What do you think of Winnipeg now, Ilya Bryzgalov?

 

What’s in the Kool-Aid that the Winnipeg GM has been selling lately?

I just want to know one thing this morning: What’s in the Kool-Aid that Kevin Cheveldayoff’s been selling lately?

Zach Bogosian. (Photo by Shawn Coates)

Zach Bogosian. (Photo by Shawn Coates)

I mean, it’s one thing for the guy to be spending David Thomson and Mark Chipman’s money like a sailor on shore leave, but when you lend an ear to Bryan Little, Blake Wheeler and Zach Bogosian you’d swear Cheveldayoff has them convinced that Winnipeg is just down the road from Shangri-La.

Listen to them.

Bogosian: “I’ve made it clear since my first time being in Winnipeg that it’s a place I’ve wanted to be a for a long time. It was definitely a no-brainer for me to want to stay there for a long time.”

Wheeler: “This is where I want to be. I believe in what people like Mark Chipman, Chevy are doing and what everyone stands for. I really truly believe that great things are in store for this group.”

Little: “I didn’t want to leave. It wasn’t really hard for me to make the decision to stay with Winnipeg for a long time. I think this organization’s best days are ahead of them in the very near future. “

Good grief, that isn’t a hockey team Cheveldayoff is running. It’s a cult. They’re all believers, brother!

It helps, of course, that Bogosian, Wheeler and Little plucked a collective $93.1 million out of the Thomson-Chipman piggy bank, but I’m guessing they weren’t holding their noses when signing contracts that call for earnings of $36M, $33.6M and $23.5M, respectively.  That ain’t chump change, kids.

This free-spending, however, carries an undercurrent that speaks to something other than great gobs of cash.

When the Atlanta Thrashers morphed into the second coming of the Winnipeg Jets in 2011, you see, there was a popular school of thought that suggested National Hockey League players would avoid good ol’ Hometown as if it were a leper colony. With mosquitoes. And that thinking was propped up by people like space cadet goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov, who, while with the Phoenix Coyotes, bleated something about Winnipeg being an ultra-frigid burg where there are no parks and the citizenry scurries about like rodent-like creatures in underground tunnels and has the bad manners to speak English instead of Russian. Well, anyone who’s spent more than five minutes in River City can tell you that it has more parks than Bryzgalov has brains. Eric Belanger, meanwhile, mentioned the “good fans” of River City, “but Winnipeg is still Winnipeg. In January and February, I doubt that my family would follow me out there for a holiday.”

Well, how do you like us now, boys? Bryzgalov is out of work and Belanger just signed with something called Avtomobilist Yekaterinburg in that noted vacation hot spot YekaterinburgSverdlovsk OblastRussia  (good luck with that, Eric).

While it remains true that Pegtown isn’t the favored destination for most, if not all, of the NHL’s top free agents, everyone who isn’t named Alexander Burmistrov appears to be quite content with the Jets and Winnipeg. Centre Little is locked and loaded for five years. Wheeler will be doing his power forward thing in the Little Hockey House on the Prairie for the next six seasons. D-man Bogosian seven. Evander (Tweeter) Kane and Toby Enstrom are on the books until 2018. Ondrej Pavelec until 2017. That’s some serious talent, although I’m still not sold on Pavelec being the goalie who can get the Jets to the next level.

Iffy goaltending aside, there’s one more thing all these signings tell us. It sends a message that the Jets’ two bankrolls, Thomson and Chipman, aren’t operating on the cheap. You don’t dole out an attention-grabbing $93.1M in one week if you have deep pockets but short arms. Clearly, the Jets have become a serious player and general manager Cheveldayoff has managed to convince his most significant workers that Winnipeg is closer to hockey heaven than hockey hell. Imagine that, NHL players actually wanting to live and play in Winnipeg. Who knew?

Yes, sir, that’s pretty potent Kool-Aid that Cheveldayoff is peddling, and I’m beginning to think our man Chevy could sell Bibles and pointy hats to the Pope.

 

Comments

  1. Carol Vermeer says

    Excellent…still not convinced many who are in the open market want to come here, but locking existing guys up when they’ve already played here for a couple of years definitely speaks well for us.

    Wonder if Belanger will take the family to visit the site where the last Russian Royal family met their end, which is all I think of when I hear Yekaterinburg/Ekaterinberg. Oh, what fun for the kids.

    • Patti Dawn Swansson says

      As I wrote, Winnipeg still isn’t the favored locale for most top-level free agents, but the Jets make a statement about the place when the key players who are already in Winnipeg choose to stay loooooong term.

      • Carol Vermeer says

        Exactly; actions speak louder then words. Goodness knows the players even between teams speak amongst themselves. Three guys electing to stay here may open the doors, very positive message, along with management’s willingness to spend the $.

        • Mitch Kasprick says

          as nice as it would have been to play “Free Agent Frenzy” July 5th with the rest of the crazies I’m happy we didn’t. They should change the name to “FA Anchor Day” because that’s what most of those contracts will be in about 3 years

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