The Winnipeg Jets’ 2020-21 season was full of ups and downs and ended with a second-round sweep at the hands of the Montreal Canadiens. In this series, we’ll take a look back on the season, player by player, and grade their individual performances with an eye toward their future with the team.
An unceremonious end to Mark Scheifele‘s campaign shouldn’t overshadow what was another superb season for the Winnipeg Jets’ number-one centre.
Scheifele’s Season Much More than the Evans Hit
Sure, what’s still in the front of most people’s mind about Scheifele’s 2020-21 season is the hit he dished out to Jake Evans in Game 1 of second-round series against the Canadiens that netted him a four-game ban for charging despite being a first-time offender.
The Scheifele/Evans situation being front of mind is understandable — it ruled the headlines for days and the harsh punishment was a huge talking point as another wildly inconsistent decision from the NHL Department of Player Safety — and his absence undoubtedly hurt the team as they were totally exposed and swept out of the playoffs. Scheifele’s season should be defined by much more than one second of one game.
Scheifele, in his eighth full NHL season, led the Jets with 63 points (21 goals and 42 assists) in 56 games and recorded five point (two goals and three assists) in five playoff games. He skated an average of 20:58, improved on his face off numbers (to 49.8 per cent this season compared to 46.9 per cent in 2019-20) and saw a slight bump to his CORSI and Fenwick possession metrics, too.
Consistency Key for Scheifele
The criminally underrated Scheifele simply did what he always does — play consistently at a very high level without much flash or fanfare.
2020-21 was his fifth straight season operating at a point-per-game or better; if the season was 82 games instead of 56, he would have set a new career-high with 92.25 points.
Scheifele could be depended upon to create on offence on a nightly basis. He was held pointless only 14 times all season, and never for more than three games in a row. His strongest month was February, when he put together an 11-game point streak and piled up 18 throughout the month.
Scheifele is underrated even in his own market. But there’s no question he is an elite player, finishing ninth in the NHL in points, recording one more than Sidney Crosby.
Scheifele May Be More Raring to Go than Ever in 2021-22
At the Jets’ end-of-season media availability, Scheifele was still spitting mad.
“I still believe it was excessive,” he said. “They knocked me out of the series. I don’t even a the chance to play with my teammates and battle with my teammates in the series… I’m going to stop talking before I get fined or something like that, so I’ll leave it as it is.” He went on to call it “crushing” that his season was ended by supplemental discipline.
“I thought I was going to be tried to be shut down by Phillip Danault,” he continued. “And it was Department of Player Safety that shut me down. That definitely sucks.”
He then turned his ire to the media, accusing them of not wanting the Jets to succeed.
“Well, first of all, you guys wrote us off from the beginning,” he said. “The media had us not making the playoffs, being a bottom-feeder in the league. You guys get caught contradicting yourselves all the time. You guys didn’t have any hope for this team from day one, and I think we proved you guys wrong all season long.”
“We don’t get a lot of respect in the grand scheme of things,” he continued. “Everyone wants the Toronto Maple Leafs and Edmonton Oilers and the Montreal Canadiens to be going on. Nobody wants the Winnipeg Jets to be doing anything,” he said.
Scheifele’s “us-against-the-world, nobody believed in us” diatribe was perhaps a bit overwrought, considering most pundits didn’t write the Jets off but rather predicted they’d finish in the middle of the North Division pack (which they did.) While some saw he statements as attempts to play the victim and his attack on the media wholly unnecessary, it’s clear he feels put-upon and will be out to prove that his squad is worthy of respect.
There’s no reason to expect anything less than a point-per-game from the superstar again next season, especially if he can channel the anger he still has about the suspension and the way his season ended into motivation.
Final Grade: A
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Declan Schroeder is a 27-year-old communications specialist and freelance journalist in Winnipeg, Manitoba. He holds a diploma in Creative Communications with a major in journalism from Red River College and a bachelors in Rhetoric and Communications from the University of Winnipeg.
Deeply rooted in the city’s hockey culture, the original Jets skipped town when he was two and the 2.0 version came onto the scene when he was 17.