In this edition of Off Beat I got the pleasure to chat with Art Middleton, aka GameTimeArt, from JetsNation.ca! Art talks about his love of the Jets, his favorite Jet, and how he thinks the road to the top spot of the division goes through Winnipeg.
Hey Art, let’s start with a short bio about you and how you became managing editor at JetsNation.ca?
Well I am 40 years old and live in Edmonton, Alberta – Jets fan by way of being a kid in the 80’s who hated the popular winning teams and always cheered for the underdogs and when the Thrashers moved north, I moved my fandom back to Winnipeg.
As for [JetsNation.ca], I was actually brought on to run the social media for JN back in 2015 and that turned into doing weekly mailbag column which turned into writing game previews and recaps which turned into a bit of an assistant editor role in 2016 which turned into a full time editors role in 2017. I’d like to think that my rise through the ranks of JetsNation has coincided with and inspired the rise of the actual Jets.
Winnipeg had an incredible run through to the conference finals last year. Then they ran into the buzzsaw that was the Vegas Golden Knights. How much fun was that run for you as a Jets fan?
The first round was an incredible amount of fun because it was an exercise of a lot of playoff demons for Winnipeg fans dating back to the original Jets and we were just able to all enjoy it because there was very little doubt about the outcome. The second round was fantastic hockey if not a bit more stressful and I think when the Jets won that, it almost felt like they had won the Cup then and there because of how good Nashville is.
I think a lot of fans were almost burnt out in a way after that second round. It was more happiness than we could all collectively handle, but even as they were dropped in five, I feel like there was a sense of joy among Jets fans over what happened.
What moves have the Jets done this offseason that have you guys over at JetsNation.ca talking? What is your level of optimism this year?
There really hasn’t been any moves made outside of seeing some departures like Enstrom, Hendricks, Stastny – losing Stastny kind of stings but the Jets were pretty good before he came along so I don’t think there is that much worry.
I think the thing most Jets fans are looking forward to is seeing which of the kids still in the prospect pool may make the next big leap with some of the roster spots being left open. Sami Niku could be a very good defenseman. Jack Roslovic could be the next Kyle Connor. This could be the year Nic Petan finally sticks with the team.
The Blues have been pretty active this offseason, how have their moves improved the team from your perspective?
Obviously Ryan O’Reilly was a big get for your team and Bozak was a fantastic addition for your depth at center. I am also a huge Patrick Maroon fan and I really wanted him to be a Jet at the deadline and again this summer. I’m very happy he’s heading home. I’d say that David Perron was a big addition for your team as well. I am biased of course when I say I don’t know if they can match the Jets in terms of overall forward depth, but I will say that the gap is a lot smaller. It won’t surprise me at all if the Blues see a 30-35 goal jump in the goals for column next season.
What is your way too early at how this division plays out?
All I know is it’s going to be an absolute meat grinder. Nashville and Winnipeg will still be really good, St. Louis and Dallas have improved, Colorado will be another year more experienced. I don’t know if the Wild have gotten any better but I don’t think they are any worse either. The only team that might get left in the dust would be Chicago, but maybe that’s just me hoping for it more than expecting it. If I had to call it right now, I think – and again I admit to bias – the division will finish with the Jets, Preds, and Blues in the first three spots, with the Wild and Stars getting both wild-card spots.
Who are you pulling for in the JetsNation.ca favorite Jet bracket you guys have going on over there? In my uneducated opinion on Jet history, it has to be Teemu.
As the man running it, I have to be completely unbiased but I am rooting for my boy Buff to make the final four at least. I think Teemu is a big favorite on our 1.0 side, but don’t look past Dale Hawerchuk either who has been a lot more active with the current day Jets than Teemu has. If I had to call it, I predict a Laine vs Ducky final and I think Laine ends up winning out. It’s impossible not to love that kid.