Upated October 2018.
After losing the original Jets in the summer of 1996, the city of Winnipeg regained an NHL franchise in 2011.
[See related: Arizona Coyotes Team History]
The current franchise began in Atlanta in 1999 when it was awarded an NHL expansion team. The club was named after Georgia’s state bird, the brown thrasher.
The organization still could not reach the playoffs in the five seasons before the lockout. Struggles worsened when Heatley requested a trade in the summer of 2005.
The team assembled its finest roster in 2006-07. The Thrashers finally earned a division title and its first playoff berth but it was short lived as the New York Rangers swept the quarterfinal series.
The franchise once again fell to mediocrity and even traded Kovalchuk in 2010.
In 2011, the club reported losses and was later sold to True North Sports & Entertainment, who moved the franchise to Winnipeg to begin play in the 2011-12 season.
Appropriately renamed to fit the former franchise, Winnipeg played in the NHL’s Southeast Division with the league considering options for future realignment. Despite having the worst travel in the league, the Jets finished their first season with a 37-35-10 record, which was six points out of a playoff spot. The NHL was welcomed back, though, as all 41 home games were sold out.
With the NHL completing a full realignment, the Jets moved to the Central Division in 2013-14 to play teams closer in proximity. The Jets struggled in its new division early on, as the Central was well known for boasting some of the league’s best teams, including the powerhouse Chicago Blackhawks.
However, thanks in large part to the offensive contributions by Andrew Ladd, Blake Wheeler and Bryan Little, the Jets made the 2015 playoffs, bringing NHL playoff hockey back to Winnipeg for the first time in 19 years. Despite the large crowds and rowdy atmosphere, the Jets fell to the Anaheim Ducks in a four-game sweep.
The Central remained a competitive division in 2016, as five of the seven teams qualified for the postseason. Unfortunately, the Jets were not one of them.
The team was again on the outside looking in after the 2016-17 season, but playoff hopes are high for the young roster, who plays a mean and speedy style.
Towering defensemen Dustin Byfuglien and Tyler Myers remain with the club, while young offensive weapons Mark Scheifele and Patrik Laine continue to develop. In goal, the Jets advertise one of the league’s top goalies in Connor Hellebuyck, who was a finalist for the 2017-18 Vezina Trophy. After a season that brought winds of change, including a franchise-best 114 points, its first nine playoff wins and its first third round playoff appearance, the Jets are primed for deep runs for the foreseeable future.
Feature photo courtesy Stan Milosevic | Flickr
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