Jets’ Organization Loses Loyal Foot Soldier With Lipon’s Departure

The Winnipeg Jets’ organization lost a steadfast foot soldier last week as longtime Manitoba Moose forward JC Lipon signed with the KHL’s Dinamo Riga.

Lipon a Loyal Player, Hard Worker for Seven Seasons

Lipon, selected by the Jets the third round of the 2013 NHL Entry Draft, spent seven seasons with the Jets’ organization after four seasons with the WHL’s Kamloops Blazers.

JC Lipon (left) competes in a WHL game for the Kamloops Blazers the season before being drafted by the Jets. (Marissa Baecker/WHL)

He played the first two seasons of his professional career with the St. John’s IceCaps and the past five with the Moose after their return to Winnipeg.

He suited up for nine NHL games in 2015-16, recording one assist, but was never able to step into a full-time NHL role as he was surpassed by other prospects with more sheer talent. The 27-year-old signed with Dinamo Riga, based out of Riga, Latvia, this week.

Despite not getting into an NHL lineup for the past four seasons, his compete level and dedication never wavered as he brought his lunch-bucket to the rink every day and gave it his all.

Lipon Brought A Lot

The Moose will sorely miss Lipon, who served as an alternate captain for the past three seasons and played a multi-faceted game that benefitted the Moose in myriad ways.

JC Lipon Manitoba Moose
JC Lipon brought a mix of physicality, intensity, and offensive flair to the Moose. (Jenae Anderson / The Hockey Writers)

His hard work and energetic play-style often shifted momentum and jump-started his teammates. Despite not being a massive player, the 6-foot, 190-pounds Lipon was hard-checking, fearless, and never shied away from throwing a hit, mixing it up in a big scrum, or chucking his knuckles — his 839 penalty minutes in 452-career AHL games can attest to that.

However, Lipon was not a goon by any stretch. He also had strong offensive abilities, surprisingly soft hands, and an accurate shot, recording 80 goals and adding 142 assists in those 452 games. In January, he moved into third place in Moose all-time scoring.

His best offensive season in Winnipeg came in 2017-18, when he recorded 17 goals and and 21 assists for 36 points in 68 games. This past season, he notched 13 goals and added 18 assists for 31 points in 61 games before the AHL season was put on pause and later cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Lipon’s Departure Leaves Another Hole on Moose Leadership Group

Lipon, the longest tenured Moose player, was the most compelling candidate for the captaincy in 2020-21, as Peter Stoykewych opted to retire at age 27 due to multiple concussions.

“JC was, obviously, one of our leaders. But his leadership skills were on the ice. He’s not a lot about talking, he’s more about action,” Moose head coach Pascal Vincent said this week. If you asked our guys, ‘Which guy would you want on the ice with you when the game is on the line, when the game is hard, in the playoffs?’ JC Lipon would be one of those guys that all players wanted to have on their team.”

Moose head coach Pascal Vincent on JC Lipon
(from ‘Lipon Moving On,’ Winnipeg Free Press, 08/17/2020.)

“He’s leading by example with his intensity in the games, and he’s a brave person,” Vincent continued. “He’s got a lot of courage, he’s fought a lot of big guys and he’s got quickness and he’s scored some goals… he can bring quite a bit.”

JC Lipon, Manitoba Moose
JC Lipon was the most compelling candidate to become the 10th captain in Moose franchise history. (Jenae Anderson / The Hockey Writers)

Lipon’s style of feisty, firebrand leadership and ongoing veteran presence would have been a big boon to the organization. Now, they’ll have to find someone else to wear the C.

Another Gritty Guy Gone

Some may view Lipon’s career trajectory with the Jets’ organization as an example of prospect mismanagement and feel the gritty Regina product should have been given a longer look.

Regardless of how you feel about the Jets’ prioritization of a speedy game over a heavy game — the NHL is more about pure skill than ever before — there’s no doubt the team is sorely lacking in grit with feisty and physical players such as Ben Chiarot, Brendan Lemieux, Brandon Tanev, and now Lipon all departing in the past year.

The Jets’ softness became a point of discussion recently as they were pushed around by Milan Lucic, Matthew Tkachuk, and the rest of the Calgary Flames in their brief and disappointing Stanley Cup Qualifier matchup earlier this month, and didn’t exhibit much pushback back much even after the Flames took out Mark Scheifele and Patrik Laine in Game 1. They’d be well-served to search out a Lipon-esque player this offseason, and perhaps give that guy a longer shot than they gave JC.