With the hockey world awaiting a big announcement on the potential return of NHL hockey to Manitoba, we figured now would be as good as time as any to get all nostalgic for the Winnipeg Jets. That said, it’ll be a shame if True North Sports and Entertainment ditches the Jets in favour of… well, something else.
After poring over NHL Record Books, Hockey-Reference.com, hockeydb.com and the dark hallways of our brains for countless hours we can present the reader with our all-time Winnipeg Jets team. For the purpose of putting this fantasy squad together we focused on how players performed during their time with the Winnipeg Jets, without putting much stock in an individual’s greater body of work. With that, we did take into account the Jets’ days in the WHA, but we elected to discount time with the Phoenix Coyotes (sorry, Shane Doan). Let’s get to it…
Dale Hawerchuk, Thomas Steen, Teemu Selanne, Keith Tkachuk, Paul MacLean, Doug Smail, Laurie Boschman, Morris Lukowich, Anders Hedberg, Ulf Nilsson, Brian Mullen, Bobby Hull
Perhaps the greatest resource a minor hockey coach has at his or her disposal are old tapes of Dale Hawerchuk. When they say some guys just play the game the right way, they’re talking about Dale Hawerchuk. Hawerchuk was a three-zone force before most observers knew the ice had three zones. With Hawerchuk, we’ve got our first line centre and captain taken care of.
Elsewhere we’ve got a solid mix of scoring power and skill from Steen and Selanne, while a bevy of power forwards like Tkachuk, Smail and Boschman would keep opponents in line and the puck in the net. The all-WHA line of Hull, Nilsson and Hedberg would presumably pick up where they left off together in 1977-78.
Honourable mentions: Andrew McBain, Darrin Shannon, Pat Elynuik, Dave Christian, Shane Doan.
Phil Housley, Teppo Numminen, Frederik Olausson, Dave Ellett, Dave Babych, Randy Carlyle
Phil Housley would be running the power play on the all-time Jets team. Housley had the best statistical season of his career with the Jets in 1992-93 when he put up 97-points, but that would be his last run in Winnipeg. Citing an issue with high Canadian taxes (he ought to pay double with a helmet like that), Housley opted out of his deal and eventually forced the Jets to trade him to an American team (the St. Louis Blues). Karma, being the vengeful mother she can be, struck back at Housley when the Blues shipped him to Calgary for Al MacInnis in 1994.
Yes, it’s a defensive group high on skill and light on physicality, but we’re counting on Dave Babych’s mustache to hold the fort down in front of the net. The Jets employed a number of bruising type stay-at-home defenders of the years like Stephane Quintal and Dave Manson, but neither spent a significant portion of their career in the Keystone Province.
Honourable mentions: Mario Marois, Lars-Erik Sjoberg, Moe Mantha
Bob Essensa and Markus Mattsson
While Nikolai Khabibulin may be the most accomplished goaltender to have played for the Jets, he spent parts of just two seasons in Winnipeg before the Jets flew to Phoenix. Besides, everyone who’s anyone knows that, for better or for worse, Bob Essensa is the Jets starting goaltender.
Markus Mattsson is a pioneer in terms of Finnish goaltenders in the NHL. One look at Mattsson’s stats and you may be ready to anoint Pokey Reddick or Daniel Berthiaume as this squad’s backup, but he was the Jets’ first NHL goaltender, and he also holds the distinction of ending Wayne Gretzky’s 51-game point streak.
Honourable mentions: Khabibulin, Brian Hayward, Reddick, Berthiaume, Joe Daley
That’s our all-time Winnipeg Jets team. Any glaring omissions (don’t say Tie Domi)?