Winnipeg Jets Q and A

My Post Labour Day Thoughts on the Winnipeg Jets –

Time to reflect a bit and face a harsh reality!

I’ve decided to address some questions I have been asked over the summer by family, friends, fans and others that actually care what my opinion is.

When will the Winnipeg Jets be a playoff team?

If you would have asked me this question when the Winnipeg Jets first arrived, I would have said I thought they had a shot right away or at least within a couple of years.  After realignment, I think the Jets are a marginally better hockey team than in year one but are probably further away from the post season based on their new division (Central) and conference (Western).  

I have no doubt that the Winnipeg Jets will be a playoff team one day and hopefully a Stanley Cup contender but after the lack of meaningful roster moves over this summer I am now finally convinced that this organisation is in no hurry.   In spite of mounting pressure this off-season from a frustrated fan-base, the Jets look like they are staying the course once again.  The earliest ETA for post-season is probably two more years unless Chevy starts making some bigger moves.  

What’s this “five-year plan” I keep hearing about?

File that alongside the Loch Ness Monster and Bigfoot.  It’s a myth!  I don’t know where the “FIVE YEAR PLAN” was hatched.   It was just a random comment thrown out there by a media person back when the Jets first arrived here from Atlanta and it somehow stuck.  It is usually used by the staunch loyalists.  

What’s your take on Kevin Cheveldayoff? 

Make no mistake about it, the honeymoon in Winnipeg is officially over.  There are still extreme factions on both sides of the fandom that either believe that Jets G.M. Kevin Cheveldayoff is the reincarnation of Sam Pollock and the extremists on the other side that thinks he is the worst G.M. that’s ever drawn a NHL paycheck. The truth probably lies somewhere in between.  Kevin Cheveldayoff has made a few good moves but in my opinion he has also made some questionable moves as well as a couple of mind-numbing moves.

January 12, 2014-Chevy-13

Kevin Cheveldayoff             photo by Shawn Coates

Is it all Chevy’s fault?

No, I don’t think so.  You can’t blame him if at this time Winnipeg is not a prime option for UFA’s.  I applaud him for not spending stupid money on players like David Clarkson.  A contract like that can handcuff a franchise for years.  I haven’t been a fan of his asset management though.  Chevy has let too many UFA’s expire on the shelf during his watch.  I understand some of the pitfalls of that dilemma but for me it’s cut and dried.  If you are a pending UFA and haven’t been re-signed before the NHL trade deadline, it’s ADIOS  MUCHACHOS!  But that’s me!  AND I don’t care if you get a 6th round pick for said asset.  It’s better than squat!  But, I’m not getting paid to make those decisions.  I’m sure the Jets lack of depth might have made it hard to trade some of their pending UFA’s but if you’re a “draft and develop” team and you’re not going to win the Stanley Cup what the heck are you doing?  Are you trying to sneak into 8th place?  I don’t know how much of that was Kevin Cheveldayoff.  Was it his decision alone or was it an organisational decision?  

Does ownership have their hand in the cookie jar?

How much does ownership have to do with some of these curious decisions?  I’m starting to get a scary feeling the ownership has TOO much of a hand in the shaping of this roster.  That’s an absolute recipe for disaster.  If you hire hockey people to do a job, let them do their job!  Now, I’m not saying that this is going on in Winnipeg because I don’t know that it is. I’m playing “Devils Advocate” here. I’m just trying to understand some of the happenings and curious decisions being made by our team since its glorious arrival in River City.

What’s your take on the Stuart and Thorburn signings?

To be honest, I really didn’t mind the signings IF it was just a measure to buy some time for their prospects but the term on both contracts were too long and don’t make sense to me.  For me, these signings can’t be hockey related.  I think that this is a carryover from the TNSE/AHL Moose era where loyalty was rewarded.  The AHL and NHL are different animals and although I applaud loyalty and all those cliché virtues they shouldn’t apply to lower-end roster players in the NHL.  This is a business.

Mark Stuart

Mark Stuart          photo by Shawn Coates

Was Winnipeg considered a hockey destination back in the WHA days? 

No matter how we feel about our city, Winnipeg is and will always be considered a “non-destination” for UFA’s until we start winning and become a desirable destination for players that want to win.  Now, you’re probably saying that ALL players want to win and that is true but make no mistake about it players want to get paid FIRST!  You don’t have to look any further than the Winnipeg Jets contract negotiations over the past couple years.  They’ve had to overpay to re-sign their own free agents.  Winnipeg will eventually attract top UFA’s when they establish themselves like the old WHA Jets.  In those days, players had options to go to “cooler” and more “hip” cities than Winnipeg but if you wanted to win you either went to Winnipeg or Quebec City.  Unfortunately neither of these two cities were considered sexy options for UFA’s during Jets 1.0 or Nordiques 1.0 either.  Not that you asked but, I do believe there will be a Nordiques 2.0 and sooner rather than later!

carrycup79

photo courtesy of curtiswalker.com

 

Can you win with just “Draft and Develop”?

NO!  But, Draft and Develop is an extremely important part of acquiring assets and building a NHL hockey team.  The draft picks become assets that can be used in different ways to augment the NHL roster in the future.  If a team drafts well and develop their assets, they can be used like currency.  Developing assets can help in acquiring some solid NHL caliber players via trade.  Timing and spending wisely in the FA market to add depth or fill holes is the final way to finish building a contending team.  Building a hockey team and especially a championship team is a three-pronged process. Draft, trade and sign FA’s.  

Everybody says Kevin Cheveldayoff has done very well drafting players?

Standing at the draft podium and announcing the teams selections doesn’t make you the “Draft Whisperer”.  Kevin Cheveldayoff is the boss but the scouting staff deserves most of the credit as well as most of the blame for the amateur side of the ledger.  The old adage is that the draft belongs to the scouts and the roster belongs to the General Manager so I don’t give Chevy a lot of credit for the draft picks although he ultimately does have the final say.  

How do you think the Winnipeg Jets have done at the NHL Draft?

The Winnipeg Jets under Kevin Cheveldayoff’s reign seem to have done a decent job in this department but have actually only yielded 2 roster players in this manner, Mark Scheifele and Jacob Trouba.  That really isn’t a lot especially when you factor in that this team really isn’t very deep after the 1st two lines and top 3 defencemen.  This will be the first training camp where we should see some of the draft picks from previous drafts push for roster spots.  Some names to watch would be Kosmachuk, Morrissey, Lowry, Klingberg, Petan, and a few others but realistically they might be roster blocked by the lack of open spots after a bunch of lower end roster players from last season were re-signed.  

Is there room for the kids?

There are enough low-end contracts that can be punted if a couple of the young kids force the Jets hand but for the most part it looks like more Thorburn, Stuart, Pavelec, Pardy, Ellerby, etc.

Was the current core misled?

During contract negotiations over the past couple of summers were players like Bryan Little, Blake Wheeler, Zach Bogosian, and Andrew Ladd, Toby Enstrom before them sold a tale of sugar plums and dancing fairies to re-sign in Winnipeg? Were they told about the draft and develop “ONLY” model they were seemingly going to be a part of?  I find it hard to believe that the above mentioned players bought into this plan.  

I can’t see them saying

 “Sure, we’re okay with just floundering around in mediocrity for five years while you draft and develop our replacements.”  

These players must have been made some assurances that the Winnipeg Jets were committed to this core having a chance to compete.  In my opinion, they would never come out and say so publicly but I would think they are a little disappointed.

Are the new kids on the block just the next floundering core? 

Is it possible that in five years Mark Scheifele, Jacob Trouba, Josh Morrissey, Nik Ehlers, Scott Kosmachuk, Adam Lowry, Connor Hellebuyck, Eric Comrie, Nic Petan, etc. will be the next core waiting for help and the Winnipeg Jets keep spinning in this endless cycle?  It could happen but, I don’t think it will.  If the Winnipeg Jets continue to draft well like I believe they have over the past four summers, they can continue to stock the shelves with solid assets.  They should be able to stop the spin cycle by using these assets to fill their roster and/or use as currency to acquire NHL players via trade.  Unfortunately, that is one option that current Jets G.M. Kevin Cheveldayoff never really had at his disposal when the Thrashers arrived in Winnipeg.

Winnipeg Jets forward Mark Scheifele (55). (Photo by Shawn Coates)

Mark Scheifele        photo by Shawn Coates

 

These answers are my opinions and my opinions only.  I do not speak on behalf of the other fine writers here at Winnipeg Hockey Talk.  The boys have their own opinions.  We sometimes agree and sometimes disagree.  We have no agenda or personal stake in our views.  

Please feel free to use our COMMENT section to add your questions or views on this article.  Thanks for taking the time to read this.

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