Wheeler, Stuart prove their worth

Jets forward Blake Wheeler and Flyers defenceman Braydon Coburn get in a scuffle after a play at...

Jets forward Blake Wheeler and Flyers defenceman Braydon Coburn get in a scuffle after a play at the MTS Centre in Winnipeg, Man., Feb. 21, 2012. (FRED GREENSLADE/Reuters)

TED WYMAN, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 1:13 AM ET

WINNIPEG - Jets fans who are enjoying the play of their teamís leading scorer and their most consistent defenceman might want to send a thank you card Rick Dudleyís way.

It was Dudley who engineered the trade last year around this time to bring Blake Wheeler and Mark Stuart to the Atlanta Thrashers from the Boston Bruins in exchange for forward Rich Peverley and prospect Boris Valabik.

While Peverley went on to win a Stanley Cup with the Bruins and was a solid contributor in the playoffs, it could easily be argued that the Thrashers-turned-Jets got the better end of the deal.

Wheeler, who leads the Jets with 47 points this season and is one of the hottest players in the NHL right now, has a total of 64 points in 83 games since the trade.

Stuart has just four goals and nine points but leads the Jets in hits, blocked shots and many nights, heart. Heís tough as nails, has dropped the mitts with some of the most-feared hombres in the league and hates to lose.

Peverley, meanwhile, is a key component for the Bruins but he has only 45 points in 72 regular season games since the trade, although he added another 12 points during the Cup run last spring.

Valabik was let go by the Bruins in the off-season, was signed by the Pittsburgh Penguins and has done nothing in that organization.

You could certainly argue that Peverley, given the same ice time Wheeler has enjoyed in Winnipeg, would be a comparable player, but with Stuart in the mix as well, the Jets absolutely won that deal.

Itís doubtful even Dudley realized he was getting a potential leading scorer when he traded for Wheeler.

The big Minnesotan has just gotten better and better since making the move to Winnipeg and becoming a Jet.

GET BACK ON HORSE

The Jets donít have much time to lick their wounds after getting stunned by the Philadelphia Flyers late comeback Tuesday night.

The latest most important game of the season is Thursday night when the Tampa Bay Lightning come to town and the disappointment over the Flyers game has to be completely in the past.

The Lightning are a team that is clearly thinking about next year already, as evidenced by their recent trading activity, but theyíre actually only five points behind the Jets and have three games in hand.

With the NHLís leading goal scorer, Steven Stamkos, and plenty of other talented players on board, the Lightning are still a dangerous team.

Winnipeg has another chance to taste first place in the Southeast Division with a win, depending on what the Florida Panthers do in their game against the Minnesota Wild.

So far this season, the Jets have come up short when theyíve had those opportunities, but they continue to sit right on the playoff bubble and simply canít afford to lose any games, especially to teams below them in the standings.

No matter what happens in terms of the playoffs, the next six weeks promise to be a hell of a roller coaster ride for the Jets and their fans.


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