When is the future?
Like asking what size of shoes will fit the toddler’s feet at age 16, it is a most difficult question to answer, grasshopper. We won’t know until we’re there. But how do we recognize when we have arrived there? Since the future only exists in the now, we might be there already.
That would be most unfortunate if you’re a member of Jets Nation.
It has been three-plus years since the Atlanta caravan rolled into River City and began to morph into the Winnipeg Jets. In that span of time, considerable discussion about the National Hockey League franchise has focused on the future. But, again, when is the future?
There has been much talk about a five-year plan. Well, that is the Easter Bunny. It is the Tooth Fairy. It is the Sidney Crosby arrest in Ottawa. The five-year plan does not exist.
At least it does not exist in the minds of Mark Chipman and Kevin (The Possum) Cheveldayoff. To my knowledge, there is no recorded entry of either the club’s co-bankroll or its general manager citing a manifesto that states the future arrives in five, 10 or 20 years. It would, after all, be folly of Kevin the Possum to start his own clock.
Time is a concept. It, like the mythical five-year plan, does not exist for the Jets. There is no beginning and there is no end.
“We will have success,” Chipman assured Paul Friesen of the Winnipeg Sun last year. “I’m convinced of that. I wish I could give you a date and a definition of what that is exactly…”
But he cannot. Nor can Kevin the Possum. The Jets are not, however, without a plan.
“Our plan is very simple,” says Chipman. “It is about re-investment in our organization from top to bottom, from facilities to player personnel to key management.”
This, no doubt, explains the re-upping of Chris Thorburn for an additional three seasons of grunt work without productivity. It is a re-investment. As is the endorsement given the skill-challenged goaltender, Ondrej Pavelec, who has arrived for Camp PoMo with a leaner frame but also with much excess fat to trim from numbers that declare him to be the poorest and most-porous No. 1 keeper in the NHL.
This re-investment plan is a curious bit of business. I mean, re-investing in people who never fail to fail does not breed confidence in arriving at the future, whenever that is. It leans more toward folly, if not flat-out insanity. Much as Alan Watts described Buddhism as the religion of no-religion, re-investment is the plan of no-plan.
In reality, though, the Jets are not about re-investment. That’s simply a business catch-phrase Chipman tossed out. They are about hope. Hope is the true plan.
Chipman is crossing his fingers that he has the right person at the wheel in Cheveldayoff, who, in turn, is crossing his fingers that he has the right scouts in place, and the bird dogs, in turn, are crossing their fingers that the youngsters they advised Kevin the Possum to select at the entry draft develop into quality NHL performers.
So, bit parts like Thorburn and a second-string goaltender dressed up as a No. 1 are re-upped or endorsed as a bridge to happier days.
Alas, the Jets concluded business last spring as the bottom-dwelling outfit in the Central precinct of the NHL, and Kevin the Possum did nothing during the off-season to encourage optimism in a more favorable ending to the fresh campaign that shall be upon us in less than 30 days. The likelihood, therefore, is that the future will be put on hold. For a fourth straight year. Do I hear a fifth? And a sixth?
Chipman told Friesen that playoff participation is “100 per cent our expectation.”
That being the case, it’s time that time became a reality rather than a concept for the Jets. If the future is defined as shinny at the Little Hockey House on the Prairie in April-June, then Chipman must start Cheveldayoff’s clock.
When is the future? Jets Nation deserves to know.
Patti Dawn Swansson has been writing about Winnipeg sports for more than 40 years, longer than any living being. Do not, however, assume that to mean she harbors a wealth of sports knowledge or that she’s a jock journalist of award-winning loft. It simply means she is old, comfortable at a keyboard (although arthritic fingers sometimes make typing a bit of a chore) and she doesn’t know when to quit.
She is most proud of her Q Award, presented to her in 2012 for her scribblings about the LGBT community in Victoria, B.C.