Friday, 13 July 2012

2005-06 Leafs Reunion Possible

The Jets seem to like things in threes from the past. They currently have the fourth, fifth, and sixth picks of the 2004 NHL Entry Draft under contract, and now they have three key cogs of the 2005-06 Toronto Maple Leafs under contract as well. Kyle Wellwood signed a one-year deal worth a reported $1.6 million today with the Jets, bringing him back into the fold once again. Having already signed Alexei Ponikarovsky this off-season and having Nikolai Antropov under contract allows the Jets to test out a "Leafs line" next season if they so choose.

Kyle Wellwood had a good season with Winnipeg in establishing a career-high in points with 47. Wellwood is a decent centerman who wins draws and can shift to the wing if necessary. Honestly, his price tag isn't going to handcuff the Jets, and they get someone they already know. I'm ok with this signing, but I just want Wellwood to play with a little more edge this season as a centerman.

In 2005-06, Wellwood scored 11 goals and 34 assists for 45 points, good for seventh-highest on that Leafs squad. Ponikarovsky, listed as a left winger, 21 goals and 17 assists for 38 points, finishing right behind Wellwood in the scoring race. Antropov, listed as a right winger that season, ended up as the tenth-highest scorer on the Leafs in 2005-06 with 12 goals and 19 assists for 31 points. Could we see some TML Magic on MTS Centre ice this season?

The fact of the matter was that the Leafs, in 2005-06, finished 41-33-1-7 and missed the playoffs. In fact, they haven't been back to the playoffs since missing the playoffs that season. Adding Ponikarovsky and re-signing Wellwood doesn't make the Jets any more potent last season when you consider that these three players bounced around between the second- and third-lines of the Leafs in 2005-06. I'm guessing you'll probably see these three players split up in Winnipeg, but it's not like the Jets went out and signed the heart of the Leafs' lineup from '05-06.

Wellwood played well last season, a fact I cannot overlook. He works pretty hard, and really has shed the reputation of being a heavier, slower player. While he still doesn't have exceptional speed, I like that Wellwood does go into the corners occasionally and comes out with the puck. He has a decent shot, should be able to score 15-20 goals again this season, and still shows some good puck vision when passing.

Again, where I'd like to see Wellwood step up is in the grit department. He's been labelled "soft" in terms of his play, and we saw that a number of times last season. I'm not saying Wellwood needs to drop the gloves, but head into the corners and go to the front of the net more often this year. Maybe throw a big open-ice hit once in awhile. Just get a little tougher so that the opposition knows when Wellwood is on the ice, they can't take it easy and/or pummel him for being "soft".

With this signing, there should be some good battles in training camp for the few remaining roster spots. I'm hoping Wellwood comes in and blows everyone away and grabs one of the top-six spots. The Jets won't be twenty points better this season because of Wellwood, but they certainly won't be worse than last season. Wellwood has the talent to make things happen, and the Jets certainly need a few of those players.

Let's just hope the Jets' season doesn't end like the 2005-06 Leafs' season did.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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