Impact – ”Having a strong effect on someone or something.”
The Winnipeg Jets have a history like no other. They were dominant in the WHA, struggled to make the jump to the NHL and as soon as they began to pick up steam – POOF! they were gone. As fans, we are only privy to certain aspects of team chemistry. We may occasionally hear rumours about players’ behaviours in locker rooms, hotels, team busses and on the bench, but, for the most part, fans are silent observers. 2020 has forced us all into a state of reflection, remembering how things were and how they got to where they are now. That’s why it felt important to look at which players impacted the Jets franchise, for the good, the bad and the ugly.
The Bad – Kris Draper ‘The One Dollar Man’
Many of us have sat on our couches and played ‘Armchair General Manager,’ criticizing moves, comparing incoming talent to outgoing, and often saying ‘I would never make that trade.’ Well, there is no need for an ‘Armchair GM’ on the trade that sent Kris Draper to the Detroit Red Wings, because that trade was unanimously BAD. The impact of this trade is difficult to measure because Jets’ fans only got to see Kris Draper play 10 games in Winnipeg before playing 1137 games for the Detroit Red Wings. It is impossible to predict if Draper would have had the same success had he stayed in Winnipeg, but the 4x Stanley Cup Winner must have been traded for some assets right? Wrong. 16 pesos. $0.65 Euros. $0.59 Pounds. Or – as we know it – a loonie. Kris Draper was traded to the Detroit Red Wings on June 30, 1993 for a loonie. This impacted the Jets for the bad… the real bad.
The thought that a double-double from Tim Horton’s cost more than a 4x Stanley cup winner with 364 points and 790 penalty-minutes is mind-boggling but true. The Jets have been known to make a few blunders in the trades-department but this one takes the cake. The impact of losing a player that was able to find the back of the net and mix it up in the corners hurts and the fact that Kris Draper played more than 65 games in 12 NHL seasons is a blow the Jets organization still feels today. To throw salt in the wound, Draper linked up with Darren McCarthy and Kirk Maltby to form the ‘Grind Line’ and helped sweep the stacked Philadelphia Flyers in the 1997 Stanley Cup finals.
Jets’ fans are left to wonder what a Tie Domi-Kris Draper-Keith Tkachuk line would have been able to achieve if they had been given the opportunity. They could have dominated opponents with their size and grit and lit up the red light at Winnipeg Arena for years. The trio could have potentially earned a nickname ‘The Light Outs Line’ because, together those three would have hit, fought and scored. Maybe Kris Draper, Teemu Selänne and Darrin Shannon could have formed chemistry together. Unfortunately, Jets’ fans are left with only hypotheticals because they got nothing in return for Draper – literally nothing. Jets’ fans had their franchise ripped away from them in 1996 and had to watch Kris Draper raise the cup for Detroit in 1997 and 1998. There is no way to track where that ‘Kris Draper loonie’ is today, but a skeptic would assume it ended up in General Manager Mike Smith’s pocket. To add insult to injury, Draper famously gave the Red Wings owners a $1 dollar bill after winning the 1997 Stanley Cup, saying “we’re even.” They say hindsight is 20/20, but every ‘Armchair GM’ will agree Kris Draper’s exit from Winnipeg was unnecessary, avoidable and negatively impacted the Jets’ organization in a way that will continue to haunt the Jets’ history books.