One of the worst aspects of the Winnipeg Jets being in the Southeast Division is that we only get to see Tanner Glass, bear-fighter, and Kyle Wellwood, defensive superstar, once this season. Glass and Wellwood are two of PITB’s favourite former Canucks and it has been incredibly rewarding to see them experience success in Winnipeg. The Jets are currently in 8th place in the Eastern Conference and are battling with the Capitals and Sabres for that final playoff spot, and the contributions of Glass and Wellwood are playing a big role.
The biggest nerd on the Canucks this season left town at the trade deadline, but he couldn’t touch Kyle Wellwood, the library enthusiast, when it comes to nerdity. The Halo-playing, Ayn Rand-reading, no-TV-watching weirdo was a little more under-appreciated in Vancouver, however.
Winnipeg, on the other hand, loves him unequivocally. Wellwood is playing some of the best hockey of his career for the Jets and is currently on pace to set a new career-high in scoring. He’s currently fourth on the Jets with 39 points and has become a key offensive contributor, something that certainly wasn’t anticipated when he signed a paltry $700,000 contract.
That combination of scoring and pay has made him one of the most cost-effective players in the NHL. The website Bang4yourpuck.com keeps track of the best cost-per-point players and Wellwood is securely in the top-ten, which is impressive since most of his compatriots are currently on entry-level deals. Inking Wellwood to a contract was not only a savvy move by Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff, it’s proven to be one of the best signings of the 2011 off-season.
It isn’t just points, either. Wellwood continues to be reliable at both ends of the ice and is an absolute wizard when it comes to puck possession, leading the Jets in Relative Corsi and allowing the fewest shots on goal when he’s on the ice. While Wellwood isn’t used in anything approaching a shutdown role (that honour goes to Glass’s third line), he has proven to coach Claude Noel that he can be used in almost any situation.
“You can put him in the top six or the bottom six. It doesn’t matter,” Noel said. “He’s a good player. I like him a lot. He’s a reliable guy you can play on the third line or fourth line or move him up to second. You put him in the corner with two big guys, he comes up with the puck. He uses his head.”
He’s still odd, of course. It simply can’t be helped: Wellwood is weird. The absolute best example of that from this season has to be the practice where he literally started practice with two left skates.
Wellwood actually started practice wearing two left skates after failing to grab his right one when packing his equipment over at the main rink. The assembled media were impressed Wellwood made it through a couple of drills without falling flat on his face before his right skate finally arrived.
“It was only a couple of minutes, so it wasn’t that bad,” said Wellwood. “It was more for a laugh.”
Considering Wellwood’s normal strong skating stride, I’m surprised anyone noticed the difference.
Wellwood also made his mark during the Jets’ skills competition back in November, winning the accuracy contest by breaking four targets with just four shots in 9.38 seconds. Before anyone starts thinking that Wellwood has secretly developed a wicked wrister since his days with the Canucks, Tim Stapleton’s comments after the contest should clear that up: “Did he even break any of the targets? I don’t know if his shots were hard enough.”
Tonight, Wellwood is expected to skate on the second line at right wing, a position Canucks fans never saw him play in Vancouver. That he’s playing right wing should partially explain why he’s taken so few faceoffs, despite the fact that his centre, Alexander Burmistrov, is terrible in the circle, winning just 42.6%. Perhaps Burmistrov should cheat more and get tossed so Wellwood can take them all.
It’s clear that Wellwood is happy in Winnipeg, as is made clear by the amount of emotion he shows after scoring this overtime gamewinning goal against the Lightning last month. I’ve never seen him show this much emotion. Keep on rocking in the free world, Kyle Wellwood, and doot-doola-doot-doo…
Stick-tap to Bulie Ruth Fisher, who consistently provides us with Wellwood updates despite the fact that we keep forgetting to write new Wellwood’s World chapters.Tags: Kyle Wellwood, Poor Wellwood, Wellwood is Weird, wellwood's world