Let’s be clear on something vis-a-vis Andrew Ladd: He has been a good and loyal foot soldier, but, as a hockey player, he has delivered nothing extraordinary in his five-season tour of duty with the Winnipeg Jets.
There have been no 30-goal crusades. He topped out at 62 points. There has been one fleeting whiff of playoff hockey, but zero victories.
Having said that, by all accounts Ladd is a boffo leader and, because there’s an uppercase C stitched on the left side of the Jets jersey he was still wearing when the Dallas Stars came calling at the Little Hockey House on the Prairie on Tuesday night, he’s been accomodating and professional in posturing as the players’ front man in dealings with news scavengers, many of whom can be trying and wearisome.
Away from the freeze, the Jets’ captain and his bride, Brandy, are pillars of the community, heavily involving themselves in charity works, most notably Special Olympics.
Yes, he is a good man, this Andrew Ladd. Of sturdy stock. Tall timber.
This might give many of you cause to think co-bankroll Mark Chipman and his puppet general manger, Kevin Cheveldayoff, to be rather insensitive cads, if not flat-out callous, for leaving Ladd in limbo, uncertain if he and his pregnant bride are coming, going or staying while the two deep-thinkers dither and dally over his fate in yet another National Hockey League crusade gone horribly wrong.
None of us is privy to the inner workings of the Secret Society that is the shinny division of True North Sports & Entertainment, of course, but I tend to subscribe to the notion that they have been less than forthcoming with Ladd, especially when I hear him say he’s been feeling a “weird vibe,” in recent days.
“I haven’t really sat down and had a strong conversation with Kevin,” he told reporters on Tuesday.
Does Cheveldayoff have strong conversations with anyone? Other than Chipman, that is? We know Saint Mark has a heavy, if not final, say in matters of high priority, because he went on national TV and told us as much. So what has he told his GM to do with Ladd? More to the point, why hasn’t Chipman or his emisarry taken the captain aside and let him know the lay of the land? Seems to me that would be a professional courtesy.
I mean, Steven Stamkos knows where he stands in Tampa heading toward the NHL trade deadline on Monday. Ditto P.K. Subban in Montreal.
It could be, mind you, that Chipman and Cheveldayoff didn’t have a clue what to do with Ladd. It could be they still don’t. But leaving him to twist in the wind as D Day approaches is not a favorable optic and does nothing other than rub more of the squeaky clean off True North.
Quite frankly, there’s only one reason why this entire scenario isn’t messy: Ladd hasn’t allowed it to become messy.
He could have taken the low road by now and moaned and groaned and whinged about lack of respect, lack of loyalty and breach of trust. But no. He understands the gig. He gets the business side of hockey. He knows he’s a moveable asset, one who’s about to become an untethered free agent and whose sticker price apparently doesn’t fit into the Jets financial scheme. He’s convinced that there remains a healthy market for 30-year-old left wingers and surely there’s an NHL outfit willing to happily pay the freight on his final, hefty contract. So, he’s saying all the right things.
But his body language tells you he’s bloody disappointed. And, yes, sad.
All of this is not to say Ladd is without responsibility in this soap opera playing itself out to what might yet become a bitter end. It’s been reported, after all, that he turned his nose up at a six-year, $6-million overture from the Jets and, if true, tsk-tsk.
Still, this has not been True North’s finest hour. You might say it’s been their shoddiest hour.
I mean, it’s hard to believe Chipman and Cheveldayoff have yet to receive a suitable offer in barter for their captain, so why prolong the agony?
There’s no shame in the Jets dealing Ladd. They’ll miss the playoffs with him, they can miss them without him. Just do it already.
Patti Dawn Swansson has been writing about Winnipeg sports for 45 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 in 2015.