Winnipeg Jets strip Blake Wheeler Captain, and she’ll use a group of substitute captains

Winnipeg planes stripped Blake Wheeler of the captain and will enter the 2022-23 season with a host of substitute captains instead, the team announced on Friday. These players are still determined.

“Our goal is to expand the leadership base within our hockey team,” Jets coach Rick Bowness said in a statement. “We have great expectations for our key players, and we want to give them the opportunity to participate in those larger leadership roles as a group.”

Wheeler, 36, has been the Jets captain since 2016. He joined the organization while Winnipeg was still based in Atlanta and remains the team’s tallest player.

The veteran admitted on Friday that he was “surprised” to learn about the new direction of the aircraft but maintained a positive outlook.

“I don’t need a letter on my shirt,” Wheeler told reporters. “There was a time in my career when this validation was so important to me. I don’t need that anymore. I really look forward to watching so many players that I have had the privilege of watching grow and advance into an expanded role. If you think that because of this I will disappear into the background and not be a leader. In this team, you are deeply mistaken.”

The decision to lay off one captain is Bowness’s first major move since he became the Gates coach in July. He replaced interim bench chief Dave Lowery, who took over in December when Paul Morris resigned after nine seasons, and said the Jets needed a “new voice” to reach their full potential. That feeling now extends to the team’s dressing room, where frustration has been building.

When Winnipeg failed to make the playoffs last season for the first time since 2016-2017, a substitute captain Mark Shevel He openly wondered where the franchise was headed. Schevel has two years left on his contract before he becomes an unrestricted free agent. Planes are also hoping for confinement Pierre Luc Dubois Long-term, but the suspended restricted free agent has so far only committed to a one-year deal.

Winnipeg General Manager Kevin Sheffielddev has chosen Bowness and his 33 years of training experience to steer the aircraft in a competitive direction. Changing the leadership group is already sending a message about the importance of moving away from the status quo.

“It’s kind of hard to understand right now because I haven’t had any conversations with anyone about it. Players, coaches, staff or whatever,” Scheffel told ESPN. “I think it would definitely be interesting to get their input on why and what they decided to do. Blake has been the heart and soul of his team for a long time, so it was definitely a shock to me to hear that. I am definitely excited to hear the reasoning.”

Scheifele first learned of the decision early Thursday morning – a full day before the team released the news. He was leaving for Las Vegas for the NHL/NHLPA Player Media Tour when Wheeler reached out to personally tell Shevelle that he was no longer a pilot.

Scheffel said he had a quick interaction with Wheeler. But his main concern was to make sure Wheeler was okay with the decision.

“It was obviously a shock to him as well,” Schevel said. “Then Bones called me this morning to tell me he was going to be released and wanted me to know. It was one of those things you don’t know how to react to. Being around guys, that’s the hardest part. Because when big things happen, you depend on your guys, You rely on your teammates to echo the ideas and understand them a little bit.”

“I think we’re all excited to have a new coach, to have a new system, to have a new structure, to understand that system, to understand the structure of what we’re trying to achieve,” Scheffel said of the upcoming season. “Just the excitement. A lot of guys are excited to get off. Guys are excited about a new sound and a new system and understanding that. I think when you come to the rink and you know the purpose and you know why you did it something changes everything.”

ESPN’s Ryan Clark contributed to this report.

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