As the Ducks put the finishing touches on a 5-2 rout of the Jets on Wednesday (sweeping Winnipeg in the first round of the playoffs), I repeatedly refreshed my browser in disbelief. Like most AC contributors, I had anticipated that the Ducks would probably win the series, but I thought it would be a hard-fought seven game slog. (And several others in the national media thought that the Jets would win.) Jets fans/players/front office people who may read this: This is because of the immense respect that I have for your club.
Jets Fans: Ducks fans are often chastized around these parts for allowing fans of visiting teams to outcheer us in our own barn. That will never be an issue for you guys. You are all loyal, enthusiastic, and rowdy, and I hope you are all back at MTS Centre in 2016, cheering on your team through a deep playoff run. And thank you for supporting baby Teemu (those of you who were old enough to remember all of that).
Dustin Byfuglien: My first memories of you were during the 2010 Western Conference Finals, where you put on a goalie screening clinic against a hapless Roberto Luongo and the Vancouver Canucks. I don't think that the Blackhawks and their fans fully appreciated you, and I think that fans and media across the league have unfairly turned you into a villain. You've had to deal with comments about your skating ability and you attitude, so let me say this: I like you, and I would love to see you in a Ducks uniform. (People might groan about this in the comments section, but they know that you'd be a huge boon to this team). You are one of the pillars of this Jets team, and I hope you are able to shake off the disappointment of this series and come back stronger (and more disciplined) than ever.
Paul Maurice: You were hired by the Jets' front office in January 2014 to fix a sinking ship. I can't imagine the pressure that you felt. Yet, you immediately began to turn things around, posting an 18-12-5 record. In your first full season with the team, you made the playoffs! Sweeps aside, that is an enormous accomplishment that you should be very proud of. You are building a winning organization.
Andrew Ladd: You are another player from that 2010 Blackhawks team that I have always admired. You have shown great leadership, and I hope that you take all the time that you need to heal over the summer.
Jacob Trouba: Though the enduring image of you during this playoffs will be your role in allowing Emerson Etem's Game 4 goal, you are much more than that. Though Hampus Lindholm has been very good for us, I still think that Bob Murray should have drafted you in 2012. You have the potential to be a league-wide star, and I'm terrified by how good you'll likely be at 27.
You made us earn the sweep, Winnipeg, and we're a better team for it. Best of luck with the draft and free agency, and here's to an even better 2015-16 season!