid drafting and development finally paid off in a big way. Several of his picks played huge roles on the team, while his trade-deadline acquisition of veteran centre Paul Stastny was a difference-maker, as well. Golden Knights architect George McPhee is the runaway favourite, as the expansion team made it all the way to the Stanley Cup final. Tampa GM Steve Yzerman is the other finalist.
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.