Winnipeg Jets never had a five-year plan…smoking weed…rewarding failure…and a lame-duck coach

I cannot survive in a 140-character world, so here are more tweets that grew up to be too big for Twitter…

When, oh when, will people stop prattling on about the Winnipeg Jets’ five-year plan?

The latest to trot out this mouthful of mystical misinformation is Winnipeg Free Press sports columnist Paul Wiecek, who writes: “What was originally a five-year plan now looks more like a 10-year plan…”

fish wrapI challenge Wiecek, or anyone for that matter, to produce a documented sound bite from either Jets co-bankroll Mark Chipman or his right-hand man, general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff, that confirms they had a self-imposed mandate of five years to develop a roster that would qualify for the Stanley Cup derby on an annual basis.

Sorry, but said sound bite does not exist. It is as fictional as Peter Pan, Harry Potter and Ondrej Pavelec’s Vezina Trophy-winning season (bet you never thought you’d see the names Ondrej Pavelec and Vezina Trophy in the same sentence).

Here’s what Chipman told Paul Friesen of the Winnipeg Sun in September 2013, scant seconds after he had bestowed a two-year contract extension on his GM, one year for each of Chevy’s first two failed seasons as steward of the National Hockey League club:

We will have success. I’m convinced of that. I wish I could give you a date and a definition of what that is exactly, but we’re moving in the right direction.”

That was then. This is what he told Tim Campbell of the Freep on Friday:

I believe the path we’re on is the correct one. It’s difficult but I’m more than happy to be patient.”

So there. Don’t hold your breath, because Chipman isn’t.

As for Cheveldayoff, the best anyone has gotten out of him is, “We have a plan. It’s a process. We’re on the right path.”

So here’s the Jets’ plan in its simplest form: They will draft and develop, all the while hoping they draft and develop better than 29 other NHL outfits. They will arrive as a bonifide contender when they arrive, not a moment sooner.

It would, of course, be folly for Cheveldayoff to start his own clock, because he would be setting himself up for failure. That aside, though, this ongoing belief that there was a five-year plan is nothing but pink ponies and flying pigs, and a quality jock journalist like Wiecek ought to know better than to perpetuate the myth.

A fixation for Chris Thorburn.
A fixation for Chris Thorburn.

I suppose some found the chin-wag between the Official Paper of the Winnipeg Jets and Chipman interesting, but I thought it to be an exercise in blah, blah, blah and yadda, yadda, yadda. That’s because Tim Campbell of the Freep was playing lob ball instead of hard ball. Why he didn’t ask His Holy Hockeyness to articulate the depth of his involvement in roster decisions (trades, contract negotiations, team captaincy, etc.) is as much a mystery as Paul Maurice’s fixation for Chris Thorburn. Campbell didn’t have to go all Mike Wallace on Chipman, because they were, after all, talking hockey not ISIS, but it isn’t a provocative question. It’s a fair question. So ask it already.

I’ll say this for Paul Wiecek: He doesn’t shy from adopting an unpopular posture. It’s one of the reasons he’s among my favorite sports scribes. But to submit that Kyle Walters and Mike O’Shea warrant rewards as GM and head coach, respectively, of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers is, shall I say, ballsy in the extreme. As a tandem, they are 12-24 over two Canadian Football League seasons. It is a results-driven business, the sole measuring stick being wins-losses. You win, you stay. You lose, you get a new postal code. Yet here’s Wiecek on the not-so-dynamic duo: “The Bombers should also extend the contracts of general manager Kyle Walters and head coach Mike O’Shea—and they should do it before the new season begins. (You read that right: a duo who missed the playoffs in their first two seasons should get contract extensions before we even get to see what they’ve put together for 2016. Yes, marijuana is basically legal at this point. No, I’m not smoking it by the bale.)” He might not be smoking weed by the bale, but Wiecek’s advocating that the Bombers reward colossal failure suggests he is, at the very least, sprinkling something more mind adjusting than sugar on his Corn Flakes.

Cal Murphy
Cal Murphy

In supporting his argument, Wiecek directs our attention to “long-term academic studies of college football, the NHL, and Italian soccer” that conclude switching coaches “does not measurably improve a team’s performance, it frequently makes it worse.” Really? Well, let’s see:

  • In 1957, the Bombers changed coaches (Bud Grant) and went to the Grey Cup game that year, then won the CFL title four of the next five seasons.
  • In 1983, the Bombers changed coaches (Cal Murphy) and won the Grey Cup in ’84.
  • In 1987, the Bombers changed coaches (Mike Riley) and won the Grey Cup in ’88 and ’90.
  • In 2007, the Saskatchewan Roughriders changed coaches (Kent Austin) and won the Grey Cup.
  • In 2008, the Calgary Stampeders changed coaches (John Hufnagel) and won the Grey Cup.
  • In 2008, the Montreal Alouettes changed coaches (Marc Trestman) and went to the Grey Cup game, then won the title in ’09 and ’10.
  • In 2012, the Toronto Argonauts changed coaches (Scott Milanovich) and won the Grey Cup.
  • In 2012, the Roughriders changed coaches (Corey Chamblin) and won the Grey Cup in 2013.
  • In 2013, the Hamilton Tiger-Cats changed coaches (Kent Austin) and advanced to the Grey Cup game that season and the next two.
  • In 2014, the Edmonton Eskimos changed coaches (Chris Jones) and reached the West Division final that year, then won the Grey Cup in 2015.

What does it all mean? Constantly changing coaches isn’t the reason the Bombers haven’t held a Grey Cup parade since 1990. It’s due to the fact they’re constantly hiring the wrong person.

Ted Wyman of the Winnipeg Sun did the chin-wag thing with Kyle Walters, who, among other things, said: “I believe in Mike (O’Shea) wholeheartedly.” Apparently, wholeheartedly means letting O’Shea walk into the 2016 CFL season as a lame-duck coach.

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 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.


8 thoughts on “Winnipeg Jets never had a five-year plan…smoking weed…rewarding failure…and a lame-duck coach”

  1. In Campbell’s defense, his employer is not a newspaper, but a propaganda-making machine and a left-wing political activist group. There’s no way they would have printed anything remotely critical of Chipman, nor would Chipman have answered truthfully even if Campbell had the balls and/or permission to ask the tough questions a good journalist should.

    What I found most humorous were the comments after that article. How someone who is well on his way to making Don Waddell look like the second coming of Sam Pollock can still be hailed as a hero after five years of utter neglect is beyond me. To coin a phrase, you get the owner you deserve.


  2. Lol, we think alike on many subjects. I guess we both just demand accountability/results and hate excuses based on thin air.

    I made comments about the Jets after your last article and I won’t repeat them. The only thing I’d add to your excellent opinion piece is that this wasn’t an expansion franchise five years ago. It didn’t start from ground zero, i.e. building its roster from players unprotected by other teams. So a grace period of 5 years is more than enough time to know whether you have the right architect (GM) to build a winning franchise. As you say, softball questions from Tim Campbell didn’t do justice to the topic (i.e. why the lack of success).

    As for the suggestion that the Blue Bombers’ GM and Head Coach be extended beyond 2016, wow that’s a strange one. The Walters-O’Shea regime started out 5-1 and since that time they have gone 7-23. Mr. Wiecek wants an extension for a duo that has won 7 of the last 30 games? That’s almost absurd. Please don’t tell me Paul W. has gone over to the dark side (i.e. a team cheerleader) and his logic and unbiased opinions are a thing of the past. It sure seems so based on your article.


      1. I read the Wiecek column and frankly my respect for his knowledge has seriously gone down. He thinks the Bombers made “huge” gains through free agency this past off-season. Andrew Harris turns 29 next week. If you ask ANY knowledgeable football executive they will tell you that the prime age for running backs is 23-27 years (as Wally Buono knows). They are nearing the end of their careers at 29 because they have lost that step or two in speed that made them elusive. Weston Dressler turns 31 this summer. If you ask ANY football executive, they’ll tell you that 31-year-old receivers are well past their prime (as Chris Jones knows). Again it’s that lost step or two that doesn’t allow them to separate from younger, faster defensive backs. Any knowledgeable football person knows this. The Bombers will get some production from Harris and Dressler simply based on pedigree. But their best years are behind them and they were far from “huge” signings. IMO, they were ill-advised ones in terms of building a future.

        He also says that Willy’s injury cost the team a possible chance at hosting the Conference final. The Bombers were 3-3 when Willy went out for the season. How does that correlate to hosting the Conference final? I always thought Mr. Wiecek ‘got it’ when it came to exaggeration and reality. Based on this article I’m questioning that. I could see the article being written if the Bombers got off to a decent start (e.g. 5-4 at the mid-season mark). But suggesting that the team lock itself into a financial extension right now with two guys who have a 7-23 record in their last 30 games? Oh well, at least one good critical thinker/writer (Paul Friesen) remains. Sorry for the long-winded comment. Thanks for referencing the article.


      2. As I said, the Wiecek column really, really surprised me. It read as if he was trying to earn major brownie points with the Bombers’ braintrust. I’ve long enjoyed his work, but this column made no sense. Whatever was behind his madness in writing it surely has me baffled. And I agree with you about Paul Friesen.


      3. I guess Wiesek knew what he was talking about after all. O’Shea, Walters and Miller have built a dynasty. Enjoy your crow.


      4. Ya, and a year after that column, Wiecek was calling for O’Shea’s head and blaming him for, among other things, poor attendance because he was so disliked by the masses.
        So don’t talk to me about crow. I’ll have a helping of crow after Wiecek has had his fill, thank you.


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