Paul Maurice: Does the Winnipeg Jets coach enjoy his parry-and-thrust with the media?

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

I’m not quite sure what to make of Paul Maurice vis-a-vis news scavengers.

I watch him work the Fourth Estate during his press gatherings and he is serious, sometimes sharp, snappy and abrupt. Coach PoMo often answers a question before it has been completely framed, which is to say he interrupts, hinting at a pinch of impatience. It seems to be his way of saying, “I’ve got things to do, let’s get to the point.” I sometimes see a smug man, with gusts approaching snarky.

Even on those occasions when he slips into light-hearted mode and kibitzes with his interrogators, his jabs at jocularity seem tempered.

At the same time, this Winnipeg Jets head coach is obliging, thoughtful, articulate, respectful and he’s media savvy, in a much different way than his predecessor, the joy-seeking Claude Noel, who was forever feeding scribes and talking heads with bons mots that made for brilliant, knee-slapping sound bites but offered little substance.

I really can’t determine if Maurice enjoys this part of his job or if he’d rather be elsewhere. My guess would be it’s the latter, but he surely understands that it is part of his job and he is better at it than most National Hockey League bench bosses.

HITHER & YAWN: I have added a new item to my Bucket List—appearing on TSN’s Off the Record with Michael Landsberg. I figure it’s the Canadian sports TV equivalent to being on the cover of Rolling Stone magazine. It’d be a cool gig, especially the Next Question segment……So, how do you spell desperate? Evander Kane spells it: B-u-f-f-a-l-o. I say that because Kane is “very excited” about shuffling off to Buffalo, which tells us how desperate he was to get out of River City. I mean, if you’ve ever been to the upstate New York burg (I have), you know that it isn’t Shangri-la. But good luck to Kane and the Buffalo McDavids next hockey season…If the Winnipeg Blue Bombers make big noise in Canadian Football League free agency and no one hears it because the Winnipeg Jets trade Evander Kane a day later, did it really happen? I mean, poor Kyle Walters. The Bombers general manager went about the task of upgrading his last-place product by signing five bodies, and it was greeted with a yawn…We all know there are many differences between the CFL and National Football League. Here’s the latest: The NFL stages its neutral-site games in London in the U.K. The CFL goes to Fort McMurray, Alta., where a team from Toronto is the home side and a team from Alberta is the visitor…Has Kirk Penton of the Winnipeg Sun become the best football beat writer in Canada? If it isn’t Penton, it’s either Paul Wiecek of the Winnipeg Free Press or Herb Zurkowsky of the Montreal Gazette.

fish wrapTHE WRITE STUFF: Very disappointed to see a scribe from the Republic of Tranna, Mike Koreen, in Moose Jaw to cover the Scotties Tournament of Hearts for Sun Media. Nothing against Koreen as a scribe, but readers of the Winnipeg Sun would be much better served if one of their own was on site. To date, we’ve read about Richard Hart coaching Team Canada (Rachel Homan from Ottawa), a piece on Kerry Galusha and Tracy Horgan discussing the new pre-qualifying portion of the Canadian women’s curling championship, and a feature on Lori Olson-Johns of Val Sweeting’s Alberta foursome. The only item on Jennifer Jones and her Buffalo Girls was a pre-event advancer for their Monday night skirmish with defending champ Homan. The Winnipeg Free Press, meanwhile, has staffer Melissa Martin in Moose Jaw to deliver daily dispatches about Jones and Co. Score one for the Freep…The most complete coverage of the Scotties can be found in the Heart Chart, the daily sheet produced in Moose Jaw by former Winnipeg Sun sports editor and longtime curling journalist Dave Komosky. He has ex-Saskatoon Star Phoenix sports scribe Cam Hutchinson riding shotgun, and the two of them are putting out a boffo product…So, Doug Brown scribbles a column for the Winnipeg Free Press about the horrors of pro sports dressing rooms. Good idea. Except the former Blue Bombers defensive lineman provides zero anecdotal evidence from his 20 years in football to support the notion that they can be raunchy, nasty, bad-news bunkers that foster bullying. Thus, he didn’t tell us anything we didn’t already know. He used a lot of really big words, though, which often seems to be the purpose of the exercise…This penetrating analysis from Gary (La La) Lawless of the Freep on the Jets post-season push: “The key for the Jets as they hope to secure a playoff berth for the first time since returning to Winnipeg will be to collect points on as many nights as possible over the remaining 24 games.” Well, duh. What was your first clue, Sherlock?

bow wow bungalowBOW WOW BUNGALOW: Little Stevie Blunder Simmons of the Toronto Sun has stepped in it again (he never fails to fail). This was his take on the Jets large trade featuring Evander Kane and Zach Bogosian going to the Buffalo McDavids…

“I seem to be in the minority on this, but I don’t think the Winnipeg Jets won the Evander Kane trade handily. I break it down this way: Tyler Myers for Zack (sic) Bogosian is one developing defenceman for another. Slight edge to Winnipeg. Now Buffalo gets Kane, a proven commodity with mounds of baggage in exchange for a late first-round pick, Claude Lemieux’s son and a minor leaguer. They may get something for Kane or they may end up with nothing. Late first-round picks are no sure thing. Buffalo gets a sure-thing NHL player in Kane to play alongside whichever centre they draft first in June.”

So, let’s see: He spelled Zach Bogosian’s first name incorrectly. He didn’t bother to identify Claude Lemieux’s son as Brendan Lemieux and, worst of all, he ignored the fact that the Jets also received Drew Stafford in barter from Buffalo. That would be the same Drew Stafford who’s already paid dividends, scoring one goal in regulation time and the shootout winner in the Jets 5-4 verdict over the Red Wings in Detroit on Saturday night.

Enjoy your stay in the Bow Wow Bungalow, Stevie.

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.

Kevin Cheveldayoff: Winnipeg Jets GM proves he has a pulse

Kevin Cheveldayoff had to go and spoil all my fun.

Can’t call him The Possum anymore. Can’t call him GM Groundhog anymore. Can’t call him the Wizard of the Waiver Wire anymore. Can’t call him Mr. Dithers anymore. Can’t say his modus operandi is management by paralysis anymore.

Nope.

The much-maligned man who has spent the better part of four years giving little indication that he has a pulse stirred from his catotonic state on Wednesday. Made a trade, he did. Not just any trade. This give-and-take rumbled to the very core of the National Hockey League orb, registering 8.0 on the Richter scale. Seven people and a draft pick. It was the trading version of binge drinking. By a teatotaler general manager.

What, then, are we to make of this Winnipeg Jets GM now that he has broken his maiden by actually shipping out and receiving players with NHL bona fides?

Like so many others, I had taken a rather damning view of Cheveldayoff’s stewardship of the Winnipeg hockey club since the Atlanta caravan rolled into River City in 2011 and morphed into the Jets. He tinkered with the waiver wire, he collected prospects like a squirrel collects nuts in autumn, he…well, that’s about all he did. Oh, wait. He also hired a head coach he should not have hired, then eventually fired Claude Noel about a year after he should have fired him.

All the while, he has preached—and asked Jets Nation to practise—the patience of Job. Yes, he is a man with a slow hand, our Chevy.

Then along comes Whopper Wednesday. Boom! Gone are Evander Kane, Zach Bogosian and somebody named Jason Kasdorf. Incoming from the Buffalo McDavids are Tyler Myers, Drew Stafford, Joel Armia, Brendan Lemieux and a first-round pick in this June’s NHL garage sale of 18-year-old shinny studs.

The GM Formerly Known as The Possum does subtle like Phil Kessel backchecks. Who knew?

Naturally, the suggestion has been made that Cheveldayoff’s hand was forced. That his dithering on all things Evander Kane (no need to rehash all the gory details) placed him in a position whereby he had no option but to peddle the enigmatic, combustible winger to the first sucker who came along.

While true, that might win the point but loses the argument.

Something had to be done about Kane, who went AWOL slightly more than a week ago and went on the shelf for the season slightly less than a week ago. Cheveldayoff could have put the procedure on hold until the NHL entry draft. More bidders that way. Better bites. Instead, he pulled the trigger on his first NHL player-for-NHL player transaction.

This was not a knee-jerk reaction,” he advised news scavengers scant seconds after the exchange of bodies had become a done deal.

Well, yes and no.

It wasn’t coincidence that Kane was moved out on the heels of his most-recent misadventure, whereby he either quit on his teammates or his teammates drove him out. If Cheveldayoff’s knee didn’t jerk, something sure did. Having said that, I’m certain that the GM also recognized that his front lines had become thinner than a sports scribe’s skin and there was a very real danger of frittering away the margin they’d built on playoff wannabes from Minnesota, Dallas and Colorado.

In other words, Cheveldayoff has sent a very clear and unmistakable message that he is operating in the now. Finally. Yes, there are components to this trade that speak to the future, but this was also about shinny being played at the Little Hockey House on the Prairie in the springtime. This spring. Not just two, five or 10 springs hence.

So, as much as I’ve used the Jets GM as a punching bag, there are no punch lines today. He gets a thumbs up. Make that two thumbs up.

And what happens if Kane goes on to score 50 goals a season for the Buffalo McDavids? Nothing. He wasn’t going to do it in Winnipeg. Ever.

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.