Young professional athletes usually respond to trades in one of two ways: sulk and underperform, or use it as a wake-up call.
At this point, it’s safe to say Blake Wheeler chose the latter.
The Winnipeg Jets winger was traded from the Boston Bruins during the 2011 season (when the Jets were the Atlanta Thrashers), and was forced to sit and watch as his former team won the Stanley Cup. Wheeler, who was 24 years old at the time, was a third-line player for Boston before the trade, but was thrust into a larger role with his new team. Now 31, Wheeler is the captain of the Jets, and one of the NHL’s most consistent producers.
It would be easy for Wheeler to look at the trade with scorn. But instead, he realizes it was something that probably needed to happen.
“I was an inconsistent player and had an inconsistent role,” Wheeler told the Winnipeg Free Press’ Mike Sawatzky ahead of Thursday’s Jets-Bruins game. “And when I got traded, regardless of how I played, I was playing 20 minutes a night (in Atlanta) and I think that sort of helps you figure yourself out a little bit. Figure out what you’re good at and what you need to work on.
“At the end of the day, if you’re out there that much, it’s on you to make things happen. It was great for me to grow personally to get that type of exposure, get that type of a role. … It helped me, gave me a kick in the rear a little bit. You know, you get traded from a team that wins the Stanley Cup, it’s kind of a slap in the face. ”
Wheeler has excelled with the Jets, scoring at least 26 goals and amassing at least 61 points in four consecutive seasons.
The Minnesota native, though, was held off the score sheet in his team’s 2-1 shootout loss to the Bruins at TD Garden on Thursday.
Thumbnail photo via Stan Szeto/USA TODAY Sports Images
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