© Geoff Brookes
Give yourself 10 seconds to answer this question – no google searches please –
Mark Scheifele and Patrik Laine had 30+ goal seasons last year. Who is the other active Jets 2.0 playerto have had a 30+ goal season with our NHL franchise?
Answer – the unknown star, Bryan Little. He scored 31 goals in his sophomore NHL season, in 2008-2009, with the Atlanta Thrashers.
He’s also the first Jets 2.0 player to record a hat trick. And, he’s usually among the Jets leaders in puck possession stats (Corsi).
Bryan Little hasn’t achieved stardom in the NHL – yet. Not by the measure of headlines, or articles written about him. But his value to his team – the NHL Winnipeg Jets – is massive.
The Jets had a bad start to their year in 2016-2017. Not surprisingly, this coincided with the absence of Bryan Little, due to injury. In games that Bryan Little played last year, the Jets were 32-23-5. In games that he missed (early in the season), they were 8-12-2.
So, for tonight’s season opening game against the Leafs, when Coach Paul Maurice is making up a line that will include young stars Nik Ehlers and Patrik Laine on the wing, he chooses Bryan Little to be the Centre for that line.
It’s not that Maurice doesn’t think that Mark Scheifele would be great there. It’s that he knows that he can keep Schief for the top line, with Corsi-dominant wingers Mathieu Perreault and Blake Wheeler, presumably to dominate play against the other team’s top line.
This leaves “Lids and the Kids” to feast on the opposition’s weaker links. Hmmm…. “Lids and the Kids” – do you think that might stick?
It says here that Bryan Little will become recognized outside of Winnipeg as an NHL star, this year. If he plays most of this season (at least even strength) with Laine and Ehlers, watch out! Ehlers and Laine are going to be gold together, but Little will have a career year between them, and will help them develop their defensive games as well.
And yes, Little has the skill and speed to make that work. He has under-rated vision, passing, and shooting skills. His shot is accurate, often finding a lane to the net. He has great balance and co-ordination, keeping plays alive by adeptly kicking an errant pass onto his own stick (or even when he fans on a shot!). Who will forget his speed down the ice, scoring the winning goal over the Boston Bruins in the Jets 2.0 first season, racing down the ice from his own face off win in the Jets’ zone?
Lids and the Kids
Here are my points predictions for Lids and the Kids for this season:
I’ve already made my Jets team points prediction for this year – 105 points – good for second in the Central Division. I had previously predicted that the Jets would win one playoff round this year, and acquit themselves well in the Central division final series.
I’m upgrading my playoff prediction – that the Winnipeg Jets will win the Stanley Cup this year!
Let the games begin!