Beyond The Benches

Time for Blake Wheeler to Get Some Recognition

When you think of the Winnipeg Jets a lot of things may come to mind. For those who are not fans, who follow the team closely, one name that always seems to slip through the cracks is Blake Wheeler. Since the team made the move to Winnipeg, Wheeler has been one of their best offensive players season after season, yet outside of Jets fans he gets little recognition for his consistent offensive production.

Winnipeg has never been a traditionally high scoring team, usually ranking right in the middle of the 30 teams in goals scored per game since 2011. The Jets averaged 2.70 goals per game during the 2011-12 season ranking them 12th in the league, their highest ranking since their return to Winnipeg. This season their scoring troubles have gotten worse in their first 13 games averaging just 1.85 goals per game, which ranks them 28th in the league.

Despite the offensive struggles of the team Blake Wheeler continues to put forth reliable offensive contributions. Winnipeg has scored a total of just 24 goals in 13 games this season and Wheeler has 5 of them or 20.8% of the teams goals scored this season.

Last season was Wheeler’s best season to date scoring a career high 28 goals and 69 points, which ranked him 21st in the NHL and 1st on the Jets. Wheeler averaged only 18:41 of ice time per game often playing behind teammate Dustin Byfuglien who at the time was playing the wing position. Of active right wingers Wheeler’s 18:41 of ice time ranked him 15th in the NHL yet he was the 6th most productive right winger behind only Patrick Kane, Martin St. Louis, Alex Ovechkin, Phil Kessel and Corey Perry.

Despite keeping his productivity among some elite company in the NHL Wheeler always gets left out of the discussion of top right wingers in the NHL. Since the team moved to Winnipeg Wheeler has had scored 182 points in 223 games which is good for a point per game average of 0.86. Some comparable players are:

T.J Oshie, 27-yrs-old: Since the 2011-12 season he has 135 points in 197 GP for a PPG of 0.68

Bobby Ryan 27-years-old: since the 2011-12 season he has 141 points in 209 GP for a PPG of 0.67

Bobby Ryan and Olympics teammate T.J Oshie are well regarded around the league yet since 2011 Wheeler has consistently outperformed both offensively yet does not get the same amount of recognition.

At 28-years-old Wheeler is entering the prime of his career and with Byfuglien moved back to the blue line it has opened up the opportunity for Wheeler to play a bigger role this season and handle more minutes. Already this season we have seen Wheeler handle over 20 minutes in five of his first 13 games.

With the Jets lack of team success over the years perhaps it plays a role in Wheeler not receiving the same amount of attention as similar players. With Winnipeg struggling offensively they must now look to Wheeler more than ever. Entering his prime and with a chance to lead the team to the playoffs as their prime offensive threat, it is time Wheeler gets some of the recognition he deserves.