The River City Renegade


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Paul Maurice: Does the Winnipeg Jets coach enjoy his parry-and-thrust with the media?

A little bit of this, a little bit of that and a whole lot of opinion in a weekend wrap…

I’m not quite sure what to make of Paul Maurice vis-a-vis news scavengers.

I watch him work the Fourth Estate during his press gatherings and he is serious, sometimes sharp, snappy and abrupt. Coach PoMo often answers a question before it has been completely framed, which is to say he interrupts, hinting at a pinch of impatience. It seems to be his way of saying, “I’ve got things to do, let’s get to the point.” I sometimes see a smug man, with gusts approaching snarky.

Even on those occasions when he slips into light-hearted mode and kibitzes with his interrogators, his jabs at jocularity seem tempered.

At the same time, this Winnipeg Jets head coach is obliging, thoughtful, articulate, respectful and he’s media savvy, in a much different way than his predecessor, the joy-seeking Claude Noel, who was forever feeding scribes and talking heads with bons mots that made for brilliant, knee-slapping sound bites but offered little substance.

I really can’t determine if Maurice enjoys this part of his job or if he’d rather be elsewhere. My guess would be it’s the latter, but he surely understands that it is part of his job and he is better at it than most National Hockey League bench bosses.

HITHER & YAWN: I have added a new item to my Bucket List—appearing on TSN’s Off the Record with Michael Landsberg. I figure it’s the Canadian sports TV equivalent to being on the cover of Rolling Stone magazine. It’d be a cool gig, especially the Next Question segment……So, how do you spell desperate? Evander Kane spells it: B-u-f-f-a-l-o. I say that because Kane is “very excited” about shuffling off to Buffalo, which tells us how desperate he was to get out of River City. I mean, if you’ve ever been to the upstate New York burg (I have), you know that it isn’t Shangri-la. But good luck to Kane and the Buffalo McDavids next hockey season…If the Winnipeg Blue Bombers make big noise in Canadian Football League free agency and no one hears it because the Winnipeg Jets trade Evander Kane a day later, did it really happen? I mean, poor Kyle Walters. The Bombers general manager went about the task of upgrading his last-place product by signing five bodies, and it was greeted with a yawn…We all know there are many differences between the CFL and National Football League. Here’s the latest: The NFL stages its neutral-site games in London in the U.K. The CFL goes to Fort McMurray, Alta., where a team from Toronto is the home side and a team from Alberta is the visitor…Has Kirk Penton of the Winnipeg Sun become the best football beat writer in Canada? If it isn’t Penton, it’s either Paul Wiecek of the Winnipeg Free Press or Herb Zurkowsky of the Montreal Gazette.

fish wrapTHE WRITE STUFF: Very disappointed to see a scribe from the Republic of Tranna, Mike Koreen, in Moose Jaw to cover the Scotties Tournament of Hearts for Sun Media. Nothing against Koreen as a scribe, but readers of the Winnipeg Sun would be much better served if one of their own was on site. To date, we’ve read about Richard Hart coaching Team Canada (Rachel Homan from Ottawa), a piece on Kerry Galusha and Tracy Horgan discussing the new pre-qualifying portion of the Canadian women’s curling championship, and a feature on Lori Olson-Johns of Val Sweeting’s Alberta foursome. The only item on Jennifer Jones and her Buffalo Girls was a pre-event advancer for their Monday night skirmish with defending champ Homan. The Winnipeg Free Press, meanwhile, has staffer Melissa Martin in Moose Jaw to deliver daily dispatches about Jones and Co. Score one for the Freep…The most complete coverage of the Scotties can be found in the Heart Chart, the daily sheet produced in Moose Jaw by former Winnipeg Sun sports editor and longtime curling journalist Dave Komosky. He has ex-Saskatoon Star Phoenix sports scribe Cam Hutchinson riding shotgun, and the two of them are putting out a boffo product…So, Doug Brown scribbles a column for the Winnipeg Free Press about the horrors of pro sports dressing rooms. Good idea. Except the former Blue Bombers defensive lineman provides zero anecdotal evidence from his 20 years in football to support the notion that they can be raunchy, nasty, bad-news bunkers that foster bullying. Thus, he didn’t tell us anything we didn’t already know. He used a lot of really big words, though, which often seems to be the purpose of the exercise…This penetrating analysis from Gary (La La) Lawless of the Freep on the Jets post-season push: “The key for the Jets as they hope to secure a playoff berth for the first time since returning to Winnipeg will be to collect points on as many nights as possible over the remaining 24 games.” Well, duh. What was your first clue, Sherlock?

bow wow bungalowBOW WOW BUNGALOW: Little Stevie Blunder Simmons of the Toronto Sun has stepped in it again (he never fails to fail). This was his take on the Jets large trade featuring Evander Kane and Zach Bogosian going to the Buffalo McDavids…

“I seem to be in the minority on this, but I don’t think the Winnipeg Jets won the Evander Kane trade handily. I break it down this way: Tyler Myers for Zack (sic) Bogosian is one developing defenceman for another. Slight edge to Winnipeg. Now Buffalo gets Kane, a proven commodity with mounds of baggage in exchange for a late first-round pick, Claude Lemieux’s son and a minor leaguer. They may get something for Kane or they may end up with nothing. Late first-round picks are no sure thing. Buffalo gets a sure-thing NHL player in Kane to play alongside whichever centre they draft first in June.”

So, let’s see: He spelled Zach Bogosian’s first name incorrectly. He didn’t bother to identify Claude Lemieux’s son as Brendan Lemieux and, worst of all, he ignored the fact that the Jets also received Drew Stafford in barter from Buffalo. That would be the same Drew Stafford who’s already paid dividends, scoring one goal in regulation time and the shootout winner in the Jets 5-4 verdict over the Red Wings in Detroit on Saturday night.

Enjoy your stay in the Bow Wow Bungalow, Stevie.

rooftop riting biz card back sidePatti 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 and comfortable at a keyboard (although arthritic fingers sometimes make typing a bit of a chore) and she apparently doesn’t know when to quit. Or she can’t 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., and her induction into the Manitoba Sportswriters & Sportscasters Association Media Roll of Honour.

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Kevin Cheveldayoff: Winnipeg Jets GM proves he has a pulse

Kevin Cheveldayoff had to go and spoil all my fun.

Can’t call him The Possum anymore. Can’t call him GM Groundhog anymore. Can’t call him the Wizard of the Waiver Wire anymore. Can’t call him Mr. Dithers anymore. Can’t say his modus operandi is management by paralysis anymore.

Nope.

The much-maligned man who has spent the better part of four years giving little indication that he has a pulse stirred from his catotonic state on Wednesday. Made a trade, he did. Not just any trade. This give-and-take rumbled to the very core of the National Hockey League orb, registering 8.0 on the Richter scale. Seven people and a draft pick. It was the trading version of binge drinking. By a teatotaler general manager.

What, then, are we to make of this Winnipeg Jets GM now that he has broken his maiden by actually shipping out and receiving players with NHL bona fides?

Like so many others, I had taken a rather damning view of Cheveldayoff’s stewardship of the Winnipeg hockey club since the Atlanta caravan rolled into River City in 2011 and morphed into the Jets. He tinkered with the waiver wire, he collected prospects like a squirrel collects nuts in autumn, he…well, that’s about all he did. Oh, wait. He also hired a head coach he should not have hired, then eventually fired Claude Noel about a year after he should have fired him.

All the while, he has preached—and asked Jets Nation to practise—the patience of Job. Yes, he is a man with a slow hand, our Chevy.

Then along comes Whopper Wednesday. Boom! Gone are Evander Kane, Zach Bogosian and somebody named Jason Kasdorf. Incoming from the Buffalo McDavids are Tyler Myers, Drew Stafford, Joel Armia, Brendan Lemieux and a first-round pick in this June’s NHL garage sale of 18-year-old shinny studs.

The GM Formerly Known as The Possum does subtle like Phil Kessel backchecks. Who knew?

Naturally, the suggestion has been made that Cheveldayoff’s hand was forced. That his dithering on all things Evander Kane (no need to rehash all the gory details) placed him in a position whereby he had no option but to peddle the enigmatic, combustible winger to the first sucker who came along.

While true, that might win the point but loses the argument.

Something had to be done about Kane, who went AWOL slightly more than a week ago and went on the shelf for the season slightly less than a week ago. Cheveldayoff could have put the procedure on hold until the NHL entry draft. More bidders that way. Better bites. Instead, he pulled the trigger on his first NHL player-for-NHL player transaction.

This was not a knee-jerk reaction,” he advised news scavengers scant seconds after the exchange of bodies had become a done deal.

Well, yes and no.

It wasn’t coincidence that Kane was moved out on the heels of his most-recent misadventure, whereby he either quit on his teammates or his teammates drove him out. If Cheveldayoff’s knee didn’t jerk, something sure did. Having said that, I’m certain that the GM also recognized that his front lines had become thinner than a sports scribe’s skin and there was a very real danger of frittering away the margin they’d built on playoff wannabes from Minnesota, Dallas and Colorado.

In other words, Cheveldayoff has sent a very clear and unmistakable message that he is operating in the now. Finally. Yes, there are components to this trade that speak to the future, but this was also about shinny being played at the Little Hockey House on the Prairie in the springtime. This spring. Not just two, five or 10 springs hence.

So, as much as I’ve used the Jets GM as a punching bag, there are no punch lines today. He gets a thumbs up. Make that two thumbs up.

And what happens if Kane goes on to score 50 goals a season for the Buffalo McDavids? Nothing. He wasn’t going to do it in Winnipeg. Ever.

rooftop riting biz card back sidePatti 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 and comfortable at a keyboard (although arthritic fingers sometimes make typing a bit of a chore) and she apparently doesn’t know when to quit. Or she can’t 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., and her induction into the Manitoba Sportswriters & Sportscasters Association Media Roll of Honour.


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Winnipeg Jets: It’s not who you give up in a trade, it’s who you receive in return

A little bit of this, a little bit of that and a whole lot of opinion in a weekend wrap…

Okay, as Howie (Squeaker) Meeker was wont to say, “Hold it! Stop it right there!”

All you people who keep pointing to Tyler Seguin as the poster boy for trades gone bad, you’re either forgetting or ignoring one very significant factor. To wit: The Boston Bruins, who had their fill of the youthful-but-seemingly troubled Seguin, are in a playoff position, tenuous as it might be. The Dallas Stars, with whom Seguin has blossomed into an elite scorer, are not.

Thus, the fact that Seguin is joint leader of the National Hockey League scoring derby heading into Tuesday night’s matches does not support the notion that the Bruins erred horribly when they sent him packing to the Lone Star State, lock, stock and bad attitude.

Let’s ignore what might have been, because there is no way of measuring where Seguin would be today had the Bruins exercised greater patience and allowed their maturity-challenged forward to clean up his act. (I think, however, it’s reasonable to suggest he would not be atop the NHL scoring tables were he still with the Bs.) Based purely on the numbers, two of the players Boston accepted in barter for Seguin—Louie Eriksson and Reilly Smith—have matched his points output. Seguin is 29-30-59, Eriksson and Smith are a combined 22-36-58.

Meanwhile, the likelihood is that Eriksson and Smith will still be playing hockey after April 11, which marks the close of the NHL’s regular season business. Barring a remarkable surge in fortunes, Seguin and the Stars will be golfing or fishing. So you tell me who wins the trade.

Which brings me to Evander Kane and the Winnipeg Jets.

Because Kevin Cheveldayoff, aka GM Groundhog, has never arranged an NHL player-for-NHL player transaction, there is a fear that a) he will be fleeced and b) Kane will move on and, like Seguin, develop into an elite scorer.

Sorry, but no risk, no reward.

Most likely, Kane will be the largest talent in any deal Cheveldayoff concocts. That doesn’t mean he loses the trade. It isn’t so much what you surrender as what you receive in return. If, in barter, he acquires bodies that enhance the Jets and positions them as a perennial playoff participant, what does it matter how Kane performs in Buffalo or Pittsburgh or New Jersey of Vancouver? He isn’t doing it here. Period.

Let’s put it another way: The mistake wasn’t the original Jets dealing away a 24-year-old David Babych. The blunder (arguably the biggest is Jets 1.0 history) was accepting Ray Neufeld in the exchange.

The same lesson is to be learned from the Tyler Seguin saga. It isn’t so much about giving up on a young talent too soon, it’s about the return. It’s about the end game. It tells me that it’s okay to unload Evander Kane, who’ll be 24 the next time he pulls on an NHL jersey. Just don’t give him away for a song.

I’m not convinced GM Groundhog is the right man for that job, but if I can figure it out I’m sure he can, too.

TELLY TALK: My, my my. That was an epic rant Don Cherry unloaded from his Bully Pulpit on Curmudgeon’s Corner this past weekend. We heard all about “savages” and “barbarians” like Ron MacLean who eat seal meat, hockey goons who got a raw deal and should still be working in the NHL, and Evander Kane is a “jerk” who ought to be “ashamed” of himself. I’d hate to think what the Lord of Loud would say if he discovered that Kane had a baby seal burger for lunch…Caught a bit of the press conference for the Gordie Howe gathering in Saskatoon on Sportsnet. It included Wayne Gretzky, two of the Howe boys, Mark and Marty, and Brett and Bobby Hull. I’m sorry, but whenever I see Bobby Hull now I think spousal abuse…What a shame that Mathieu Perreault of the Winnipeg Jets shaved his facial foliage. That was a killer beard. The good news is they found Jimmy Hoffa when they cut the thing off…Would it be too much to ask of Hockey Night in Canada host George Stromboloupouloupoloupolous to wear a sports jacket that actually fits? The thing he squeezed himself into Saturday night would have looked tight on a chihuahua or something of a similarly small stature. Like Johnny Gaudreau…The gab guys on TSN’s The Reporters with Dave Hodge gave the Jets some talk time this past Sabbath morning. Bruce Arthur of the Toronto Star advised us “this is the year the Winnipeg Jets got interesting.” Actually, Bruce, there are those of us living in the colonies who’ve found the Jets interesting ever since they arrived in Winnipeg. Arthur also advised us that Evander Kane is “a 25-to-30 goal scorer.” He said it twice. Fact is, Kane is nothing of the sort. He has scored plus-20 goals exactly once in half a dozen NHL seasons…The sartorially challenged P.J. Stock wore a track suit instead of his off-the-Wallmart-rack business suit for his Stock Exchange gig on HNIC. It was a dig at the Jets and Kane. It think it was supposed to be funny. It wasn’t.

LAST CALL: This from Little Stevie Blunder Simmons of the Toronto Sun/Sun Media on The Reporters, speaking about the Winnipeg Jets and Evander Kane:

“This has been a dressing room or a team without leadership for the past couple of years, inside that room. There’s a leadership issue inside that room.”

One question: You know this how, Toronto Boy? Please enlighten us. If this information comes from your many visits to Winnipeg and the Jets’ boudoir, tell us. If it comes from reliable informants in the Jets’ boudoir, tell us. If not, stick to skewering the Maple Leafs.

rooftop riting biz card back sidePatti 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 and comfortable at a keyboard (although arthritic fingers sometimes make typing a bit of a chore) and she apparently doesn’t know when to quit. Or she can’t 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., and her induction into the Manitoba Sportswriters & Sportscasters Association Media Roll of Honour.


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SATIRE: It all comes out in the wash for Evander Kane and the Winnipeg Jets

The Winnipeg Jets stopped squabbling long enough to actually play a hockey game on Friday night.

They did so, of course, without Evander Kane, who was an unhealthy scratch due to a pair of serious upper body injuries—a left shoulder owie and a sagging lower lip.

Medical doctors will repair the mercurial left winger’s wounded wing Saturday and he should be good to resume ignoring the team dress code, and other rules, in four-to-six months. The lower lip surgery is not so simple. It’s a trickier bit of business because removing a perpetual pout will take anywhere from 48 hours to 4 1/2 months, and the man who will perform the procedure, Kevin Cheveldayoff, is MIA. No one is quite certain where the Jets groundhog of a general manager is hiding these days.

Still, there is confidence of an early resolution in the Kane camp.

“We have every reason to believe that Evander will be smiling again in the very near future,” said his mouthpiece, Craig Oster. “Once we can find Chevy and he grants Evander his longstanding wish of being a former Jet, he’ll put on his best track suit, pay his outstanding parking tickets and nightclub tabs and he’ll be out of Dodge permanently. A one-way ticket out of Winnipeg…that’d make any young hockey player with an attitude smile, wouldn’t you say?”

As for Kane’s rehab from season-ending shoulder surgery, Oster was equally optimistic.

10817829_655504567900350_1473918961_n“It’ll be a long, hard road back,” he said, “but Evander’s a young stud. Why, I’ll bet he’s in Vegas doing pushups with money bricks on his back within a week of his surgery. He’ll have to start slowly, though. Maybe use half a dozen stacks of 20-dollar bills at first. Then gradually work his way up to a dozen stacks of 100-dollar bills. We might start him off with Canadian currency, too, because it’s not as heavy as the U.S. greenback these days.

“Whatever way we choose to go, you can be sure Evander will keep all his fans and friends in the Winnipeg media up to date with regular Instagram photos from the Vegas strip.”

The apparent end of the Evander Kane era was met with subdued reaction in the Winnipeg players’ boudoir.

“I don’t know what to tell you guys,” said Dustin Byfuglien, who seldom knows what to tell the guys and girls in the media. “Evander’s always been a bit of an outsider on the inside. But me and the boys are a tight-knit group and did everything to make him feel part of the team. Me and the boys even did his laundry for him earlier this week in Vancouver. Can you imagine that? A bunch of grown men washing another grown man’s clothes! I think that says a lot about me and the boys.

“But how does he react? He has a hissy fit. Quits the team. I don’t know, I guess he was mad ’cause he didn’t have nothin’ to wear back to the hotel. What did he expect me and the boys to do, though? Put his track suit in the dryer, too? Me and the boys aren’t gonna wash AND dry his clothes. What kind of message would that be sending? A guy’s gotta do some things for himself.”

Paul Maurice, head coach of the National Hockey League club and fiercely protective of the goings-on in the Jets inner-sanctum, seemed concerned not so much that Kane was lost for the season but, rather, that word of his players’ frat-boy version of a panty raid leaked out.

“You want me to make you cry?” he said, addressing news scavengers. “Come into that dressing room. I’ll make you freaking cry. You’ll cry like a baby. Just like Evander did after Buff and the boys did his laundry. I know you guys have a job to do, and I appreciate the job you do, but you have no business knowing what you know. I control the message…or at least Chevy does. But we can’t find him, so I control the message and my message to you is that I know you don’t know what you think you know. Let me put it to you in terms you can understand: Buff can toss Evander’s track suit in a tub of ice-cold water, but we will not wash our dirty laundry in public. So it’s all speculation. I’d rather talk about the game.”

Oh, that’s right…the game. That’s where we came in. The Jets played the Chicago Blackhawks on Friday night at the Little Hockey House on the Prairie. They lost, 2-1 in overtime. That’s six losses in a row. The beat goes on.

rooftop riting biz card back sidePatti 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 and comfortable at a keyboard (although arthritic fingers sometimes make typing a bit of a chore) and she apparently doesn’t know when to quit. Or she can’t 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., and her induction into the Manitoba Sportswriters & Sportscasters Association Media Roll of Honour.


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Winnipeg Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff: Come out, come out wherever you are!

So, this is what happens when you attempt to control the message by saying nothing.

That’s what the Winnipeg Jets have been doing since Evander Kane arrived for a team meeting (allegedly) adorned in a track suit, which Dustin Byfuglien (allegedly) hurled into a tub of ice-cold water (or the shower) in a classic display of message-sending, which led to head coach Paul Maurice (allegedly) making Kane a healthy scratch, unless it’s true that Kane (allegedly) quit on his team by (allegedly) refusing to play because Byfuglien (allegedly) hurled his track suit into a tub of ice-cold water (or the shower).

Except for the cryptic comments of coach PoMo, Jets officialdom has remained mum on the matter of Byfuglien (allegedly) delivering the peer, dressing-room discipline that resulted in the mercurial left winger (allegedly) withdrawing his services Tuesday night in Vancouver.

In this case, silence equals all hell breaks loose.

I’m not sure what the Jets would have, could have, should have said about the frat boy behaviour that (allegedly) transpired in the team boudoir during their recent visit to Van City for a joust vs. the Canucks, but even one of the daily lies all teams tell would have been better than saying squat.

The Jets are not unlike any other National Hockey League outfit. They don’t want the media controlling the message. The thing is, when you say nothing about one of your most-significant workers being told to take the night off because he has (allegedly) breached club dress protocol, news scavengers have no choice but to dig, dig, dig. And we all know what they’ll discover under all that dirt, don’t we. That’s right—more dirt.

I find it curious that we have yet to hear from the phantom who generally manages the Jets. Groundhog day has come and gone, but Kevin Cheveldayoff has yet to pop his head out of whatever hole he’s hiding in while his club implodes.

Perhaps this Phantom of the Soap Opera doesn’t feel that the rabble in Jets Nation have the right to know if it’s true that the club’s highest-salaried worker (allegedly) quit on his teammates. If it is true, what does he plan to do about it? Trade Kane? Suspend Kane? It’s one thing to put him on injured reserve, but what course of action does the GM take once Kane is in fine fettle?

Inquiring minds, and the people who pay those handsome salaries, would like to know. So what say you, GM Groundhog?

I have not been a strong advocate of a Kane trade, but I also believe that once Wayne Gretzky was dispatched all those many years ago, all bets are off. No one is untouchable. I believe Kane to be a terrific talent. Troubled, yes. But terrific, nonetheless. Having said that, I’ve long held that he’s been working on borrowed time in Winnipeg, if for no other reason than the fact a large majority of top players are moved at some point. Examine the list of the NHL’s all-time point-collectors and you’ll discover that only three of the top 10—Steve Yzerman, Mario Lemieux and Joe Sakic—began and finished their careers with the same franchise. Add Stan Mikita to that list, and it’s four of the top 30.

Thus, the likelihood of Kane running the table with the Jets was remote.

An argument can be made that GM Groundhog should have moved Kane last summer, when a number of teams were (allegedly) sniffing around. Chevy would have received maximum value in barter. Making bold strokes is not how he rolls, though. Some say he has the patience of Job. The hell, he does. Cheveldayoff makes Job look like a flaming knee-jerkist.

The Jets GM has positioned himself whereby he now would be peddling damaged goods. Not because of whatever mystery owie has placed Kane in sick bay, but due to this week’s tempest and past trespasses.

Cheveldayoff could have made this mess go away long ago. He chose not to. He chooses not to do a lot of things. Like talk.

Speak up, Chevy. Tell us what you think. You’re the team GM. Allegedly.

rooftop riting biz card back sidePatti 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 and comfortable at a keyboard (although arthritic fingers sometimes make typing a bit of a chore) and she apparently doesn’t know when to quit. Or she can’t 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., and her induction into the Manitoba Sportswriters & Sportscasters Association Media Roll of Honour.


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Evander Kane’s ‘wardrobe malfunction’: What a boob!

Top o’ the morning to you, Evander Kane.

You sure know how to stir the stew, don’t you? I mean, there hasn’t been this much ado about a wardrobe malfunction since Justin Timberlake showed the world Janet Jackson’s right boob. Or was it that other Jackson girl’s boob we saw? You know, the one nobody remembers. What’s her name? LaSomethingorother Jackson?

Doesn’t matter. One of Wacko Jacko’s sisters flashed skin during the halftime show at the Super Bowl one year, and now everyone’s calling you a boob, Evander, because of your wardrobe malfunction earlier this week in Vancouver.

So now what’s the adornment du jour? Something off the rack at Moores? Maybe a Signature Suit from the Joseph Abboud Collection. Got the finest Italian fabrics, built by the finest craftsmen in the world. I think you’d look boffo—really cutting edge—in a Signature Suit.

But, hey, this isn’t game day, so I figure you’ll opt for something simple. Like sweat pants, a hoodie and a ball cap. You know, the same kit you wore to a team meeting on Tuesday, the one that got you scratched from the Winnipeg Jets lineup for a date with the Canucks. Shame, that. I mean, Van City is your old ‘hood. It’s where you do your best late-night street scuffling.

Your throw-down with a nightclub employee at 2 o’clock in the a.m. a year and a half ago is still before the courts in B.C., isn’t it, Evander? I don’t imagine that’s something you want to discuss right about now, though.

So let’s stay on topic, shall we.

It’s a shame you didn’t play on Tuesday night, Evander, what with all your friends and family in the pews at Rogers Arena. The Jets surely could have used you. You might have been the difference. Instead of a 3-2 loss in overtime, it might have been a 3-2 win in OT. You might have scored the winning goal. Who knows? Instead, you spent the night munching on popcorn in head coach Paul Maurice’s bow-wow bungalow, which isn’t exactly uncharted territory for you, is it?

Seems to me you spent a night in coach PoMo’s pooch palace last April for a breach of team conduct. Still don’t know what that was all about. You never said. Neither did Coach PoMo. All we know is you missed a Hockey Night in Canada gig because of it.

We’ve got the goods on you this time, though. Dude, it’s about the duds. If club policy dictates that players wear a suit to a meeting on game day, you wear a suit. It need not be a Joseph Abboud Signature Suit. Cripes, it could be a cheap knock-off from a liquidation sale at a Target outlet near you. If there are any of them left. You just can’t wear sweat pants, a hoodie and a ball cap, or a reasonable facsimile.

What were you thinking, man?

It could only be one of two things: 1) You weren’t thinking, or 2) you’re looking to land in another National Hockey League locale.

I don’t think it’s the former. I think you’re a clever lad, with gusts up to conniving. I think you know exactly whose chain you’re yanking and why you’re tugging on it. Lord knows, you do it to the media whenever you get bored. Which seems to be often. This isn’t you playing cat to the media’s mouse, though.

You’re a different head of lettuce, Evander. That’s why I like you. Oh, yes, I’m a fan. Big fan. Love the way you play the game, ears pinned back, nostrils aflare, both balls to the breeze. That’s why I’d hate to see you force the Jets’ hand and the team give you a new postal code. If that’s what this is all about—providing general manager Kevin (The Possum) Cheveldayoff no option but to move you—you’re being about as subtle as Winnipeg’s wind chill factor.

Personally, Evander, I’ve always found the Kane Side Show somewhat amusing, especially when you use the media for your foil. But I’m guessing that Kevin the Possum and team co-bankroll Mark Chipman don’t share that sentiment. Chipman, in particular, doesn’t need your hijinks, because he has more urgent matters on his to-do list. Like dealing with a new mayor who’s biting the hand that feeds.

So, please tell me that the timing of your latest trespass is coincidence. That your wardrobe malfunction was not a pre-emptive strike, knowing the NHL trade deadline is less than a month away.

If so, thanks for stopping by.

If not, do yourself a favor—hire a wardrobe consultant. At $6 mill per annum, you can afford it.

rooftop riting biz card back sidePatti 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 and comfortable at a keyboard (although arthritic fingers sometimes make typing a bit of a chore) and she apparently doesn’t know when to quit. Or she can’t 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., and her induction into the Manitoba Sportswriters & Sportscasters Association Media Roll of Honour.


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Winnipeg Jets: Is it bye-bye Citizen Kane?

Evander Kane reminds me of Kent Nilsson. Not on a skill level, understand. Nor aesthetically.

Nilsson was smooth, refined, elegant, full of luster. His pure talent was jaw-dropping. Gasp-inducing. Other-wordly. He was spell-binding in his brilliance. In the mood, the slick Swede was da Vinci. Michelangelo. Rembrandt. He made hockey look easy, like Brando or Streep on the big screen, or Streisand and Bocelli in concert. Mere child’s play.

Kane, on the other hand, is coarse, edgy, brusk, scratchy. His game is brash, brawn and bravado, not painting pretty pictures or singing sweet songs. If he has a soundtrack, it’s hip-hop or rap. Angry rap.

The two are as dissimilar as satin and sandpaper. Kane is the bull to Nilsson’s china shop. Yet, there exists a frustrating, sometimes infuriating, commonality.

Nilsson, you see, was a tease. He almost always left us insatiated. We were convinced (still are) that he was cheating us, if not himself. That he should have been putting up Gretzkyan numbers, not those of a mere mortal. We hungered for more, even on nights when he’d light it up. More, more, more. Give us more, Kenta, was the mantra.

It doesn’t matter that Nilsson’s points-per-game number is top-10 in National Hockey League history. Any discussion about him usually includes the words, “if only.” If only he had applied himself. If only he had the same motor as Wayne Gretzky or Mark Messier or Steve Yzerman. If only he wasn’t so soft. If only he cared more.

So now we have Kane, who seems to have the complete tool kit. He is big, raw-boned, strong and moves about the freeze lickety-split. He will shy away from no foe and willingly contests the nasty areas. Alas, he is delivering, yet again, what appears to be a sub-20-goal season for the Winnipeg Jets.

We want more. We expect more. No doubt Kane does, too, otherwise he wouldn’t have beaked off during the pre-season about lighting the lamp 50 times this winter.

To many, of course, those were the bleatings of a cocky kid who never passes a mirror without giving it a second glance. The Natural, indeed. At the same time, however, even Kane’s harshest critic would concede that, yes, it might be doable. If not 50, certainly 30 or 40 goals. Well, good luck with that.

The Jets are almost certain to have four 20-goal scorers this crusade, but, should he maintain the pace established during his NHL career, not one of them will be named Evander Kane. For the fifth time in six seasons.

Thus, we wait…and we wait…and we wait. For something that might never happen.

Contemplating the merits of Kane makes me think of the Miss Peggy Lee classic Is That All There Is?, because, really, is that all there is? His high-water mark is the 30 goals he scored in his third season, the low being 14 as an NHL freshman in 2009-10. He has never suited up for an 82-game season, due to an assortment of owies, wrong-doing both on and off the ice, and one lockout-abbreviated campaign. Through it all, Kane has averaged one goal per 3.3 assignments, or 25 per 82 games.

If only he could deliver those 25 goals in an 82-game season.

There are those words again: “If only.” They applied to Kent Nilsson and now they apply to Evander Kane.

But perhaps we should reassess how we view Kane. Lower our expectations.

That is to say, look at his 30-goal season as an anomoly. A one-off, if you will. No more talk of 40- and 50-goal campaigns. Rather than gush over all that unrealized potential and allow visions of grandeur to cloud our sightlines, perhaps it’s time to see Kane for what he is: An injury-prone, power forward capable of rag-dolling a game but one who has a penchant for losing the plot, both on and off the ice, and one who is more likely to mix in with the crowd and hopefully deliver 20-25 goals per season. Anything more is a bonus.

Is that so bad? Not if he actually does it. But he’s only done it once and isn’t doing it now.

And now he’s once again in head coach Paul Maurice’s pooch palace, a healthy scratch Tuesday night in Vancouver, where the Jets’ losing skid reached five games with a 3-2 setback against the Canucks.

Rumors abound, naturally, with speculation suggesting the benching was a punitive measure for yet another off-ice misdeed. If true, it isn’t the first such incident and will, no doubt, lead to heightened rumor and gossip about Kane’s shelf life in Winnipeg, especially with the NHL trade deadline dead ahead on March 2. Whereas the Jets’ focus should be squarely on their playoff pursuit, the three-ring circus will return to town with the spotlight placed directly on the enigmatic left winger. Do the Jets deal him, finally, or do they continue to put up with his shenanigans?

The sticker price for Kane last summer was said to include a first-round draft pick and live bodies, and we don’t know how close general manager Kevin (The Possum) Cheveldayoff came to pulling the trigger. This latest development might inspire The Possum to action and place phone calls to Edmonton or Buffalo, or perhaps Philadelphia, where the Flyers are said to have a keen interest in Kane. I’d be surprised if Cheveldayoff hasn’t already been on the phone to one or all of those outfits.

Oops. Check that. We’re dealing with The Possum, who doesn’t make NHL player-for-player trades. Silly me. Cancel those phone calls.

Sarcasm aside, dealing Kane would be a bold, risky move, but better players have been moved.

The aforementioned Nilsson, for example, was dispatched to the Minnesota North Stars by the Calgary Flames on the heels of a 99-point season. In barter, Flames GM Cliff Fletcher accepted two second-round draft choices. That’s it. No live bodies. Fletcher used the first of those two picks to pluck Joe Nieuwendyk from the player pool at the NHL entry draft and we scoffed. Kent Nilsson for some Ivy League college kid? It was a joke, right? I was writing for the Calgary Sun at the time and our main headline read: Joe Who? I referred to him as Joe Whowendyk. All he did, though, was win the Calder Trophy as the NHL’s top freshman, help the Flames win the Stanley Cup and is now in the Hockey Hall of Fame.

That’s not so say Cheveldayoff should ship Kane out for a string of beads, but somehow I believe the Jets would survive without their 10-goal scorer.

THE CITIZEN KANE FILE

                                            GP G A P
2009-10                              66 14 12 26
2010-11                              73 19 24 43
2011-12                              74 30 27 57
2012-13                              48 17 16 33
2013-14                              63 19 22 41
2014-15                              37 10 12 22