Hey, other 29 NHL teams. Take a deep breath after the Olympics and repeat after me: “At least we’re not the New York Islanders.”
No team was affected by the Sochi Games more than the Isles, who lost superstar John Tavares for at least eight weeks when he blew out his knee playing for Canada against Latvia. But other clubs felt the sting too, like Detroit, which lost Henrik Zetterberg.
If you ask me, it’s always worth it to send the NHLers to the Olympics, but there’s no denying the Games caused a ripple effect around the league, not just via injuries, but via fatigue or, on the positive side, allowing certain players to rest. How did Sochi affect the Winnipeg Jets?
For one, the Jets probably didn’t want to stop playing hockey three weeks ago, as they were 9-3-1 under new coach Paul Maurice. But the layoff did allow Evander Kane’s infected hand to completely heal. He’ll rejoin the lineup for Wednesday’s tilt versus Phoenix.
And what of the four players Winnipeg sent to Sochi? Goaltender Ondrej Pavelec would probably like to forget he even went. He walked away with an .889 save percentage and was replaced by Alexander Salak ahead of the
Czechs’ final game against Sweden after allowing four goals on 11 shots against the Americans.
It was an unfortunate confidence blow for a guy needing a boost after allowing three or more goals in four of five appearances before the break.
His teammate, Michael Frolik, had a scoreless tournament, but Frolik’s 26-year-old body should bounce back from the Olympic grind.
Blake Wheeler was primarily a non-factor for Team USA.
The hulking winger had really found his scoring touch for the Jets prior to the Games, but the U.S. had a rough ride in the last week, losing 1-0 to Canada in the semifinal and dropping the bronze medal game to Finland by an embarrassing 5-0 margin. Disheartened and perhaps jet lagged after staying until the end of the tournament, Wheeler could slump. He’s streaky, after all.
Olli Jokinen is the wild card. On one hand, at 35, he’s the most likely Winnipeg Olympian to physically sag after the heated competition. On the other, he had a good tournament and has some spring in his step after capturing a bronze medal. Call me crazy, but I think the tournament was a refreshing experience for any Finn who dodged the injury bug.
But enough talk. To find out whether Sochi did the Jets harm or good, we have to see ’em play.