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.
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.
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 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.