Jets’ Scheifele Under More Pressure After Wheeler’s Demotion

Life has come full circle for Mark Scheifele in four short months. He ended the 2021-22 season disgruntled, and the media and fanbase expected him to be traded. The summer has now passed and he is still a Winnipeg Jet. The team hired Rick Bowness as head coach in July, and suddenly he was “all in” to help turn the team around.

Then, the bombshell.

Just before training camp, Blake Wheeler was stripped of the captaincy, and Bowness made it clear there was going to be an overhaul of the team’s leadership group. In the fallout, he named Scheifele an alternate captain, so he will continue to wear an “A” on his jersey. In doing so, Bowness has placed more trust in Scheifele, and with it comes more pressure to lead and produce.

Mark Scheifele Winnipeg Jets
Jets’ Mark Scheifele will never be more in the spotlight than this season. (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Scheifele, who has been the face of the Jets for a decade, was critical of the club in the spring and was called out by teammates for showing a lack of effort and accountability. Bowness’ decision to keep him in the leadership group puts the onus on him to show leadership in the same areas he was criticized for.

Scheifele Has Work to Do

The details of Scheifele’s sour exit in the spring were well-documented. This season he will be under the watchful eye of Jets fans and the media, but by all accounts it appears he will embrace his new role with a new attitude.

Since being hired in July, Bowness and staff took time to talk to the players, assess the club’s culture and recognized it needed to be adjusted. Keeping Scheifele on as one of the captains sends the message that what he learned, and what the public speculated were two different things.

The most recognizable face in the Winnipeg sports community has gone from villain to hero without lacing a skate. In the span of four months he has gone from an unhappy veteran who made it sound like he wanted out, to training camp where he has shown the excitement of a giddy teenager. There has been a discernible shift in his attitude towards the organization.

“I’m sure you guys can tell I’m pretty excited right now. I think I’m exuding positivity right now because I’m excited. It’s been an awesome start to the year, talking to the new coaches and talking to the guys and seeing the excitement on guys’ faces going this year. I think is very positive.”

– Mark Scheifele (from, ”It’s only Day 1, but Jets’ Scheifele appears to have new lease on life, Winnipeg Sun, 23/09/2022)

Scott Billeck of the Winnipeg Sun further noted that Scheifele has a new energy about him this fall: “All tallied up, he uttered the word ‘excited’ or ‘exciting’ no fewer than 18 times as he answered a bevy of questions sent his way at BellMTS Iceplex.”

The coach has indicated the Jets will be a team led by committee not by a single captain. However, being the face of the franchise for so long, it’s inevitable that the bulk of that load will fall on his shoulders. Maybe that was Bowness’ intention all along.

Related: How Jets’ Scheifele Can Rebuild Trust for the Upcoming Season

Last season, the team’s biggest issues were dressing room discord and a lack of accountability. We don’t yet know if a coaching change will make much of a difference, but, at least, Scheifele is saying all the right things to indicate he’s willing to make the necessary changes to help shift the team’s culture. He said it was going to be nice having Bowness call the shots as he is a strong communicator that he’s never experienced with a coach before.

“Oh? Paul Maurice is one of the best talkers in the sport, so it certainly wasn’t the case of him giving Scheifele the silent treatment. Rather, it was more a case of the player not liking the message his frustrated coach was sending, which played a role in Maurice finally taking his puck and going home in the middle of the year.”

Dave Lowry had even less success getting through to Scheifele, whose play noticeably dipped under the interim bench boss who wasn’t long for the job. It was an ugly situation by the end of the year, with Scheifele’s now infamous “garbage bag day” news conference in which he sounded like a guy ready for a change of scenery.”

– Mike McIntyre (from, “Scheifele has something to prove”, Winnipeg Free Press, 09/09/2022)

Scheifele will need to maneuver himself away from the media rhetoric from last season to one of leadership, positivity and commitment to the coach’s game plan. It’s going to take some time, but I think fans will see it happen.

Scheifele Will Have a Better Season

Scheifele has plenty to prove in 2022-23. He has already voiced his praise of the new coaching staff and that he is eager to learn from them.

Mark Scheifele Winnipeg Jets
Mark Scheifele says he’s excited about the upcoming season. (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Last season, the Jets opened camp with lofty expectations that were never realized. Head coach Maurice left them unexpectedly and the team never recovered. By the end of the season the team was in turmoil and there was dissension amongst some of the players. This season, there’s a new sheriff in town for the first time in eight seasons and every aspect of the game will change. Bowness brings a new voice with new expectations and by all accounts, the players are responding.

Being a leader also means leading by example. Wheeler was the quintessential captain in that regard. He never took a game off. In fact, he rarely took a shift off. To Wheeler, actions always spoke louder than words, and last year Scheifele’s actions were often questioned, portraying him as “…an offensive-minded player who too often in the past has appeared disinterested in the defensive zone.” He will need to demonstrate he has learned from the former captain and end any speculation about his commitment to the team.

At 29 years old, Scheifele is in the prime of his career. He has two years left on a $6.25 million contract and will be looking for a pay raise in the summer of 2024 when he becomes an unrestricted free agent. Whether he re-signs in Winnipeg or signs somewhere else, this year is going to be pivotal for him in trying to erase the memory of his uninspired play from last season. Not only will he be playing to redeem himself with Jets fans and management, he will also be playing to impress 32 NHL general managers who may be wanting to add a big-ticket player to their roster in a couple of years.

Edmonton Oilers Winnipeg Jets Game Four 2021
Scheifele and the Winnipeg Jets will be looking to celebrate more often this season. (Photo by Darcy Finley/NHLI via Getty Images)

Look for Scheifele to rebound under new management with new responsibilities this season. There will be more pressure on him from the new coaching staff given his new leadership role on the team. He has some work to do and as stated above, actions do speak louder than words. If we look back over the past few seasons, we know that as Scheifele goes, so do the Jets.


Morning Skate newsletter Click To Subscribe