Winnipeg Jets: It’s time to do something, Chevy

Kevin Cheveldayoff did a lot of talking on both radio and TV last week and said a lot of nothing.

That’s fitting because he’s done a lot of nothing.


Jacob Trouba and Kevin Cheveldayoff

Wait.  That isn’t entirely true.  He’s spent a lot of Mark Chipman and David Thomson’s money.

Other than play the part of Daddy Bigbucks, however, the man who’s been generally managing the Winnipeg Jets for 2 1/2 years has displayed a fetish-like fondness for the waiver wire and he’s made mistakes with washed-out free agents.

Oh, I almost forgot.  He’s also been overseer of three National Hockey League drafts, where he made one first-round draft choice that’s going to work out (see Trouba, Jacob), one that we won’t know about for a few years (see Morrissey, Josh), and another that very much remains iffy (see Scheifele, Mark).

Where does that leave us?  Well, I don’t know about you but when I look at the Jets I still see the house that Don Waddell and Rick Dudley built.  The core group that arrived in Pegtown from Atlanta in 2011 included Dustin Byfuglien, Andrew Ladd, Blake Wheeler, Evander Kane, Bryan Little, Zach Bogosian, Toby Enstrom, Ondrej Pavelec and Jim Slater.  That’s still the core group.

Which is to say, this team remains a Dudley/Waddell production.

Dudley, of course, was GM of the Thrashers for their final season in Georgia, and he’s the chap who brought Byfuglien, Ladd and Wheeler on board via barter.  The drafting of the others was done mostly by Waddell.

Now, I realize that many people in River City assert that Dudley and Waddell couldn’t organize a decent stag party if you gave them an endless supply of booze, a limitless stash of poker chips and a dozen lap dancers who look like JLo.  The two former Thrashers general managers have been blamed for everything from Byfuglien’s bulk to the closure of the Wagon Wheel restaurant.

The latest broadside aimed on Waddell/Dudley comes from True North Sports & Entertainment’s best media friend, Gary Lawless of the Winnipeg Free Press.

The Jets, according to the Freep’s girthsome scribe, “are attempting to rebuild after a decade of negligence.”

Come again?  Negligence?

Yes, it was quite negligent of Waddell/Dudley to acquire Byfuglien and Ladd from the Chicago Blackhawks, pluck Wheeler from the Boston Bruins and draft Kane, Little, Bogosian, Pavelec, Enstrom and Slater.

If that’s negligence, then I’m Lady Gaga.

Look, the Waddell/Dudley core group that arrived in Pegtown in 2011 was good (Pavelec being the exception).  It still is good (Pavelec being the exception).  It was something to build on (Pavelec being the exception).  It still is (Pavelec being the exception). Trouble is, the guy who inherited that group and who’s doing the building has yet to put his stamp on this club.  After 2 1/2 years.

It’s fine to say you’re building for the future and stocking the cupboards of an organization but that doesn’t mean you have to be a bottom-feeder while doing it.  The Jets should now be a playoff-quality team.  Instead, they flounder at the back end of the Western Conference.  They’ve played 15 games this season and they’ve won a grand sum of three in regulation time.  Three regulation Ws in 15 games?  Come on, man!

Some in the media, and many of the ticket-buying faithful, portray TSNE as a goody two-shoes, blunder-free operation.  That’s a myth.  Chipman made a mistake right from the get-go: He hired Cheveldayoff rather than retain Dudley as GM.  Dudley wouldn’t have wasted the first year in Winnipeg evaluating.  He’d have spent it enhancing what he already had.  He’d still be enhancing.  By player movement, not the waiver wire.

Winnipeg Jets Head Coach Claude Noel addressing the local media

Claude Noel: His players aren’t good enough and neither is he.

The hiring of Cheveldayoff, meanwhile, begat a second misstep—the hiring of Claude Noel as head coach.

Noel talks a good game.  Listen to him and you’d swear he invented the puck, the blueline and the pre-game meal.  Trouble is, either the players aren’t listening to him or they aren’t buying what he’s selling.  And now he’s gone and hurled them under the bus.  That, at least, is the way I read his remarks on the heels of a 5-1 loss to the Chicago Blackhawks on Saturday afternoon at the Little Hockey House on the Prairie.

“It’s the team you have,” Noel shrugged.  “We have what we have, they have what they have.”

So, he’s saying his players aren’t good enough.  Well, I’ve got news for him…his players’ head coach isn’t good enough, either.

The only person positioned to chart a new course for the Jets is, of course, Cheveldayoff.  Alas, it would seem that bold managerial strokes are not part of his DNA.  It’s steady as she goes for Mr. Dithers.

But, hey, his pals in the media oblige Cheveldayoff by pointing accusing fingers at Rick Dudley and Don Waddell for sending him all those stiffs from Atlanta, so why would he step out of his comfort zone?  Why make a significant upgrade through a trade or a coaching change?  After all, it’s not his fault that Dudley and Waddell were such screw-ups, right?  So let’s all be patient because one of these days Mark Scheifele will actually start and finish a shift without falling down, right?

Wrong.  It’s time Mr. Dithers got off his duff and did something to improve his hockey club.  You know, like Rick Dudley would be doing.



  1. After watching yesterday’s game, it was very clear the Jets have a long ways to go before they can contend for the Stanley Cup. And I mean long! The longer the organization sits back and does nothing, the worse it will get. And True North better remember fans sitting in the 300 section of the MTS Centre have to renew their season tickets at the end of the season. I wonder how many will renew if the mediocrity continues without much change.

  2. Mitch Kasprick says

    I think year five when the lower bowl seats come up for renewal is going to be their decision point.

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