The Winnipeg Jets have made their biggest move of the summer. And it wasn’t in the form of a trade or a free agent signing.
On Friday morning, the team announced that forward Blake Wheeler will no longer serve in his role as team captain any longer.
Rather than naming his replacement, the team will go ahead with a selection of players that will serve as alternates throughout the season, instead of having one ‘C’ and three ‘A’s.
Big news from the #NHLJets, as Blake Wheeler will not serve as the team's captain this season.
According to new head coach Rick Bowness and his staff, Winnipeg will "enter the 2022-23 season without a specific captain, but rather a group of assistants, still to be determined."
— Carter Brooks (@CBrooksie84) September 16, 2022
“It is the determination of the coaching staff that we will enter the 2022-23 season without a specific captain, but rather a group of assistants still to be determined,” new Jets head coach Rick Bowness said Friday morning. “It is our goal to expand the leadership base within our hockey team. We have high expectations for our core players and we want to provide them with the opportunity to step into those greater leadership roles as a group.”
Who those core players are remains a bit vague, but all indications point to Mark Scheifele, Kyle Connor, Nikolaj Ehlers and Josh Morrissey as predictable alternates, with room for growth and changes as the season progresses.
Various clubs rotate through home and away captains – something the Jets may consider, while others still have first half and second half captains, with teams usually making the switch around the time of the All-Star Weekend.
Wheeler, now 36, has been with the team since its return to Winnipeg from Atlanta 11 years ago, and has been the team’s captain since 2016. Much like that of former head coach Paul Maurice’s exit, a new voice is needed in the dressing room, and Wheeler’s role will be diminished going forward.
The former captain did post a decent season points-wise last year, scoring 17 times while adding 43 assists for 60 points in 65 regular season games. But the Jets missed out on the playoffs for the first time in six years, finishing the season sixth in the Central Division (39-32-11).
Wheeler has two years remaining at a $8.25 million cap hit, the highest of any rostered player in Winnipeg.
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