While all the recent commotion surrounding the Winnipeg Jets has been centered around the NHL Entry Draft, one question remains unanswered: who will replace Andrew Ladd and become the next man to captain the team? The Jets captaincy has remained vacant since his departure from the club last winter via a trade with the Blackhawks. There are two realistic possibilities, the popular choice being Blake Wheeler, while the dark horse candidate is Mark Scheifele.
Winnipeg Jets Captaincy: Blake Wheeler versus Mark Scheifele
The Case for Blake Wheeler
The case for Wheeler is simple. He has been an alternate captain with the club for two full seasons and is six years Scheifele’s senior. Wheeler becoming captain would be a natural progression, so natural that it may in fact insult him if not chosen.
He is an ideal guy to rally around. His 78 points last year were the most scored by a Jet. He certainly used his 6’5″, 225-pound frame to his advantage. Only five players in the entire league accumulated more.
The 29-year old University of Minnesota alumnus has been in the NHL for eight full seasons now. He should be mentally prepared for the spotlight and expectations that come with being the face of a franchise.
The Case for Mark Scheifele
In the way of Wheeler stands the younger Scheifele. True North Sports & Entertainment may have interest in making the face of their franchise a player they drafted rather than a guy like Wheeler who they inherited from the Atlanta Thrashers‘ organization.
He may be younger than Wheeler, but there isn’t a rule saying you need to be old in order to captain an NHL team. Gabriel Landeskog, Vincent Lecavalier and Sidney Crosby got the honors at the age of 19. Jonathan Toews at age 20.
Scheifele is 23. A that age, Scheifele has shown incredible character and dedication to the game of hockey. These are qualities that True North Sports & Entertainment value greatly. Character alone has kept sub-par players like Chris Thorburn and Mark Stuart employed by the organization for years.
Scheifele was recently described by head coach Paul Maurice as the type of guy that you’d want your daughter to marry, as well as a “hockey nerd” by himself.
A good guy that loves the game; a corny sounding, but prototypical captain, sounds a bit more like Scheifele than it does Wheeler. If fear of Wheeler being upset is a reason to make him captain, then maybe he shouldn’t be donning the “C” in the first place.
Character could be the deciding factor, and if it is, it brings an interesting tidbit to look back on. When Wheeler was Scheifele’s age, he had just finished shocking the hockey world by turning down a maximum entry-level contract from the Arizona Coyotes who drafted him four years prior. He instead opted to sign with the Boston Bruins as an unrestricted free agent.
Wheeler pulled contract shenanigans in his early 20’s and hadn’t played a single game in the NHL, whereas Scheifele has already broken the 60-point mark.
When asked on the matter last season, Maurice stated that choosing a captain is “not something that you want to be flipping every couple of years. You want some stability.”
Wheeler is only under contract for three more seasons. Scheifele is on the cusp of signing a long-term deal. This may make him the safer bet to providing the stability Maurice mentioned.
The obvious signs may be pointing to Wheeler, but when critical thinking is applied, some signs emerge that suggest Scheifele may be in line to be the next man donning the “C” on his chest.
If I was a betting man, I would put my money on Wheeler, but Scheifele makes for an interesting alternative. When he inks his new contract with the club this summer, perhaps it will come packaged with a bonus announcement that the Jets captaincy belongs to him.
Quotes and news courtesy of Winnipeg Sun, The Hockey News, and CBC Sports