So, how bad was it? Well, let’s put it this way: As the end approached, I thought perhaps someone was about to give the Winnipeg Jets the shirt off his back.
That is to say, it was sweater-toss worthy.
I mean, the local hockey heroes delivered a frustrating, now-you-see-us, now-you-don’t performance against a road-weary Calgary Flames outfit that ought to have been running on fumes at the tag-along end of a six-game journey. So, surely the resulting 4-1 beatdown Sunday evening would fuel fury. Passion. And the hurling of a piece of clothing in protest.
But no. We weren’t in Edmonton or Toronto, Dorothy. Nary a piece of linen fluttered to the freeze at the Little Hockey House on the Prairie. By the time everyone stepped out into the darkening River City night, no one had surrendered their Jets jersey.
This tells me one of three things:
- Hey, Winnipeg is known as Wholesale City. It’s not that we’re cheap. We’re just looking for a better deal. So when we’re forced to buy something at retail price, like a $200-plus tax Jets jersey, we don’t do it so the Zamboni driver’s kid can find something special under the Christmas tree.
- We just can’t decide what do do first—throw away our Jets jerseys or our Bombers jerseys.
- Those who occupy the pews at the shinny cathedral at Donald and Hargrave can’t get enough of the True North Kool-Aid and have fully bought into a draft-and-develop strategy that, to date, has been nine parts draft and one part develop.
If you fall into category No. 3, I hope this doesn’t come as a news bulletin, but it’s a very risky business that can take a very wrong turn.
Don’t misunderstand. I’m on side with draft-and-develop. To a degree. I just think there’s more to building a year-in, year-out competitive outfit than collecting National Hockey League wannabes and never-will-bes, and I point to theLos Angeles Kings as evidence. The group that won the Stanley Cup tournament last June was a collection of shrewd draft selections, workers acquired in barter and others recruited through free agency.
At the opposite end of the measuring stick, I give you the Edmonton Oilers. Here’s what a pure draft-and-develop plan has delivered (aside from eight years of emptiness):
- 2007—Sam Gagner (6th overall).
- 2007—Alex Plante (15th overall).
- 2007—Riley Nash (21st overall).
- 2008—Jordan Eberle (22nd overall).
- 2009—Magnus Paajarvi-Svensson (10th overall).
- 2010—Taylor Hall (1st overall).
- 2011—Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (1st overall).
- 2011—Oscar Klefbom (19th overall).
- 2012—Nail Yakupov (1st overall).
- 2013—Darnell Nurse (7th overall).
- 2014—Leon Draisaitl (3rd overall).
The Oilers have had18 first-round picks this century. Five of those players are on the Edmonton roster today. Only one, Taylor Hall, is worth a damn.
And have I mentioned the Copper and Blue haven’t qualified for post-season play since 2006?
Little wonder they’re hurling sweaters on the ice at Rexall Place.
It’s easy to say the Oilers have been operated by a collection of managerial misfits like Kevin Lowe, Steve Tambellini and Craig MacTavish. But how can we be convinced that Jets general manager Kevin (The Possum) Cheveldayoff has more shinny smarts?
Based on a history of zero playoff appearances and the early returns this season, he doesn’t. But, hey, it’s early. So keep you shirt on, right?
Well, right now that’s the only difference between what’s going on in Edmonton and Winnipeg: We keep our clothes on.
Patti Dawn Swansson has been writing about Winnipeg hockey and the Jets for more than 40 years, longer than any living being. Do not, however, assume that to mean she harbors a wealth of hockey knowledge or that she’s a jock journalist of award-winning loft. It simply means she is old, comfortable at a keyboard (although arthritic fingers sometimes make typing a bit of a chore) and she doesn’t know when to quit.
She is most proud of her Q Award, presented to her in 2012 for literary contributions to the LGBT community in Victoria, B.C.