Let’s talk about the Summer of Chevy…the Atlanta cartel’s greybeards…rose-colored glasses on press row…winners and losers…Bogo-for-Roslo…grading the wannabes…the Winnipeg Jets road show…an ace for John Paddock…CFL stuff…gay power…and garbage

A Tuesday morning smorgas-bored…and I’m still a free agent but my phone still ain’t ringing and there ain’t no offer sheets on the way

Let me guess. You’re underwhelmed.

I mean, the National Hockey League annual grab bag of teenage talent has come and gone, the frenzy that is Day 1 of free agency is behind us, Tyler Myers and Brandon Tanev are memories, the return on Jacob Trouba was scant, and there’s a hole the size of Don Cherry’s ego on the right side of the Winnipeg Jets’ defence.

Chevy

In other words, the Summer of Chevy is unfolding as expected.

Kevin Cheveldayoff is paid to generally manage les Jets, but what we have here is an example of the tail wagging the dog. The system now dictates his every move. He was forced to deal Trouba. He was forced to watch Myers and Tanev skate away as UFAs on Monday. He’ll be forced to make Patrik Laine, Kyle Connor and Andrew Copp mega-millionaires. He might be forced to unload useful workers and, perhaps, elite talent. And, unless he can find a sucker or two, he’s stuck with some contracts that will grow old in a hurry, if they haven’t already (read: Byfuglien, Dustin; Wheeler, Blake; Little, Bryan).

In short, it’s a fine mess Chevy and Puck Pontiff Mark Chipman have gotten themselves into.

Bryan Little

Granted, there’s still much heavy lifting in front of Chevy, and the rabble can always hope that he has a bit of Harry Houdini in him. Or that he can find some hats with rabbits inside. For now, though, it looks like the third defence pairing in October will be a couple of guys named Wing and A Prayer.

And to think, a year ago Winnipeg HC was viewed as a legitimate Stanley Cup contender. Today they’d be lucky to win a cup of soup.

Chevy and the Puck Pontif (on the rare occasions when he’s spoken) have used up considerable oxygen reciting and trumpeting their draft-and-develop mantra. Which is fine. Except for all the good work their bird dogs have done identifying blue-chip kids, the braintrust is doing everything else all wrong.

Big Buff

That is, Chevy and the Puck Pontiff haven’t been building around Rink Rat Scheifele, Josh Morrissey, Twig Ehlers, Kyle Connor, Patrik Laine and the departed Jacob Trouba. They’ve been building around the aforementioned Byfuglien, Wheeler and Little. They still are. And that’s totally bass ackwards.

Let’s forget for a moment what’s in their pay envelopes. Think term. Do you realize that Twig Ehlers is the only player—that’s right, just one!—with a longer-term contract than Wheeler and Little (both five years)? They’re 33 and 32 years old. No defender has more term than Big Buff (two more years). He’s 34. Those are the deals that Chevy and the Puck Pontiff continue to build around. And, now that it’s time to pay the piper in the form of re-ups for Puck Finn, Connor and Copp, those ill-advised contracts with their no-movement and no-trade addendums are in the way.

Blake Wheeler

Wheeler, of course, is fresh off repeat 91-point seasons, so he isn’t spent, but if he keeps producing at that level into his shinny dotage someone will demand he pee in a bottle. That is to say, at some point his numbers have to drop faster than F-bombs at a stag. Big Buff, meanwhile, is a necessary evil now that Trouba and Myers have skipped town, and we all know Little is no longer a No.-2 centre. It’s just that Chevy ignores that obvious flaw until he gets his annual wakeup call before the NHL shop-and-swap deadline, at which time he’s moved to squander a first-round draft choice for a two-month rental.

Look, I concede there’s value to thirtysomething hockey players. I just don’t think a guy should be at the front end of a five-year term once his chin whiskers turn grey. And they certainly can’t be considered building blocks.

Like I said, it’s bass ackwards.

I don’t know if it’s just me, but I find it interesting that Wheeler, Little and Big Buff are the only remnants of the Atlanta cartel that arrived in 2011. I’m not sure what that means, but it occurs to me that they’ve been coddled from the get-go. Just saying.

Looks like a couple of boys on the beat have been swilling the Jets Kool-Aid. Both Ken Wiebe of the Winnipeg Sun and Murat Ates of The Athletic used the same word to describe how we should view Chevy’s do-nothing handiwork—patience. Wiebe acknowledged that Winnipeg HC is in retreat mode, but he managed to find a silver lining in that cloud: “Reclaiming some semblance of underdog status probably suits the Jets just fine.” (I don’t even know what the hell that means.) He then stressed “the importance of patience for a small-market organization like the Jets.” Ates provided the backup vocals, opining, “I believe Cheveldayoff’s best play is to show patience.” Wow. I’ve gotta get me a pair of those rose-tinted glasses.

What say you, Pierre McGuire? Give us your take on the Summer of Chevy. “This pains me to say this, ’cause I think Kevin Cheveldayoff and all the people in Winnipeg have done a phenomenal job with their group,” the TSN natterbug said when asked to identify a “loser” on Day 1 of NHL free agency. “That being said, James (Duthie) talked about losing people, when you lose Jacob Trouba for nothing, basically, when you lose Tyler Myers for nothing, when you lose Tanev for nothing, you lose Kevin Hayes for a fifth-round pick, you’re losing a lot. That hasn’t even addressed Ben Chiarot yet. So that could be a lot of losses. Winnipeg is not as good. They’re not as good as they were a year ago.” Some of us feel your pain, Pierre.

Evander Kane

Remember old friend Evander Kane? Of course you do. Chevy shipped out the young winger in February 2015 (along with Zach Bogosian and Jason Kasdorf) and received a handful of live bodies in barter with the Buffalo Sabres—Tyler Myers, Drew Stafford, Brendan Lemieux, Joel Armia—plus a draft pick he turned into Jack Roslovic. Myers is now a member of the Vancouver Canucks, which means Chevy has Roslovic to show for that transaction and Buffalo has Bogo. Would any of us take Roslo for Bogo today? I would.

Craig Button

TSN scout-in-residence, Craig Button, isn’t as high on les Jets top prospects as you might be. Naming Ville Heinola, Dylan Samberg, Kristian Vesalainen, Mason Appleton, Logan Stanley, David Gustafsson, Simon Lundmark, Mikhail Berdin, Declan Chisholm and Santeri Vertanen as the top-10 wannabes, he gives Chevy’s bird dogs a B-minus for their work, worse than every Canadian club except the Calgary Flames, also a B-minus.

“Winnipeg’s list is populated by prospects projected to be middle-six, bottom-half-of-the-lineup NHLers,” he says.

Here’s how Button rates them:

Montreal:    A+
Edmonton:  B+
Ottawa:       B+
Vancouver:  B
Toronto:      B
Calgary:      B-
Winnipeg:   B-.

This is interesting: According to NBC, the Edmonton McDavids, your Winnipeg Jets and the Tranna Maple Leafs are the top road draws in the NHL, with the Pittsburgh Penguins and Philly Flyers rounding out the top five. And here I thought the Royal Winnipeg Ballet was the best road show out of River City.

Hey, check it out. Old friend John Paddock scored a hole-in-one on the 12th at Clear Lake on the weekend. You’ll remember good, ol’ John as a terrific guy, but also the man who had the bad manners to ship Teemu Selanne to the Disney Ducks back in the day. The former Jets GM accepted Oleg Tverdovsky, Chad Kilger and a third-round draft pick in barter for Teemu, Marc Chouinard and a fourth-rounder. “In hindsight would you do it differently? Of course you would,” Paddock, now GM of the Regina Pats, told ESPN a few years ago. “But that’s hindsight. The owners talked about budget and contracts and trying to get a defenceman…and there was a health concern with Teemu…there were different factors.” Some of us were concerned for John’s health after that trade.

Mike Reilly

Let’s play Jeopardy! Your category: The Canadian Football League after Week 3.

Clue: This is what $2.9 million buys you these days. Answer: What is a zero-3 record?
B.C. Lions bankroll David Braley coughed up large coin for starting QB Mike Reilly, and I’m guessing he’s given more than a fleeting thought to a do-over. A donut in the W column and a 2,124 drop in attendance for the home opener can’t be what he had in mind.

Bo Levi Mitchell

Clue: Rub-a-dub-dub, three men in an ice tub. Answer: Who are Zach Collaros, Antonio Pipkin and Bo Levi Mitchell?
Three starting quarterbacks down due to owies, six to go. At this rate, we can expect to see TSN natterbugs Matt Dunigan and Hank Burris back in pads and flinging the football by mid-August.

Clue: Seen mostly in B.C., Toronto, Montreal and, now, Edmonton. Answer: What are empty seats?
If the Eskimos didn’t perform in such a monstrosity of a stadium, the optics wouldn’t be so bad. But when you put 23,639 into a 60,081 facility, there’s more empty space than in Homer Simpson’s head. That’s not what Prairie football is supposed to look like.

Got a kick out of Megan Rapinoe’s comments after the Americans’ 2-1 women’s World Cup quarterfinal win v. France: “Go gays. You can’t win a championship without gays on your team, it’s never been done before, ever. That’s science right there.” Seems ridiculous, but Megan makes a valid point as it relates to the World Cup. The website Outsports advises us that there are 40 out lesbians/bisexuals playing, coaching or on team support staff in France, and 19 of them are on sides that reached the last four—U.S. (6), England (3), the Netherlands (5) and Sweden (5). So it’s a fact: You can’t win without gays.

And, finally, a ship carrying 1,500 tons of Canadian garbage arrived on our shores last week, but there’s no truth to the rumor that Chevy was there to meet it and look for defencemen.

About the Winnipeg Jets landing a big fish…mortgaging the future…adios to curling great Jill Officer…a media hissing contest…Damien’s “shitty” tweet…dumb talk on TSN…a tear-jerker in Yankee pinstripes…and other things on my mind

I cannot survive in a 140- or 280-character world, so here are more tweets that grew up to be too big for Twitter…

Paul Stastny. For real?

The Winnipeg Jets actually pried Paul Stastny away from the St. Louis Blues? And they didn’t have to twist his arm? No fuss, no muss, no whinging about mosquitoes, spring flooding, crime, potholes, brown tap water and the Arctic winds at Portage and Main?

Something doesn’t add up here.

I mean, nobody goes to Winnipeg. Except on a dare. Or unless they’ve lost a bet. Cripes, man, even the premier of the province, Brian Pallister, gets out of Dodge as often as he can.

Winnipeg circa 1950s.

I think Billy Mosienko was the last hockey player who went to Winnipeg voluntarily. That was in 1955, when the locals were still riding around in streetcars. Mosie had an excuse, though. Pegtown was his ‘hood. He knew all about the potholes, Arctic winds and skeeters the size of a Zamboni, so they weren’t going to scare him away.

But there’s no explaining this Stastny thing. Except to say he must have missed the memo. You know the one. Certain members of the San Jose Sharks sent it out earlier this National Hockey League season. River City is cold. River City is dark. And don’t even think about WiFi service. You want to text a friend? Here’s your carrier pigeon, kid.

Paul Stastny

The thing is, a lot of us know Winnipeg isn’t the backwater burg most folks make it out to be. It’s a boffo place. And the winters don’t seem quite so long, dark and cold when les Jets are putting on the ritz at the Little Hockey House On The Prairie.

Will Stastny’s willingness to disregard his no-trade clause influence others to regard Good Ol’ Hometown as a favorable destination? Perhaps not, but it’s worth revisiting something general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff said last summer, scant seconds after convincing goaltender Steve Mason and defenceman Dmitry Kulikov that River City is an NHL hot spot.

Ultimately,” he said, “when it comes to free agency, the players want to know that they have a chance to win.”

Yup.

Kevin Cheveldayoff

Prior to last Monday’s NHL trade deadline, TSN natterbug Jamie McLennan had this caution for Cheveldayoff and Puck Pontiff Mark Chipman: “You never want to mortgage the future. There’s no weaknesses whatsoever in this lineup. All you can ask for really is health. You want Adam Lowry back. You want Jacob Trouba back. I believe this team is built to go on a Stanley Cup run. They’re that good. But, if you want to tinker at the deadline, add some depth, add a little Stanley Cup experience, absolutely, but do not mortgage the future with those young players.” So, the Puck Pontiff and Chevy surrendered college kid Erik Foley, their first-round pick in the 2018 entry draft and a conditional fourth-rounder in 2020 for Stastny, plus a fourth-rounder this year for rearguard Joe Morrow. Did they mortgage the future? Nope.

Now that the Buffalo Sabres have rid themselves of the headache known as Evander Kane, what do they have to show for the original deal with les Jets that sent the sometimes wacky winger to upstate New York? Not much. If my math is accurate, here’s how the February 2015 trade now shakes down: Winnipeg has Tyler Myers, Joel Armia, Jack Roslovic, Brendan Lemieux and a sixth-round pick in the NHL entry draft this summer (for Drew Stafford); Buffalo has Zach Bogosian, Danny O’Regan, Jason Kasdorf, a conditional pick in 2019 (first or second round) and a conditional fourth-round pick in 2020. It’s still a total fleece job by Cheveldayoff.

With the exception of Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, I can’t think of a partnership that’s lasted as long as Jill Officer and Jennifer Jones. What’s it been? Twenty-three years? Twenty-four? Thus, when Officer announced her intention to retreat from full-time competition next season, it was a big deal. She’s one of the most-decorated curlers in Manitoba history, with nine provincial titles (two in Junior), seven Canadian titles (one in Junior), one Olympic Games gold medal, and one world championship. Only six women have played in more games at the Canadian Scotties than Officer. And there’s a park named in her honor in North Kildonan. All that and, unless I missed it, the Winnipeg Sun completely ignored the story. Shame, shame.

The Sun’s snub of Officer is the latest example of the tabloid’s near-total abandonment of curling coverage by local scribes. The Sun didn’t have a reporter on the scene at last month’s Scotties Tournament of Hearts in Penticton, nor does it have feet on the ground in Regina for this week’s Brier. Coverage is being handled by Terry Jones of Postmedia Edmonton and Murray McCormick of the Regina Leader-Post. By way of comparison, the Winnipeg Free Press continues to do it the right way. Melissa Martin was in Penticton and Jason Bell is in Regina. And the Freep posted the Officer story on its website at 11:05 a.m. Friday, and followed with a video interview in the afternoon. That’s how it’s supposed to be done.

Elliotte Friedman

Holy hissing contest, Batman! Broadcaster Elliotte Friedman, whose home base is the Republic of Tranna, went on Sportsnet 650 last week to discuss the steaming mess of dog hooey that is the Vancouver Canucks, and it turns out that it’s the media’s fault. Also the fans’ fault. Everybody’s to blame except the team president, Trevor Linden, and the GM, Jim Benning.

“I see your market right now and I think it’s a really brutal place to be,” Friedman said. “These guys feel like they are under siege…like they’re getting torn apart by wild dogs.”

He described the situation in Vancity as “toxic” and “edgy” and “nasty” because of the media.

Ed Willes

Not surprisingly, Vancouver news scavengers and opinionist sprung into action, including old friend Ed Willes of Postmedia.

“Why would Elliotte Frickin’ Friedman care so passionately about the Vancouver market, and why would he launch such an impassioned defence of Linden and Benning from The Big Smoke?” Willes asked. “Fair questions, yes? As for the answers, we’d suggest they lie somewhere in the towering arrogance of Toronto’s media titans and the uncomfortable relationship that exists between ‘insiders’ and their sources. Friedman is a made man in that world but his information sometimes comes at a cost. Consider his radio diatribe a down payment on his next scoop.”

Ouch.

Totally dumb tweet of the week comes from Damien Cox of the Toronto Star and Sportsnet: “Remember the old days when independent media used to ask serious, critical questions when NHL expanded. Now there’s mostly just cheerleading. Yay, Seattle, look how many tix you sold. Yay, more shitty teams, more diluted NHL hockey. It’s a sad thing.” Ya, those Vegas Golden Knights are a real “shitty” team, Damien. But, hey, if it makes you happy, perhaps we can go all the way back to the six-team days when goaltenders played with their bare faces hanging out and Charlie Burns was the only NHL player who wore a helmet.

Urban Bowman

Sad to hear of the passing of former Winnipeg Blue Bombers (interim) head coach Urban Bowman. Had many enjoyable chin-wags with Bowman during his time subbing for Cal Murphy, who was away getting a new heart. Urban had a folksy, cowboy charm that made him the Bum Phillips of the Canadian Football League, and it wasn’t uncommon to hear him talk of chickens, cattle and such instead of Xs and Os. He did, mind you, have one memorable quote about football. “We’re going to breathe our nasty breath on those folks,” he said prior to a playoff game. “Yes, sir, we’re going to breathe our nasty, bad breath on those folks.” Urban was a good man…with bad breath.

So, I’m watching Pardon the Interruption on TSN the other day and the boys, Keith Olbermann and Tony Kornheiser, are gasbagging about Johnny Manziel potentially getting a second chance in the National Football League. “Why not?” asks Olbermann, who’s all in on the return of Johnny Football. “He’s a misdemeanor case.” That’s what we’re calling woman beaters these days? A misdemeanor case? Is there some sort of TV rule that says you must be a complete goomer to talk sports? I mean, two weeks ago NBC gab guy Mike Milbury referred to former Los Angeles Kings defenceman Slava Voynov’s brutal assault on his wife as an “unfortunate incident.” Now a man putting the boots to a woman is a “misdemeanor case.” Clearly, the culture of misogyny extends from the clubhouse to the old men in the press box.

Gary Cooper as Lou Gehrig

Watched Pride of the Yankees the other day. A total tear-jerker. But I got a kick out of the “luckiest man on the face of the earth” speech Gary Cooper delivered at the end of the movie. “I have been given fame and undeserved praise by the boys up there behind the wire in the press box, my friends, the sportswriters,” Coop said in his role as New York Yankees legendary first baseman Lou Gehrig. An athlete’s “friends?” Sportswriters? That has to be the biggest fib on the face of the earth.

Let’s give Rosie DiManno big points for honesty. In her wrap from South Korea, the Toronto Star columnist admits that the Olympic Games of Snow and Ice Sports is about “sports some of us only cover every four years but, of course, feign instant expertise at.” Totally true. And it showed, especially with the guys who attempted to cover curling. Dave Feschuk of the Star, for example, wrote about curling guru “Russ” Turnbull, but the late Moosie’s actual name was Ray. And Cathal Kelly of the Globe and Mail prattled on about Rachel Homan burning a rock when it was actually one of the Canadian skip’s opponents who inadvertently touched a stone while sweeping it into the rings.

Clara Hughes

And, finally, this week’s Stevie-ism from the ever-bombastic Steve Simmons of Postmedia Tranna: “The list of all-time Canadian Olympic greats is not particularly long. In summer, you start with Percy Williams and Donovan Bailey and turn somewhere to Marnie McBean and Kathleen Heddle and lately Penny Oleksiak. In winter, there is a place for Cindy Klassen and Catriona Le May Doan and Marc Gagnon and Hayley Wickenheiser and a few others.” Excuse me? Clara Hughes, the only Olympic athlete to earn multiple medals in both Winter and Summer Games, doesn’t qualify? Her two cycling (bronze) and four speed skating (gold, silver, two bronze) medals aren’t enough? Sorry, Stevie, but any list of Canada’s great Olympians has to begin with the smiling redhead from Winnipeg.

 

 

 

Evander Kane can’t get over Winnipeg and Winnipeg can’t get over Evander Kane

Evander Kane is the gift that just keeps giving…and giving…and giving.

By now, I’m guessing you’ve heard that old friend Evander can’t play hockey these days due to a wonky left knee, an owie that will keep him on the shelf for four to six weeks and provide the Buffalo Sabres forward with plenty of time for his new hobby of renting private jets and/or helicoptors for weekend getaways.

I understand Las Vegas is lovely at this time of year, so perhaps we can expect an Instagram or two featuring the self-proclaimed Natural flaunting stacks and stacks of American greenbacks in Sin City.

Evander Kane
Evander Kane

Then again, perhaps Kane will discover more constructive ways to spend his free time. You know, something like flapping his gums like two flags in a stiff breeze. He already has a healthy head start in that area, what with word of his recent chin-wag with The Hockey News arriving on Monday.

Depending on one’s perspective, of course, any time Kane opens his pie hole it is a wonderful thing (for news scavengers on a slow day) or a cringe-worthy bit of business (for those who view him as an uppity, my-stuff-don’t-stink-but-this-city-does, underachieving prima donna). Either way, a tempest is certain to ensue and, sure enough, what he told THN vis-a-vis his troubled and turbulent times as the most-maligned—and surely the most-polarizing—player to ever pull the blue-and-white linen of the Winnipeg Jets over his head has put his name back at the top of the page for all the wrong reasons.

What he served up was part pity party, part confession and part accusation (he played the race card, don’t you know).

“I asked for a trade every off-season in Winnipeg,” confessed Kane, who was with the Atlanta Thrashers’ caravan that rolled into River City and morphed into Jets 2.0 in 2011. It took him slightly less than four National Hockey League seasons of sometimes oddball antics, bad press, bad attitude and sub-standard productivity to wear out his welcome, at which time he was shuffled off to Buffalo in a package that included Zach Bogosian going to the Sabres and Drew Stafford, Tyler Myers and add-ons coming back to the Jets.

“There are lots of guys I could point to that everybody knows publicly who have done a lot worse or been accused of doing a lot worse things than I have,” Kane continued. “But they don’t look like me. They don’t look like me. Jealousy is a disease. It really is.”

He added that he “didn’t feel as though (the Jets) had my back at all.”

This, no doubt, will lead to open hostility when Kane and the Sabres surface at the Little Hockey House on the Prairie for a Jan. 10 gig with the Jets. His reception would have been bad enough based on the residue left behind from his tempestuous tour of duty in Pegtown, but surely the volume will be amped up and there shall be heightened creativity and increased venom in the cat-calling of his accusors.

So here’s what I’m wondering: Why do so many people give a damn what Evander Kane thinks about the Jets and Winnipeg?

I know I don’t. Sure, I write about Kane, because he’s fun fodder and I get a kick out of him. I used to enjoy it when he’d yank the media’s chain, often playing cat to their mouse. But get my knickers in a knot over his parting shots at Winnipeg? Puh-leeze. So what if he asked for a new area code every summer and lied about it? He wasn’t the first, nor will he be the last, athlete who’s wanted out of Winnipeg and told fibs. The Jets didn’t have his back? Oh, boo freaking hoo.

As for his playing the race card (again), only those of a similar skin hue can say for certain if they’ve experienced discrimination or other forms of ill-treatment based solely on pigmentation. But if you believe racism doesn’t exist in good, ol’ Hometown, you might want to speak with one of your Native neighbors about that.

Look, Kane and Winnipeg didn’t work. He wanted the fast lane and he got caught in a collector lane. You like your athletes humble and respectful, he’s loud, vain and swashbuckling. Bad marriages happen. The thing is, he hasn’t gotten over you and you haven’t gotten over him. Come on, admit it.

Should make for an interesting night on Jan. 10. Keep it clean and classy, Winnipeg.

rooftop riting biz card back sidePatti 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.

Winnipeg Jets: Kevin Cheveldayoff is a %^$#$#&^ if he allows Michael Frolik to walk

As a rule, I don’t swear. I like to think I can make my point sans profanity.

But right now, I want to turn the air 50 shades of blue. Desperately. I want to drop F-bombs like a 1960s hippie dropping acid. I mean, are the Winnipeg Jets serious about this Anthony Peluso thing? This is the opening gambit in an off-season that would draw them closer to the elite of the National Hockey League? Signing a low-talent, back-alley thug?

Forget the financial numbers. Whether there’s $675,000 in his pay envelope or $6.75 million, the re-signing of Peluso is like trying to correct a vitamin D deficiency by sending someone down into a coal mine.

Anthony Peluso is an NHL-calibre player like Don Cherry is an ambassador for Tourism Stockholm.

Because I don’t live inside Kevin Cheveldayoff’s noggin, I can only guess the reason(s) behind the re-signing of a resident guard dog who is unleashed approximately four out of every 60 minutes on those nights when he is required to do something other than munch popcorn. If, as has been suggested by some, Peluso is back on board to serve as an ill-tempered deterent to those who would bully the Jets’ more pocket-sized workers such as Nik Ehlers or Nic Petan, I have a better idea—stop drafting players no bigger than Papa Smurf.

I’m sorry, but this is Mad Scientist at Work territory. I haven’t scratched my head this often since that bad bout with dandruff 40 years ago.

Seriously, I cannot think of one good reason—not one, I say—for the Peluso signing.

I mean, how many hands of stone does one team require? They already have Chris Thorburn’s bare knuckles. Can’t he ride shotgun for the Smurfs? Why the need for four fists?

I know I’m not flying solo here. Many others are as puzzled as myself. We had awaited, with much anticipation, Grand Master Cheveldayoff’s initial move to upgrade or firm up a roster that was given its ouster from the just-concluded Stanley Cup tournament in the minimum four games. And what do we get? Not Michael Frolik or Drew Stafford. Not even the return of the prodigal son, Alexander Burmistrov. We get Anthony freaking (I told you I wanted to swear) Peluso. And, as an added bonus, Ben Chiarot.

Sigh.

I know, I know. Chevy’s work has only just begun. There’s more to come. There has to be.

Between now and next weekend’s annual NHL garage sale, an entry draft in which we are certain the Jets shall be selecting freshly scrubbed players not named McDavid or Eichel, the Grand Master must make a move on Frolik. Sign him, trade his negotiation rights or watch him skate away in exchange for a pocket full of nothing.

Surely this is priority No. 1. To allow Frolik to bid adieu as an unrestricted free agent on July 1…well, let’s just say Anthony Peluso cannot possibly fill those skates.

Frolik isn’t simply a useful player. He is a Swiss army knife. He gives head coach Paul Maurice first line-to-third line flexibility on the right flank, he’s arrived at his prime years (he’s 27), he can work the powerplay, he’s capable on the penalty kill, and he’s durable and dependable (missed just one game in two seasons in River City). What’s not to like? Money, of course, is the issue, but if I hear the difference between signing or not signing Frolik is the $675,000 Cheveldayoff has commited to Peluso, there shall be an inclination to do more than swear.

If Chevy lets Frolik walk and he’s left with squat—which I’m guessing will happen—then he’s a *$&^%## $&**^%$ son of a #^%^&^&%$#!

rooftop riting biz card back sidePatti 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.

Winnipeg Jets: Kevin Cheveldayoff is the life of this post-season party

Let’s make something abundantly clear: This is down to Kevin Cheveldayoff.

Yes, the much maligned man who generally managed the Winnipeg Jets from the fetal position for the first 3 1/2 years of his stewardship is the main reason there shall be meaningful matches played post-April 11 at the Little Hockey House on the Prairie.

If not for Cheveldayoff’s sleight-of-hand prior to the National Hockey League trade deadline, you see, fans would not have flocked to the intersection of Portage and Main on Thursday night for an impromptu whoop-it-up in celebration of the Jets securing the Western Conference second wild-card position and a ticket to the Stanley Cup tournament. They would have been drowning their sorrows. Again.

Other explanations will, of course, be advanced in any analysis of the Jets transformation from perennial Sad Sack to playoff participant. You will find, for example, head coach Paul Maurice’s finger prints all over the product. Ondrej Pavelec, the oft-scorned, ridiculed and overpaid goaltender who spent much of the season serving as upstart Michael Hutchinson’s caddy, magically morphed into an all-world puck-stopper in the past two weeks and is earning his handsome stipend. Dustin Byfuglien emerged as a hybrid force. Evander Kane had the bad manners to wear a track suit to work one day in Vancouver.

All valid points.

But no. As I said, this one is down to Cheveldayoff, who, until two months ago, gave little indication that he actually had a pulse. The Jets GM has had more critics than Phil Kessel. He has been tsk-tsked for being reclusive. For being gun shy. For saying a whole lot of nothing whenever he actually pulled his head out of the sand. For doing diddley, other than stockpiling draft choices and preaching patience. He’s taken more of a beating than a rented mule.

Then along came the Kane Mutiny and we discovered exactly how daring and decisive Cheveldayoff can be.

We still don’t know all the gory details of L’Affaire Kane. Perhaps we never will. It’s one of those “what happens in the room, stays in the room” things. Suffice to say, Evander Kane screwed up at a team gathering in Vancouver, his mates were unamused, one or more of them thought it would be a swell idea to administer a dose of frontier justice, and the flamboyant, mercurial winger never wore Jets linen again.

In an era when the salary cap makes it difficult to trade bubble gum cards, never mind live bodies, Cheveldayoff managed to take his damaged goods (Kane) and shuffle him off to Buffalo, along with Zach Bogosian, in barter for Tyler Myers, Drew Stafford and an assortment of intriguing add-ons that include one of the Sabres’ first-round selections in this summer’s NHL entry draft.

To say Myers and Stafford have been useful is to say Jets team co-bankroll David Thomson has a few bucks in the bank. Both ex-Sabres have been impactful, gobbling up considerable minutes each night and delivering timely offence.

The deal with Buffalo was a master stroke. And Cheveldayoff didn’t stop there. He later added Jiri Tlusty. Then Lee Stempniak.

Subtract Stafford, Stempniak, Tlusty and Myers from the lineup and ask yourself if the Jets would be positioned to face off vs. either the St. Louis Blues or Disney Ducks in the opening skirmish of the NHL’s second season next week. Would we be talking about celebrations at Portage and Main and whiteouts and turning the Little Hockey House on the Prairie into the Den of Din on Donald?

The answer is an emphatic “No, no, no. A thousand times no.”

Yet here we are, discussing those very topics.

Here’s something else for you to chew on: Given a favorable set of circumstances, the Jets, although the eighth seed in the western portion of the tournament, could be in for a deep run in their first post-season crusade since the Atlanta caravan rolled into River City in 2011. If, for example, the locals were to meet the very beatable Ducks in the first round and survive, they would then hook up with the winner of the Vancouver Canucks-Calgary Flames series.

Can you say conference final, kids? I knew you could.

So, it’s hats and bonnets off to Kevin Cheveldayoff, master manipulator. Who knew?

 

rooftop riting biz card back sidePatti 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.

Weekend Wrap, Vol. 5: All about the 2019 Stanley Cup champions, tennis rivalries and quality curling coverage

A little bit of this, a little bit of that and a whole lot of opinion in a weekend wrap…

I’m not sure what is more giggle-worthy, the puck prophets at The Hockey News reading tea leaves that tell them the Winnipeg Jets will be rulers of all they survey in 2019 or Jets Nation getting all giddy about a magazine designed to do nothing more than spike sales.

If you missed it, there shall be a Stanley Cup cavalcade on the streets of downtown River City in June 2019. The Hockey News says it will be so in their Future Watch issue, and who can we trust if not the Bible of Hockey? I mean, according to David Larkins of the Winnipeg Sun, THN is the “trusted periodical on all things hockey.” So there. If those wild-and-whacky puck prophets at THN tell us to plan a parade route, then that’s what we must do. Plan a parade route. For June. 2019.

Ignore the fact that those same shinny swamis pegged Team Peg to finish dead last in the Central Division of the National Hockey League this season. Hey, sometimes the tea leaves are tough to read. So cut ’em some slack.

Just know this, Jets Nation: A Stanley Cup parade is coming to a downtown intersection near you—assuming you live in the vicinity of Portage and Main—because your Winnipeg Jets are bringing hockey’s holy grail to good, ol’ Home Town. In June. 2019. Book off work. Skip school. Strike up the band.

This is big. This is colossal. I mean, it’s been a quarter century since River City last held a downtown parade that didn’t include Santa Claus. Or a bevy of Ru Paul wannabes.

What I like best is that THN has given us advance notice. Four years worth. That’s plenty of time to put some spit and shine on our ol’ girl, Peg. Why, once we’ve scraped all the hobos off the streets and shuttered them away in the background so as not to ruin the optics we’ll be sending out to all those losers in locales like the Republic of Tranna, we can have ol’ Peg looking like a million bucks.

Oh, what fun this will be for the kids. For the entire family.

We wish we could give you an exact date for the parade, also a route, but the THN shinny swamis didn’t have the good manners to tell us if our local hockey heroes would be winning the Stanley Cup final in four, five, six or seven games in June 2019. Doesn’t matter. We can work out the details later. For now, they assure us that the Jets shall be NHL champeens. In June. 2019.

Be there.

WHO’S IN, WHO’S OUT? Watching good, ol’ Home Team dismantle the Nashville Predators in Music City on Saturday night, I couldn’t help but wonder who among the current crop of Jets will be part of the large celebration. In June. 2019.

I mean, you think Lee Stempniak is going to be riding in a convertible when the Stanley Cup motorcade lurches toward Portage and Main in late June 2019? Jiri Tlusty? Jay Harrison? Mark Stuart? Drew Stafford? Anthony Peluso? Ondrej Pavelec? Jim Slater? Michael Hutchinson? Chris Thorburn?

Well, okay, maybe Thorburn will be part of the parade. Apparently he has dicey pics. Thus, the Jets no doubt will double down on his existing pact between now and Nirvana. Or just grant him a contract for life. But those other guys? Not so much. They’ll probably be playing their hockey for the woeful Las Vegas Crap Shoots. The parade will pass them by.

HITHER ‘N’ YAWN: Interesting that True North Sports & Entertainment plans to bring its American Hockey League affiliate home to Winnipeg. Can’t see much fan lure there, other than affordability compared to the tariff for Jets matches. Seems to me a Western Hockey League outfit would be an easier sell…Don Cherry has become so irrelevant that I didn’t even notice what he was wearing during his Curmudgeon’s Corner rory1gig on Hockey Night in Canada on Saturday night…So quiz me this: When Tiger Woods has a hissy-fit on a golf course and swears or spits or slams a club into the ground, it’s boorish behavior. It’s deplorable. Entire forests are plowed to the ground in order to provide enough newsprint to satisfy the needs of sports scribes who spend the next month cutting Woods a new one. Yet, when Rory McIlroy has a hissy-fit, hurling his 3-iron into a water hazard at Doral, it’s greeted with a shrug and a ho-hum. Why the double standard?…Couldn’t believe what I heard tripping off Hazel Mae’s tongue late last week when the Sportsnet talking head previewed the Davis Cup tie between Canada and Japan. She actually compared the rivalry between Milos Raonic and Kei Nishikori to those of tennis legends Bjorn Borg-John McEnroe, Andre Agassi-Pete Sampras, among others. Good grief. Apparently, research is an option Hazel doesn’t exercise…When it comes to tennis rivalries, there has been none greater—ever—than that produced by Martina Navratilova and Chrissie Evert. Between 1973 and ’88, they met 80 times. More than 25 per cent of those matches (22) came in Grand Slam events and 14 were Grand Slam finals. Nothing compares to that. For the record, Navratilova held a slight edge overall, 43-37.

CUE THE CURLING: Totally selfless act by John Morris to demote himself from skip to third on the Team Canada outfit that won the Brier on Sunday. Can’t imagine many curlers doing that…Although the Johnny Mo team was wearing the Maple Leaf at the Saddledome in Calgary, let’s not lose sight of the reality that another Alberta squad has won the Canadian men’s curling championship. They play out of the Glencoe Club in Cowtown, so Wild Rose Country teams have now won nine Briers this century…Department of Better Late than Never: Melissa Martin of the Winnipeg Free Press killed it at the Scotties Tournament of Hearts in Moose Jaw last month. When a scribe is on assignment out of town, I want her or him to take me to their locale. I don’t want to simply read the final score and a stream of quotes. I want to see and feel what the writer sees and feels. What the fans see and feel. Martin delivered. She took me to Moose Jaw with some wonderful anecdotal insight and spot-on reporting that allowed me to join Jennifer Jones and her Buffalo Girls for every step to the Scotties title, a fifth for Jones. It was boffo work…It pains me to say the Winnipeg Sun wasn’t served as well as the Freep at either the Scotties or Brier. They never had one of their own on the scene. Don’t blame sports editor Ted Wyman, though. That had to be a corporate call. But a Winnipeg daily should always, always, always have their own scribe at the two main bonspiels on the curling calendar…

Jeff Stoughton
Jeff Stoughton

Interesting take by Freep scribe Paul Wiecek on Reid Carruthers’ wonky, unManitoba-like record (4-7) at the Brier. “The job description as the curling writer for a paper that has covered every Brier since the first one in 1927 says I’m supposed to rip Carruthers in this space today,” he writes. “He let down his team, he let down the province etc. But my heart’s not in it. Carruthers knows better than anyone what went wrong this week. And no one feels worse about it than he does. He’s a good guy, who had a very bad week. I’m giving him a pass. You should too.” Good for Wiecek…Now that Jeff Stoughton has retired, I suppose it’s time to confirm his status as the greatest curler ever produced in the Keystone province. Who else could it possibly be? Here’s my top-five list (since I began watching and writing about curling in the very early 1970s): 1. Stoughton; 2. Jennifer Jones; 3. Don Duguid; 4. Kerry Burtnyk; 5. Connie Laliberte; Honorable Mention: Vic Peters.

 

rooftop riting biz card back sidePatti 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.

 

 

Winnipeg Jets bound for playoffs; Ron Wilson bound for a career in TV

The Winnipeg Jets can begin printing playoff tickets. Today.

Let there be no more angst. No more gnashing of the teeth. You can make book that meaningful matches shall be staged at the Little Hockey House on the Prairie post-April 11, which means an awful lot of us were wrong. If not about the Winnipeg Jets, we were certainly wrong about Kevin Cheveldayoff.

I know I was.

I mean, before they dropped the puck on this National Hockey League crusade, you couldn’t find five people willing to wager their lunch money on the Jets participating in this spring’s Stanley Cup tournament. Not if Cheveldayoff and his head coach, Paul Maurice, insisted that Ondrej Pavelec was their starting goaltender. Not if the same core that rolled into River City from Atlanta in 2011 continued to rule the roost in the players’ changing room. Not if Cheveldayoff’s modus operandi continued to be management-by-paralysis.

I don’t think that pre-season prognosis was inaccurate. If it was going to be same-old, same-old, which it surely appeared to be back in early October, the end result would also be same-old, same-old.

So how is it that the Jets have a firm grip on a playoff position this morning? What happened?

Well, a buy-in happened. The players bought the Kool-Aid coach PoMo was pouring. Michael Hutchinson happened and Pavelec, who, it must be emphasized, has not been horrible, has taken a seat. Dustin Byfuglien happened. Evander Kane’s track suit happened. Most significant, the general manager happened.

Cheveldayoff spent his first 3 1/2 years as GM of the Jets in the fetal position. No NHL player-for-player trades. No bold strokes. No dash and no daring. Just some dabbling with the waiver wire and the odd toe-dip into the free agency pool. Basically, he was Dudley Do Nothing. But just look at him now. He’s into binge trading. First it was Jay Harrison. Then Tyler Myers and Drew Stafford. Then Jiri Tlusty. Now Lee Stempniak comes on board. All but Harrison in less than a month. And the price he has paid? Exactly one player from his active roster—Zach Bogosian (remember, Kane was already gone for the season when dealt to the Buffalo McDavids).

It didn’t matter that Cheveldayoff shifted into idle on trade deadline day, because his work was done. And it ought to be enough.

Surely, the Jets will finish no worse than fifth in the Central Division. That will qualify them for the tournament, because it would take too much smoke and too many mirrors for either the Calgary Flames or San Jose Sharks to overhaul good, ol’ Home Team for a Western Conference wild-card spot.

The Flames, of course, have been a feel-good story this season, but it’s been hockey hocus pocus. An illusion. Reality is about to bite. The Sharks, meanwhile…they’re chronic underachievers.

The Jets are in. Trust me.

TV TAKEAWAYS: Since I have a life (sort of), I wasn’t glued to my TV for the entirety of TSN’s exhaustive trade deadline coverage, but I confess to spending the early-morning hours with James Duthie and his cast of thousands while they awaited breaking news that never really broke. It was, for the most part, grim. I mean, Gino Reda herding llamas in a parking lot? Llamas in-studio? What next? The Dalai Lama as a guest panelist? I’m all for off-the-wall humor, but this was just plain dumb…Duthie, who is terrific, assured us that musician Lester McLean was “not a gimmick.” Oh yes he was. A bad gimmick. McLean’s tunes all sounded the same—lame…Who decided that Cabbie is funny? He isn’t. His updates on social media activity were weak attempts at jocularity. Does he actually get paid for his schtick?…On the plus side, two big thumbs up to former Toronto Maple Leafs head coach Ron Wilson and ex-goaltender Marty Biron. Their bits with Darren Dutchyshen were terrific for their humor, their candor, their anecdotal insight and Wilson’s curmudgeonly carriage. I doubt Wilson has a future in hockey after confessing that a former NHL general manger once directed him to tank the season in order to secure first pick in the entry draft, but he surely has one in broadcasting…Also on the plus side was Dennis Wideman, who punk’d TSN Trade Centre with a faux phone call that led one an all to believe a trade for the Calgary Flames defenceman was imminent…Gary (La La) Lawless of the Winnipeg Free Press got some face time on TSN and he gave Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff an ‘A’ grade for his pre-deadline dealings. Ditto Craig Button. Can’t disagree with that…Never switched the channel to Sportsnet. Not once. Can’t handle Glenn Healy or Nick Kypreos on an empty stomach. Or a full stomach, for that matter.

 

rooftop riting biz card back sidePatti 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.