As another barren hockey season on the bald prairie runs its final course, you are allowed to ask when is when. You might even expect (demand?) change.
Just don’t count on it.
If nothing else, the three men at the top of the Winnipeg Jets totem pole—Puck Pontiff Mark Chipman, general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff, head coach Paul Maurice—have been rigid in their refusal to share any thoughts as to when the rabble might see a return on their emotional investment in a National Hockey League outfit that has been long on promise and patience and short on delivery.
They talk about process. About draft-and-develop. About the long haul. About patience. But, they’re always shy on specifics. They are masters of saying nothing while saying a lot.
Just to refresh you memories, here is a small sampling of True North-speak through the years (expect more of the same at year-end chin-wags with news snoops)…
- “Patience in this day and age is lost in a lot of places. We want right now. But now doesn’t always occur. There’s no magic cure. Hopefully for (fans) they’re rest assured that whenever there’s an opportunity in front of us that we feel can help us, we’re going to do it.” —Kevin Cheveldayoff, May 2013
(Yo! Chevy! The “opportunity” to make Chris Thorburn go away has been right “in front” of you for six years. If you can’t make him disappear, hire David Copperfield.)
- “Our plan is very simple. It is about re-investment in our organization from top to bottom, from facilities to player personnel to key management.” —Mark Chipman, September 2013
(Yes, by all means, Mark, reward those who never fail to fail. It’s a terrific blueprint for success—not!)
- “I’m very confident we’re on the right track.” —Mark Chipman, September 2013
(I don’t know what choo-choo you’re riding, Mark, but your train just chugged past Playoff Town for the fifth time in six years. You might want to tell the conductor to switch tracks. Oh, wait. You’re the conductor, aren’t you?)
- “Obviously (playoffs) is our expectation. It absolutely, 100 per cent is our expectation. And nobody feels more strongly about that than myself and Kevin. But we’re in this for the long haul. 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.” —Mark Chipman, September 2013
(If you can’t provide the ‘when’ of the plan, Mark, who can?)
- “Chevy and I talk pretty much daily. It would depend on the extent of the term or the quantum of the contract you’re talking about (that) would, to a certain degree, determine the level of my involvement that he would require me. The lengthier the deal or the more impactful the deal, the more I would be involved.” —Mark Chipman, December 2015
(Butt out, you buttinski.)
- “We’re a group that’s going to continue to go down the path that we set out: Drafting and developing young players around players that are part of this organization. And we’re clearly going to continue to build around Dustin (Byfuglien).” —Kevin Cheveldayoff, February 2016
(That’s just terrific, Chevy. Give a five-year contract to Big Buff, a 30-year-old, undisciplined defenceman who wheezes his way through numerous games. And let’s surround him with impressionable youth. The kids can learn the art of being serial brain-farters and how to ignore structure from him. And make sure to tell your coach that there’s one set of rules for Buff and another set of rules for everyone else.)
- “It’s our job to be right. It’s our job to take that strong belief and conviction of the direction we’re going—and Kevin has that, Mark has that and I certainly believe in the group that’s coming in and the group that’s here now, that it is the right direction. We need a strong core developed. And we have players to do that.” —Paul Maurice, March 2016
(In case you hadn’t noticed, Paul, that group you believe in missed the playoffs the past two seasons. But, hey, let’s blame it on the schedule, injuries, corrupt officiating and Donald Trump. Anything but coaching.)
- “I believe the path we’re on is the correct one. It’s difficult but I’m more than happy to be patient.” —Mark Chipman, April 2016
(Patience? That’s easy for you to say, Mark. The Little Hockey House on the Prairie is sold out 41 nights of the year, so you feel no urgency to improve the product. But try preaching patience to guys like Bryan Little, Blake Wheeler, Toby Enstrom, Byfuglien and, more important, fans who fill your downtown cash box and merchandise shops. Patience wears thin. So does disposable income.)
- “I would like to see the best players make our team. And if they’re all young guys, they’re all young guys. If that means, in the Central Division, that you’ve got to take a knock or two, I think that is the best thing for the organization.” —Paul Maurice, April 2016
(So let me see if I’ve got this straight, Paul: You’re telling us that Chris Thorburn and Mark Stuart are still among the best 24 players in this organization?)
- “We still have ample salary-cap room to do whatever needs to be done in the organization. For us, that’s by design to have that available and we’re prepared to use it. We just have to use it judiciously.” —Kevin Cheveldayoff, October 2016
(And in the ensuing six months, you’ve spent exactly $0 judiciously, Chevy.)
- “I like our coaching staff, top to bottom.” —Kevin Cheveldayoff, January 2017
(What part of this past season were you not watching, Chevy?)
- “Working with Paul Maurice, it’s a pleasure each and every day. He’s in this for the long haul. I’m in this for the long haul. The organization is in this for the long haul” —Kevin Cheveldayoff, March 2017
(Fine, but would you care to share with the rabble any clues as to how long the long haul is, Chevy? Oh, that’s right. The Puck Pontiff doesn’t know. You don’t know. Coach Potty-Mouth doesn’t know. The fans don’t know. The Jets are just one big 18-wheeler rolling down a highway with no beginning and no ending.)
Patti Dawn Swansson has been scribbling about Winnipeg sports for 46 years, which means she is old and probably should think about getting a life.