The Winnipeg Jets’ 2021-22 season was a disappointment, as they came into the season considered a Stanley Cup contender but drastically underperformed, finishing sixth in the Central Division and well out of the playoff picture.
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.
Wily forward Paul Stastny showed his value to the Jets in a number of ways throughout a productive 2021-22.
Stastny Turned Back the Clock
First and foremost, Stastny was a valuable member of the Jets’ offence. Despite turning 36 in December, the veteran of nearly 1,100-career games showed he still has a good scoring touch and strong overall offensive instincts.
In 71 games, Stastny had 21 goals and 24 assists for 45 points, good for sixth on the team. He hit the 20-goal plateau for the first since the 2013-2014 season with the Colorado Avalanche.
45 points was also Stastny’s best since 2017-18, where he began the season with the St. Louis Blues but finished it with the Jets after they acquired him at the Trade Deadline.
Stastny Brought Versatility, Strong Voice to Fractured Locker Room
Stastny proved to be “plug-and-play” once again, and the Jets’ benefitted from his ability to be a “Swiss Army Knife” Not everyone on a team has to have an over-the-top personality, and Stastny was a low maintenance player who went about his business professionally, whether his assignment was top or bottom six, centre or left wing.
Stastny had a knack for bringing out the best in his line mates, gelling especially well with the now-departed Andrew Copp and Nikolaj Ehlers. Stastny had an assist on six of Ehlers’ 28 goals, while Ehlers had an assist on seven of Stastny’s 21 goals.
Stastny was also one of the only members of the Jets — before the final few garbage-time games, anyway, when everyone started to get honest — to speak candidly about the team’s various shortcomings and lack of identity.
He seemed content to take on the role of the Jets’ “conscience,” and showed far-and-away more leadership qualities than captain Blake Wheeler, who often hid from media, spouted cliches, or was pointlessly combative.
There was one bit of controversy surrounding Stastny this season. In March, news broke that Stastny — through his company “Walnuts, LLC” — had donated $1,000 to the Freedom Convoy in Ottawa, a group of anti-COVID-vaccine-mandate and anti-COVID-restriction protestors who occupied the downtown of Canada’s capital for a month with big-rig trucks. This resulted in some online backlash and caused a distraction.
In an interview with the Winnipeg Free Press, the American-born Stastny expressed the opinion that Canadians were suffering from government overreach and he drew parallels between Canada in 2022 and the communist Czechoslovakian regime his parents escaped in 1980. He denied holding far-right views and said he did not support the protestors’ blocking of borders. (From ‘Stastny gave $1,000 to convoy protesters,’ Winnipeg Free Press, March 1, 2022.)
Could Jets and Stastny Extend Relationship Again?
The Jets and Stastny just cannot seem to quit each other. Could the relationship between them extend yet another season?
He was considered one of the assets the Jets would likely divest of at the 2022 Trade Deadline, but other teams were not too interested in him — Jets’ GM Kevin Cheveldayoff said he didn’t get many calls about him at the Trade Deadline and seemed to know early on there wasn’t going to be a trade fit.
Unlike other teams, the True North organization appreciates his value; if they didn’t, they wouldn’t have kept him around this long or traded for him twice. The original intention after the Jets acquired him from the Vegas Golden Knights prior to 2020-21 was to deploy him between Nikolaj Ehlers and Patrik Laine as a stop-gap measure.
However, after Stastny played out the 2021-22 season on the last year of the three-year deal the Jets inherited from the Golden Knights, the Jets re-signed him to a one-year contract worth $3.75 million. That turned out to be a smart move as the 36-year-old, as we’ve covered, produced nicely.
Stastny gives his all and provides a perspective only someone with his experience. Perhaps Stastny being a Jet until retirement is the best thing for all involved. He has spoken in the past how much he enjoys being a member of the franchise.
Stastny is a pending UFA this summer, and a new one- or two-year contract would have to come at the right price given the salary cap is only rising $1 million to $82.5 million.
However, with the Jets’ leadership under Wheeler and Mark Scheifele — who doesn’t seem interested in being a Jet anymore — questionable, the type of thoughtful presence Stastny brings on and off the ice might be too valuable to part with.
Overall Grade: B+
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.