WINNIPEG – Winnipeg Jets right wing Blake Wheeler has had quite an education in the past calendar year.
A trade from the Boston Bruins to his current organization Feb. 18 cost Wheeler a chance to win the Stanley Cup.
Then Wheeler found himself on the move again after his club relocated during the summer to Winnipeg. The move has meant a new home. But while Wheeler has registered back-to-back 18-goal seasons, he has another new coaching staff and management team to impress.
"I'm just trying to earn my spot here. I was given the opportunity to take on a bigger responsibility, more minutes, when I was traded, and I'm just trying to earn that same role, hopefully," Wheeler said.
"At this level, words don't really mean much. It's how you go out and play. I learned that in Boston. You've got to fit in wherever (needed) in order to accomplish the ultimate goal. Those guys won the Stanley Cup this year, and I missed out by a month or two. It was a very tough lesson, but a very valuable one."
Wheeler came to the club along with defenseman Mark Stuart, and they were a pair of new faces in the dressing room. Now the entire club is in new surroundings with new coaching staff.
"This is all new faces, all new systems, all new everything," Wheeler said. "Coming over here as a team, as a group, it's new to everyone. I think it helps. We're kind of all new. We're all in this together, and I think it brings the team together (more quickly)."
But the challenge also presents an opportunity for a young club to begin the process of molding itself into an elite-level organization.
"It's weird, and it's exciting. We get the opportunity to make this NHL franchise what we want it to be," Wheeler said. "To be accountable to one another, to pay attention to detail, to make this a place where you want to be."