Winnipeg Jets: Has Chevy already surrendered this year?

If Kevin Cheveldayoff does nothing to improve the Winnipeg Jets, he’s already surrendered this season.

Okay, I get it.  Dr. Dolittle is building through the draft. His plan for the Winnipeg Jets is to develop from within.  In theory, it’s a sound approach.

decisionsTrouble is, we all know the National Hockey League draft is a crap shoot.  Always has been, always will be.

The Edmonton Oilers, for example, had the pick of the litter three years running (2010-12) and claimed Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Nail Yakupov.  They had two other top-10 picks in the past five NHL garage sales—Magnus Paajarvi-Svensson, No. 10 in 2009, and Darnell Nurse, No. 7 in 2013.

And where are the Oilers today?  Last place in their division and conference. Seemingly forever.

Still, I understand Dr. Dolittle’s strategy.  He’s convinced that the draft is the only way to go.  I happen to agree with that policy.  Make the right choices and, in time, the plan will bear fruit and the Jets will participate in the Stanley Cup tournament every spring.

But here’s the rub: How much time will that take?  Are the faithful who flock to the Little Hockey House on the Prairie expected to be satisfied with non-playoff activity indefinitely?

Despite what some people suggest (see Lawless, Gary), there’s no need to sacrifice the future in order to address current requirements, and I know of at least one NHL general manager who agrees with me.

“Just because you’re trying to build through the draft and develop from within, that doesn’t mean you’re not trying to make the playoffs,” the GM told Pierre LeBrun of ESPN.com prior to this 2013-14 season.

The name of that general manager?  Why, it’s Dr. Dolittle himself, Kevin Cheveldayoff, the man who inherited Rick Dudley’s hockey club in 2011 and, in the ensuing 2 1/2 years, has done little to make it his own hockey club.

It would seem, therefore, that the leader of Jets Nation does not practise what he preaches.  The Jets have won three of 15 starts in regulation time.  They have taken up squatter’s rights in the cellar.  Yet, there is no significant movement of players or coaching staff in an effort to qualify for the playoffs.

And now we have people standing in their print media pulpits saying Dr. Dolittle is doing the right thing by doing nothing.
Here’s the aforementioned Lawless in today’s Winnipeg Free Press:

“What should the Winnipeg Jets do right now? Nothing.  Absolutely nothing except flip their collars up against the wind and rain.  Now is the time to hunker down and wait out the storm.”

Sounds more like a weather report than a hockey commentary, doesn’t it?  Whatever, Lawless is a sports columnist and, as such, a large portion of his job is to deliver opinion.  In this case, however, the logic behind his opinion is quite flawed.  Let’s consider some of the questions he poses and points he presents.

  • “Two years? Three years? What business gets properly judged in such a short time-frame? What career? What marriage? What anything in life?”

Well, I can name at least one person who has “properly judged” a career in much, much less than two or three years.  Mark Chipman. Oh, yes, he did.  Jets bankroll Chipman granted Jean Perron exactly 50 games to prove his worth as coach and GM of the Manitoba Moose.  He then fired him and gave the job to Randy Carlyle.  I’d say changing coaches worked out rather well for the Moose and, by extension, for True North Sports & Entertainment, wouldn’t you?

  • “Many are screaming for change right now. Fire the coach. To what end? Clipping Claude Noel would be a temporary distraction. It wouldn’t change the deep-rooted issues from which this club suffers. Will a new coach bring blue-line depth? Will he upgrade the quality of players at centre ice? Will he conjure up elite goaltending? Nope.”

I agree, a new coach wouldn’t turn Ondrej Pavelec into Dominik Hasek, but a new coach might be able to do something about a dreadful powerplay.  A new coach might bring in a system better suited for his personnel.  A new coach might know how to handle young players.  A new coach might be a no-nonsense hard-ass who demands 60 minutes per night from his players.

  • “Trade for a first-line centre” we hear on the call-in shows and read on the message boards. Find me a legitimate first-line centre available on the market and I’ll be glad to listen. But it’s a mirage, people. No one trades those players. They draft them and then fight like hell to keep them.”

No one trades those players?  Excuse me for letting the facts get in the way, but it seems to me that a first-line centre named Gretzky was traded.  More than once.  Mark Messier was traded.  Four of the top five scorers in NHL history were centres and each of them was traded—Gretzky, Messier, Ron Francis and Marcel Dionne.  Plenty of top-level players still get traded and you don’t need to mortgage the future to land them.

So, you see, there’s nothing preventing Cheveldayoff from making an impactful move for the Winnipeg Jets.  If he chooses to do nothing, he’s already surrendered this season.

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Patti Dawn Swansson (14 Posts)


Comments

  1. Well said Patti.

  2. Mitch Kasprick says:

    I feel bad for the average fan that believes that rhetoric …. isn’t there an obligation to the fans paying top dollar to watch this team … maybe if some of the media paid $150 bucks a pop every night they wouldn’t be so patient !!!

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