As hard as it is to believe, we are quickly nearing the end of the year. As we close out 2022, the Winnipeg Jets are surely leaving their mark on the season so far. As we approach 2023, there are many things Jets fans are wishing for, which are all related to one theme — success. Here are a few items on my Jets wish list this holiday season.
1. Josh Morrissey to Win The James Norris Memorial Trophy
The Jets’ alternate captain has recently been given a new nickname: Josh Norrissey. The defenceman is having a remarkable season, already recording a new career high in assists (28) heading into 2023. He is averaging 1.14 points per game and is only five points away from taking over his previous career high of 37 points. Morrissey is leading the Jets in points (33), assists, plus/minus (12), time on ice (23:26), and is tied with Kyle Connor in power-play assists (10).
Not only does Morrissey have the numbers, but he exudes a strength and resilience that is highly admirable. Just last August, his father passed away from cancer. He looked up to his father as an inspiration on and off the ice.
“I wouldn’t have been able to achieve my NHL dream without my dad. I wouldn’t be in the position I’m in with my career without him,” said Morrissey. “He was always there for me. He told us that he would never force us to go to the rink, but if we wanted to keep going, he’d keep doing what he could to provide us with an opportunity to go play as much as we could and wanted to. There’s a lot I’m grateful for when it comes to my dad.”
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The James Norris Memorial Trophy is awarded to the defense player who demonstrates the greatest all-round ability throughout the season in the position. Last season, it was awarded to Cale Makar of the Colorado Avalanche who earned 86 points in 77 games. With Morrissey’s impressive play and what is likely to be his best season as a Jet, I am wishing for him to take home the Norris Trophy in 2023.
2. A Healthy Roster
This season, the Jets have been riddled with injuries. Having a healthy roster will be crucial to the Jets’ success in the new year. Currently, the team has five players on injured reserve. Logan Stanley (lower-body injury) and forward Saku Mäenalanen (upper-body injury) are both expected to be out until at least Jan. 13. Another player on injured reserve is centreman Mason Appleton, who is expected to be out until Jan. 26 at the earliest (wrist injury). The most recent addition to the injured reserve is Nate Schmidt, who is likely out until at least Dec. 27 with a concussion after Tanner Jeannot of the Nashville Predators threw an aggressive shoulder hit to the head to No. 88 on Thursday night (Dec. 16).
Meanwhile, Nikolaj Ehlers looks to be on the mend. The 26-year-old underwent hernia surgery on Nov. 23 and has been out since Oct. 17. On Wednesday (Dec. 14), Ehlers stepped on the ice for practice looking as if he may be returning to the lineup sooner than originally thought.
While Pierre-Luc Dubois is not injured, he was battling an illness earlier this week. In Tuesday’s game against the Vegas Golden Knights (Dec. 13), Dubois recorded 15:59 of ice time — less than usual for the third-overall 2016 Draft pick. He still managed to pick up a point, despite feeling unwell.
Jets’ coach Rick Bowness touched on Dubois’ illness in the postgame press conference after the matchup against the Knights. “He’s really sick. He’s under the weather, big time, and there’s a few other guys, a couple guys on IVs in there right now.”
Dubois didn’t miss one game this week despite being sick. Let’s hope the team can leave these injuries and illnesses in 2022.
3. Connor Hellebuyck to Win the Vezina Trophy
If I could guess one thing that every Jets fan is thankful for this season, it would be Connor Hellebuyck. The goalie currently has a .927 save percentage (SV%), the best SV% of his NHL career yet, and has three shutouts, despite having the second-highest ice time in the league (1,383:23).
Tied for second with Igor Shersterkin for the most wins in the league with 15, Hellebuyck is putting up Vezina-worthy statistics and gameplay. When the 29-year-old was crowned as the 2019-20 Vezina Trophy winner, he finished the season first in shutouts with six and seventh in SV% with .922.
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If the goalie keeps up his steady play, he is bound to finish the 2022-23 season with one of the best seasons, if not the best season, of his NHL career. Let’s hope Hellebuyck can keep it up, stay healthy, and not just be in the Vezina conversation at the end of the season, but bring it home for the second time of his career.
4. Playoff Success for the Jets
While the Jets are having an excellent regular season, we all know that the playoffs is what truly matters at the end of the day. While the Stanley Cup is the ultimate wish, I’m keeping things to a slightly lower standard here. The Jets deserve playoff success in the 2022-23 season.
As we know, last season did not end the way we wanted it to with the Jets not qualifying for the Stanley Cup Playoffs. And the season prior, the Jets had an unreal start to the playoffs as they swept the Edmonton Oilers in the first round, but then were swept by the Montreal Canadiens. In the postgame press conference after the second-round sweep was completed, former Jets coach Paul Maurice said, “It’s a good team and it’s gonna get better. It’s just coming into its prime.”
Based on the Jets’ 19-9-1 record this season, it looks like he was right. Jets fans, if you are still working on your wish list for this holiday season, asking for one or more of the above won’t hurt — maybe it’ll be just what we need as we head into 2023.