Winnipeg Jets: A heavy influx of youth won’t be Kevin Cheveldayoff’s next move

And now, for his next trick, Kevin Cheveldayoff will…

Actually, let’s begin by saying what the man who generally manages the Winnipeg Jets will not do in the wake of his club’s ouster from the Stanley Cup tournament—he will not jerk his knee. Neither one of them.

If we’ve learned anything about Cheveldayoff during his stewardship of the local National Hockey League outfit, it’s that he is a man with a slow hand. Many of us, myself included, had him figured for a dithering, do-nothing dullard whose management-by-paralysis methods were stunting the growth of a team that arrived in River City with a ready-made core. A few bold strokes and it would have been playoff worthy.

Except Cheveldayoff didn’t do bold strokes. Instead, he preached patience. Draft and develop.

Many of us believed him to be gun shy. That he functioned in fear of being fleeced by a wiser, more deal-savvy NHL general manager, who would pick his pocket and expose him as hopelessly inept.

We now know otherwise, don’t we?

In banishing both Evander Kane and Zach Bogosian to Buffalo in February, an initiative that spurred the Jets toward a much-anticipated post-season perch, Cheveldayoff proved that dashing and daring are part of his makeup. He wasn’t gun shy after all. Just cautious in how he used his bullets.

So what now?

The Winnipegs have taken that next step, the one Jets Nation had been awaiting since the club set up shop at the Little Hockey House on the Prairie in 2011. This is a playoff team. As it turns out, it isn’t a good enough playoff team, because the Disney Ducks got the brooms out and swept the locals away in four games, the minimum number required to move on to the second round of the NHL’s championship tournament. Those four games revealed the Jets to be short on top-end skill, short on depth, short on elite goaltending and short on the experience required to close the deal.

Thus, Cheveldayoff must roll up his sleeves and do some heavy lifting.

No doubt, he will receive ample advice. All unsolicited. Indeed, we are hearing yelps from the rabble, and the body is still warm. Get rid of Dustin Byfuglien, they bray. He is a defensive liability, with gusts up to disastrous. Put Toby Enstrom on the next stage coach out of Dodge, they insist. Too small, too easily pushed around by the big, bad dudes in the Western Conference. Surely the time has arrived for Ondrej Pavelec, despite a run of magnificence at the tail end of the regular season, to occupy another team’s blue paint. And let’s not forget the captain, Andrew Ladd, whose penchant for taking ill-timed and thoughtless penalties appears to be both chronic and unfixable. Gotta get rid of him, too.

Well, save your oxygen. None of this is going to transpire any time soon.

There is always an emotional reflex at the conclusion of a crusade, like that which the Jets completed with their 5-2 loss to the Ducks on Wednesday night. People see the good. They believe the club is positioned to become a perennial playoff participant. But they also see the not-so-good, the components that left the Jets lacking. They want change. Swift change. Perhaps even voluminous change.

Already I have heard noise about a substantial youth movement. Bring in Connor Hellebuyck to play goal. Josh Morrissey is ready for prime time. Ditto Nik Ehlers and Nic Petan.

Sorry, but you don’t want to go there. Put those four players in the Jets lineup and what do you have? The Edmonton Oilers. A team full of flash and dash and one that gets the No. 1 pick in the NHL entry draft every summer.

Consider, for example, Mark Scheifele. He’s young, talented, enthusiastic, determined. He now has two seasons on his resume. How well did he perform in his playoff baptism? He drowned. That’s how well. Jacob Trouba, destined to become a stud defenceman, struggled mightily. How did Adam Lowry measure up against the cagey antagonist, Ryan Kesler? And you want to add four more neophytes to the stew?

I would be shocked if Cheveldayoff goes that route. It’s a recipe for disaster.

I’m sure the Jets GM will, as is his wont, take a measured approach to roster reparations this off-season. If I’m wrong (that’s been known to happen) and the Jets ice a lineup that includes a combination of Scheifele, Trouba, Lowry, Hellebuyck, Morrissey, Ehlers, Petan and Andrew Copp next October, be prepared for a long season.

And forget about the playoffs.

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: Is Paul Maurice really that good a coach?

I lied. Sort of. Kind of. It wasn’t an intentional lie, understand. It wouldn’t even qualify as a little, white lie.

When I wrote last month that I was shutting down The ‘I don’t have a Basement but I’ve got a Blog’ Blog, I meant it. I was done after more than 40 years of scribbling about all matters on the Winnipeg sports landscape. Now, as you can see, The ‘I don’t have a Basement but I’ve got a Blog’ Blog is again very much up and running.

Perhaps I merely needed time away. Some space, as they say (whoever they are).

Paul Maurice
Paul Maurice

There have been things I wanted to write about in the presence of my own absence, most of them pertaining to the Winnipeg Jets, who continue to send front-line players to the infirmary yet still conspire to win games and make a genuine push toward participation in next spring’s Stanley Cup tournament.

I truly do not know what to make of this National Hockey League outfit. I mean, is Paul Maurice that good a coach? His backline has been ransacked, but he plugs the holes with spare parts provided by general manager Kevin (The Possum) Cheveldayoff or the farm in Newfy Land and the beat goes on, tickety-boo.

I must confess that, until this week, I had aligned myself fully with the skeptics. There is, in hockey, an axiom that tells us “You are what your record says you are.” Well, that didn’t wash with me. I remained unconvinced that these Jets, a group with no post-season pedigree, were built of playoff brick and mortar. Then they skated into the Toddlin’ Town and laid a proper paddywhacking on the Blackhawks, 5-1. You win with that defence—Adam Pardy, Paul Postma, Jay Harrison, Grant Clitsome and Ben Chiarot? In Chicago?

That’s not to dismiss the sizeable contribution (literally and figuratively) of Dustin Byfuglien, the born-again blueliner who’s been wearing his happy face ever since coach PoMo freed him from his purgatory of right wing. Big Buff has been gobbling up ice time like burgers at a BBQ. He spent just under 28 1/2 minutes roaming the Madhouse on Madison freeze Tuesday evening, and he managed to do so without crippling calamity.

This, of course, is a notable departure from the past, when Byfuglien patrolled the blueline like he had a live grenade in his hockey britches. To say Big Buff was prone to pratfalls is to say Don Cherry is apt to wear loud clothing while dissing Europeans.

So now this is the question: What does coach PoMo do when Toby Enstrom, Zach Bogosian, Jacob Trouba and Mark Stuart rejoin the fray?

He will, no doubt, do the right thing because Maurice seems to have a knack for doing the right thing.

None of this, by the way, should be taken as an indictment of coach PoMo’s predecessor as the Jets’ bench puppet master, Claude Noel. The club’s unexpected perch in a playoff position as we carve our Christmas turkeys does not mean Noel is a lousy coach. It merely confirms what many of us believed long before his dismissal last January—he was the wrong coach for this group.

Whereas these players zoned out Noel, Maurice has them in a zone.

Naturally, skeptics remain. At least one pundit, Gary (La La) Lawless of the Winnipeg Free Press, directs our attention to the Jets’ pre-break form chart which indicates they have feasted on sub-.500 outfits (12-1-3) and struggled vs. stronger sides (6-9-4).

“If they continue on the same trajectory, this team will fade down the stretch,” Gary La La writes, noting that the Winnipegs will line up against plus-.500 teams in 32 of their final 47 skirmishes.

Could be it’s an accurate assessment. After all, it wouldn’t be the first time this franchise has performed a faceplant in the back half of a once-promising crusade, and operating sans your top four defencemen surely will take a toll.

I’m still not convinced that we’ll see spring shinny at the Little Hockey House on the Prairie after April 11, but I am sold on one thing: Paul Maurice. Apparently his players are, too.

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: Only a perfect storm of a dozen “ifs” will get them into the playoffs

So, the dreamy-eyed romantics in the Rose-Colored Room have read the tea leaves and the Winnipeg Jets shall qualify for the Stanley Cup tournament if…

  • If Mark Scheifele avoids a sophomore slump and becomes a force of nature in his second National Hockey League season.
  • Ditto Jacob Trouba.
  • If Ondrej Pavelec becomes the second coming of Dominik Hasek.
  • If Michael Hutchinson is a legitimate NHL goaltender when Pavelec stumbles.
  • If Paul Maurice, who twice was fired and whose teams missed the playoffs nine times in his 13 complete seasons behind an NHL bench, morphs into Scotty Bowman, Toe Blake and Mike Babcock.
  • If Zach Bogosian finally realizes his immense potential and plays on par with studs like Drew Doughty and Shea Weber, or at least becomes a reasonable facsimile.
  • If Evander Kane scores more goals than every player on Planet Puckhead who isn’t named Steven Stamkos or Ovie.
  • If Mathieu Perreault is not Olli Jokinen.
  • If no core players are injured for lengthy stretches.
  • If the Colorado Avalanche are frauds.
  • Ditto the Minnesota Wild.
  • If the bottom four teams in the Pacific Division continue to flat-line.

I shall not dispute any of this. If it all transpires as the dreamy-eyed romantics in the Rose-Colored Room would have it, the Jets will close regular-season business no worse than fifth in the Central precinct and there shall be meaningful games played at the Little Hockey House on the Prairie in late April. I believe all in Jets Nation hope they’re right.

But (you knew, of course, that I was about to hit you with a big, bad but)…

You’re talking the perfect storm here. You’re talking about a universe unfolding in such a way that there is not a single misstep. Nary a one. Is this possible? I suppose it is. It’s also possible that TMZ will go the next seven months without reporting on a scandal. It’s possible that Winnipeg’s new mayor (hello, Brian Bowman) will build a bubble around River City to keep winter out. It’s possible that Charlie Sheen will…oh, never mind.

As much as I would like to link arms, light candles and sing Kumbaya with the romantics as the Jets embark on their latest crusade tonight against the formerly bankrupt, formerly orphaned, formerly Phoenix-now-Arizona Desert Dogs, I cannot.

Sorry, but we’re dealing with too many “ifs” here. “If” is the operative word for the Jets. If this happens…if that happens…if so-and-so can do this…if so-and-so can do that.

The biggest if of a dozen ifs is, of course, between the goal posts. Only elite-level ‘tending will pave a path to post-season participation, and Pavelec has done nothing to convince anyone—other than GM Kevin (The Possum) Cheveldayoff and coach PoMo—that he stands among the NHL’s tall timber. He does not pass the numbers test. He does not pass the eye test.

Apparently Pavelec had a good summer, though. Oh joy. I’m happy for him. The thing is, he has to have a great winter if we want to be talking about spring hockey.

Is that too big of an if? Yup. The Playoff Nazi says: No playoffs for you!
fish wrap

Living in La La Land

In this edition of Fish Wrap, we direct your attention to Gary (La La) Lawless, the flip, flop and fly columnist with the Winnipeg Free Press.

On April 2, under the headline “Status quo won’t do,” he wrote: “Losing can’t go on forever and there must be a day of reckoning. It has arrived. It’s time to give the Jets’ core group of players a boost, to trade a major part for a few smaller ones in order to supplement the talented heart of this team and help them reach their potential.

“It’s time to push the whole package along a bit and make tomorrow come quicker. Draft and develop is the right strategy, but that doesn’t mean the Jets can’t put a little booster in their fuel and speed the process along.

“(We’ve) been watching this movie for a while and are ready for a different ending.”

Today, under the headline “Quick fix unlikely for Jets,” he writes: “The smart guys who poke the Jets for not making enough racy transactions blithely ignore (the) facts.

“If you’re teaching a child to ride a bike and they fall off once, do you throw out the bike? Fall off twice, throw out the child? No, you stick to it and eventually have to chase a runaway stream of pigtails or turned-around baseball cap as the kid goes screaming down the street.

“The Jets aren’t ready to run away from anything. But the plan is progressing. No need to throw anything away just yet.”

So, seven months ago, the day of reckoning had arrived. It was time to trade “a major part.” Today, not so much. There’s “no need to throw anything away.” Hmmm. Seems to me Dr. Flip and Mr. Flop forgot to compare notes before hitting the print button.

rooftop riting biz card back sidePatti 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.

Winnipeg Jets: From Big Buff to boffo biffies, these two ladies have the scoop

what if lady answer lady2

It’s a Triple H day because we have two Hens in the Hockey House—The What If Lady and The Answer Lady. 

Naturally, our favorite go-to girls have their pulse on all that matters in Jets Nation, including the uber significant issue of shorter beer lines and more potties at the Little Hockey House on the Prairie. Oh, yes, if there’s a point of discussion involving your Winnipeg Jets, the two ladies are—pardon the bad pun—flush with information about the National Hockey League outfit.

 

Take it away, ladies…

What If Lady: There are reports that Ondrej Pavelec showed up at training camp with a new body. What if his new body is as bad as his old body?

Answer Lady: Can you say Connor McDavid?

What If Lady: What if the Jets traded Pavelec to the Toronto Maple Leafs for James Reimer, even up?

Answer Lady: Toronto GM Dave Nonis would be out of a job, head coach Randy Carlyle would be out of a job and the Leafs would be drafting Connor McDavid next summer.

What If Lady: I really liked what I saw of that Nikolaj Ehlers kid at the rookie tournament in Penticton. He’s so fast. So skilled. He’s the Great Dane! What if he plays that well in the main camp?

Answer Lady: There’s only one thing preventing Ehlers from starting this season with the Jets—food. I mean, the kid’s a twig. Fear not, though. He’s a keeper. Not this year, but most likely next October after a year of mom’s home cooking has kicked in.

What If Lady: It sounds like Teemu Selanne really wanted to play another season. He said in his biography that he even considered signing with the Jets a year ago. What if Teemu had played for the Jets last season?

Answer Lady: He’d be Poh’d at Claude Noel and Paul Maurice instead of Bruce Boudreau, because they would have given all Teemu’s minutes to Chris Thorburn.

What If Lady: ESPN The Magazine ranks the Jets No. 97 out of the 122 major pro sports franchises in North America for fan experience. I think that really sucks. I doubt it if anyone from ESPN has ever been to a game in Winnipeg? What if someone from ESPN actually attended a game at the MTS Centre? Would our ranking go up?

Answer Lady: No, it would plummet to the bottom because the battery in the poor guy’s rental car would freeze during the game and he’d he’d get mugged by one of our charming citizen’s of no-fixed address while waiting for a tow truck.

What If Lady: Mark Scheifele and Jacob Trouba had really good rookie seasons. I don’t believe in a so-called Sophomore Jinx, but what if one or both of them regresses?

Answer Lady: I have spoken with my personal analytics department and the propeller heads assure me that there are Corsi reasons and Fenwick reasons why this will never happen. After crunching numbers, they say the % of probability is approximately = to the ratio of TOI divided by ESG + a certain % of salary cap against the balance of $ owed. It’s all Greek to me, but I believe the probability of both Scheifele and Trouba going into the tank is remote, but the possibility of one hitting the skids is high.

What If Lady: A lot of NHL teams created an analytics department or hired fancy-stats people this past summer. I didn’t hear anything about it from the Jets, though. What if they’ve missed the boat in this growing and increasingly important area of the business?

Answer Lady: I’m told Craig Heisinger is analyzing the analytics and Zinger will present his analysis of analytics to general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff as soon as he wakes up from his summer nap.

What If Lady: There’s been so much talk about the young players at camp this year. Guys like Nic Petan, Josh Morrissey, Nik Ehlers and Adam Lowry would give the Jets a whole new look if they make the big club. But what if youth isn’t served?

Answer Lady: Youth shall be served. His name is Adam Lowry. He’s a Western Conference forward—big and skilled. Get used to seeing him. You’ll like him.

What If Lady: Five teams from the Central Division made the playoffs last season—Chicago, St. Louis, Colorado, Dallas and Minnesota. I can’t see the Jets overhauling any of those clubs, so it looks like another non-playoff year in River City. What if they’re out of contention by the trade deadline?

Answer Lady: Say adios to Dustin Byfuglien, Andrew Ladd or Toby Enstrom. Take your pick.

What If Lady: Evander Kane sure seems to get in a lot of hot water over saying and doing the silliest, little things and he always seems to be the subject of trade rumors because of it. I have a personal theory that he does it just to provoke the media. So what if the media wise up to his shenanigans and stop writing and talking about the goofy stuff? What if they write and talk about his on-ice efforts only?

Answer Lady: Environment Canada will issue an emergency weather warning—hell has frozen over.

What If Lady: Evander has been bragging about scoring 50 goals in a season. I’m a big Kane fan, so I think that would be brilliant. But what if he only scores 19 again?

Answer Lady: Can you say Jack Eichel?

What If Lady: True North spent $6 million this summer for renovations to the MTS Centre, and that included a whack of new toilets. I hear they’re boffo biffies, but what a waste (pardon the bad pun). What if they had spent that money on another player or two instead?

Answer Lady: You want to talk about spending money on crap? Try $19.5 million on crappy goaltending. Try $3.6 million on a crappy fourth-line forward who belongs in the AHL. What’s another $6 million for a bunch of biffies when you’ve already tossed more than $20 million down the crapper on two players?

What If Lady: That’s kind of harsh. True but harsh.

Answer Lady: Okay, our work is done here for today. Let’s go check out those new toilets on the 300 Level. I’ve got some beer to get rid of.

What If Lady: Me too. Those shorter beer queues are simply marvy.

 

fish wrap

 

We now interrupt our regularly scheduled cheekiness to bring you this important weather alert: Hell hath frozen over.

That’s right, kids, at least one local news scavenger has discovered what some of us have known for quite some time—Evander Kane likes to yank the media’s chain.

Gary (La La) Lawless, who oft serves up heaping helpings of Kane-imosity, recently offered a fresh take on the Winnipeg Jets polorizing left winger, and he has decided to play nice. For now.

Kane spends the working portion of his life in Winnipeg,” girthsome Gary writes in his Winnipeg Free Press column. “When he’s here, he visits hospitals and donates time and money to helping others less fortunate than he. What else do we want from him? A signed affidavit he likes it here? Enough already.

Early on, Kane’s act caught some of us off guard and rubbed the wrong way at times. Over time, it’s become apparent that Kane is comfortable in the spotlight and not afraid to stir the pot with his well-followed Twitter and Instagram accounts.

The kid is cheeky. Give me his looks, youth, talent and money and the resulting sideshow would make Evander look like a wallflower.

Some of us, this writer included, need to offer up a bit of a mea culpa.

Kane is no villain, even if he sometimes likes to play one. And if you think he doesn’t know what he’s up to and isn’t aware of the reaction he’s about to produce, you haven’t been paying close attention. Kane is smart and calculating.”

As far as mea culpas go, I’d say that’s a good start. Well done, La La.

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, 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 her scribblings about the LGBT community in Victoria, B.C.

Winnipeg Jets are good to go now that TJ No Dots is on board

Boy, you can’t slip anything past our man Kevin Cheveldayoff. No sir. It’s like trying to sneak the sun past a rooster. Or a blue-eyed blonde past Tiger Woods.

No surprise, therefore, that while 28 general managers were taking a mid-summer siesta and Marc Bergevin was distracted by that pesky P.K. Subban thing, Kevin the Possum swooped in and plucked TJ Galiardi from the bones of the 2014 free-agent carcass. He sure showed that Jim Nill dude in Dallas how to generally manage a hockey team, didn’t he?

And let’s make one thing perfectly clear: There’s no truth to the rumor that the Possum actually believed he was signing T.J. Oshie, not TJ Galiardi. Our man would never get confused like that. No way. No one need tell the Possum the difference between a T.J. with dots after his initials and a TJ sans dots. The Winnipeg Jets GM knew exactly what he was doing when he added TJ No Dots to the ingredients of his Possum Stew.

So what does this development tell us?

Well, it tells us that the Jets now have the second best TJ in the National Hockey League. Not only that, it tells us that the Possum is a myth buster. Oh…yes…he…is.

It has been suggested—ad nauseam—that free agents will avoid River City like Brits avoid the dentist. Uh uh. Not true. TJ is evidence that some players really do like us, and so what if he comes from the dregs of the bin and would have been happy to see a contract offer from any outfit this side of the Kremlin. Mathieu Perreault is additional evidence of the Possum’s myth-busting chops.

I guess I’ve been wrong about the Possum all along. I mean, he somehow sold Perreault on The Forks and a non-playoff team against Disneyland and a Stanley Cup contender. Imagine that. Winnipeg, the Magic Kingdom. Again, take that, Jim Nill.

***

I don’t know if the recruitment of Perreault and TJ No Dots represents the Possum’s final touch in advance of Camp PoMo a little more than a month hence, but when I look at this Jets outfit I see…well, gosh darn, if I don’t see Don Waddell and Rick Dudley. Still. Three and a half years after the caravan from Atlanta rolled into River City.

And, to think, some people say the Possum does nothing.

(Just a thought: In a game of river hockey, which team would win? My money would be on Waddell/Dudley, even with Ondrej Pavelec in goal.)

TEAM WADDELL/DUDLEY

Dustin Byfuglien

Evander Kane

Andrew Ladd

Bryan Little

Zach Bogosian

Toby Enstrom

Ondrej Pavelec

Jim Slater

Chris Thorburn

Blake Wheeler

Paul Postma

Mark Stuart

THE POSSUM’S STEW

Mark Scheifele

Anthony Peluso

Matt Halischuk

Mathieu Perreault

Eric Tangradi

Grant Clitsome

Keaton Ellerby

Adam Pardy

Jacob Trouba

Michael Hutchinson

Michael Frolik

TJ Galiardi

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, 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 her scribblings about the LGBT community in Victoria, B.C.

Winnipeg Jets: Here’s what they’re saying out on the street

If players and media think that Nashville hasn’t grown up as a team, I really want to know how they view the Jets. If Nashville just moved out of their parents’ house, the Jets took down their cartoon bird wallpaper and put up vintage airplanes stickers in their bedroom.

Ever wonder what others think about our hockey heroes? I do.

That’s why I went on a scouting mission this morning. I wanted to get the word on the street. You know, find out if pundits hither and yon are as gobsmacked as myself by the hypnotic, management-by-paralysis work of Winnipeg Jets general manager Kevin the Possum, who, if his thumb-twiddling achieves the desired result, has positioned the Winnipeg Jets to win the Connor McDavid sweeps.

This hunt, it should be pointed out, was inspired by a Ken Wiebe piece that appeared last week in the Winnipeg Sun.

The young sports scribe went about the business of analyzing and assessing the off-season tinkering, overhauling and blow-’em-up-real-good manoeuvring of the seven outfits in the Central Division of the National Hockey League.

Wiebe rated Kevin the Possum’s work as C-, which, if I remember my grade school grading system correctly, is a passing mark. Anything above a D is a pass. Oh, woe is Ken.

A mark of C- for Kevin the Possum is clearly a hometown score. I’m not accusing Wiebe of being a True North Toady, but his credibility certainly has taken a bit of a hit because giving GM Kevin Cheveldayoff a passing grade is like giving Tiger Woods a gold star for fidelity.

Wiebe submits that the Jets “have improved slightly.” Sorry, but I don’t see it. Which is why I sought outside input. Here’s what they’re saying about the Jets out on the street, kids. (Caution: Offensive opinion if you’re a hard-core fanboy or fangirl.)

Harrison Mooney, Puck Daddy: The more I look at the Winnipeg Jets, the more I’m left to wonder what Kevin Cheveldayoff actually does all day. It’s as though Cheveldayoff doesn’t know trading is an option. He’s been an NHL GM since June 8, 2011. He’s never made a player-for-player trade, ever.

The Tennessean: With the exception of the Winnipeg Jets, every Central team made major improvements in hopes of unseating Pacific Division power Los Angeles, the Stanley Cup champion.”

David M. Wilson, Defending Big D (a Dallas Stars blog): So after finishing seventh in the Central Division, seven points back of a playoff spot, what do the Winnipeg Jets need to step into the sphere of being legitimate contenders? Well. Whatever it is, it’s unlikely they got it over this offseason. No, they didn’t exactly do nothing, but their summer moves are more of the yawn-inducing variety than anything else.”

Allan Muir, SI.com: “Meanwhile in Winnipeg, Cheveldayoff numbly soldiers on with a core that has no idea how to win, a tent-pole star who doesn’t want to be there and arguably the worst starting goalie in the entire league. What does Chevy do this summer? He picks up Mathieu Perreault to replace Olli Jokinen, waffles on the continuing Evander Kane situation and does nothing to support or replace Ondrej Pavelec, despite the availability of an abundance of keepers with starter potential in free agency. But what else to expect from a man whose boldest move in the last three years was swapping Johnny Oduya for a pair of draft picks?”

Scott Burnside, ESPN: Mathieu Perreault? That’s the answer? Hmmm. If the question was, ‘How do we keep our streak of never winning a single playoff game alive?’ then the Jets seem right on track. While every other team in the Central Division has made a step forward, the Jets seem content to maintain the status quo in the hopes that somehow, someway their young players—and there are some good ones like Jacob TroubaMark Scheifele and Blake Wheelerwill miraculously take this team by the throat and guide it into the playoffs. Last season they finished 14 points back of fourth-place Minnesota and seven back of Dallas, which snared the second wild-card spot in the West. No way are they that close now.”

Dan Bradley, On the Forecheck: The Jets are becoming masters at being just good enough to not get a top-3 pick, but not being good enough become relevant. It’s a cycle that’s pretty cruel to the city and its fans (who are some of the best in the league). The fans and media aren’t too fond of Evander Kane. They’re paying Ondrej Pavelec wayyyy too much money when he’s statistically one of the worst in the league. There’s some decent talent here, but unless a trade to bring in some legit scoring happens OR the team is bad enough to tank towards a top-3 pick, the Jets will continue to be a haven for young players looking to join a contender. If players and media think that Nashville hasn’t grown up as a team, I really want to know how they view the Jets. If Nashville just moved out of their parents’ house, the Jets took down their cartoon bird wallpaper and put up vintage airplanes stickers in their bedroom.”

Josh Clark, Blackout Dallas:  Better or worse? There’s absolutely no way around it: the Jets will decline this season. Winnipeg finished last year at 15th in the goals-for department and 21st in the goals-against department. With the rebuild phase imminent and draft picks galore filling their future, they just won’t be able to compete in the tough Central Division full of six playoff caliber teams now. With the current players on the roster, they will be able to straggle along, but will not find a way to punch their ticket to the postseason.”

Hockey Blog in Canada: “The first guy I have to ask about is Winnipeg Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff. The Jets have yet to make the playoffs since arriving in Winnipeg, and look like they are going to miss the playoffs again this season. Yes, I can boldly make that prediction in July because I’m not sure what Cheveldayoff is being paid to do on a daily basis.”

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, 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 her scribblings about the LGBT community in Victoria, B.C.

Red Cards and Yellow Cards to you, you, you and my own self

Evander Kane and Kevin (Takethedayoff) Cheveldayoff need to spend some time on Planet Pinocchio.

rooftop riting biz card back sideThe World Cup is in the rear view mirror, but that doesn’t mean we have to put away the red and yellow cards. Matter of fact, I’m going to my pocket because there are some people who need to be carded…

RED CARD: To Steve Simmons of the Toronto Sun/Sun Media.

I have often red-carded Little Stevie Blunder because he is, perhaps, the most red-cardable jock journalist in the land. To err is human, but this Sun scribe is never wrong. Just ask him.

I did that very thing once upon a time. Little Stevie had written that the Minnesota Vikings never were champions of the National Football League. I sent him an email, suggesting he might be mistaken.

“The Vikings have never won the Super Bowl, but did they not win the final NFL title prior to the merger with the American Football League?” I inquired. “I’m looking at the official NFL record book as I write, and it lists Minnesota as the 1969 NFL champion. Is the official NFL record book wrong, or are you wrong?”

Well, didn’t that just ruffle his not-so-pretty plummage?

Little Stevie’s response was quite snotty. Basically, he told me I was a ditz who didn’t know pigskin from porcelain and I shouldn’t let the facts get in the way of his high-and-mighty huffing and puffing. Without saying the NFL record book was wrong, he said it was wrong.

So now we have Little Stevie playing loose with history once again, this time in Major League Baseball.

Sitting to the host’s right on TSN The Reporters with Dave Hodge this past Sabbath, Little Stevie went into full bluster and told us this about Clayton Kershaw, the Los Angeles Dodgers sensational southpaw: “His last eight starts, two no-hitters, five earned runs.”

Kershaw has one no-hitter in his entire career, not two in eight starts.

Normally, a foul of this nature would warrant only a yellow card, but Simmons gets a red card because he’s so arrogant.

pegsunRED CARD: To the Winnipeg Sun.

Why does PegSun run Little Stevie Blunder’s three-dot columns on Sundays? Too much of it is Toronto-centric. In his most-recent piece, Simmons offered 14 opinions on Tranna athletes/issues compared to just one about Winnipeg. Does anyone in River City actually care about the Raptors and the naming of a Scarborough street after Peter Zezel?

Why doesn’t PegSun have one of its own people do the column? Like Paul Friesen. Or a freelancer who’d make the thing more Peg-centric.

RED CARD: To Kevin Klein, grand poobah of MyToba.ca.

I’m sure Klein has some boffo ideas, because the MyToba.ca website is quite good. But his campaign to have Dancing Gabe Langlois inducted into the Manitoba Sports Hall of Fame is not among his boffo notions. It is, in fact, a really, really dumb idea.

Klein made his plea in a May column on MyToba.ca, and asked folks to sign a petition in support. Two months later, he has 157 of his targeted 10,000 signatures.

Take the hint, Kevin: Take the story down from your website.

YELLOW CARD: To Gary (La La) Lawless of the Winnipeg Free Press.

Gary La La engaged Dave Reid in one of those staged, to-and-fro chin-wags in which both voices talk loud and, often, at the same time on TSN’s That’s Hockey. Their debate focused on the merits of having either Jacob Trouba of the Winnipeg Jets or Seth Jones of the Nashville Predators as the centrepiece of your National Hockey League franchise.

“Leadership?” Gary La La said in summation. “You could slap the C on Jacob Trouba in Winnipeg right now and no one would blink.”

Yo! La La! I’m pretty certain Andrew Ladd would blink as they ripped the C off his sweater.

Jets GM Kevin Takethedayoff
Jets GM Kevin Takethedayoff

YELLOW CARD: To Jets left winger Evander Kane and general manager Kevin (Takethedayoff) Cheveldayoff.

These two need to spend some time on Planet Pinocchio. Here’s why: When Kane arrives at training camp (on time but probably not soon enough for the naysayers), the news scavengers will be circling, They will be hungry. They will be prepared to pick at his bones. This will be their first volley:

“Do you want to be here in Winnipeg, Evander?”

This will be the central theme throughout training exercises—and into the NHL season—unless the polarizing player and the pulseless GM stop talking in circles about Kane’s life expectancy with the Jets.

Kane and Cheveldayoff need to do what most hockey people do—lie. The next time Kane is asked if he’s happy in Pegtown, he must say, “Yes.” When Cheveldayoff is asked if he is attempting to peddle his sometimes petulant player’s posterior to the highest bidder, he must say, “No.”

You and I will know both their noses are growing and their pants are on fire, but their big, fat fibs ought to curb the controversy. We then can move on to more pressing training camp issues. Like the size of Dustin Byfuglien’s girth.

YELLOW CARD: To local newsies for sticking their microphones and notepads under Dale Hawerchuk’s nose to get his take on the Kane situation.

Exactly what did the scavengers expect Ducky to say? That Winnipeg is a cesspool? That Kane should run for the hills?

There’s no suggestion that the Jets legend was anything less than sincere when he endorsed good, ol’ Hometown as a swell place to spend an NHL career, but come on, people. That’s not a fresh slant on a touchy issue. It’s not news. It’s True North propaganda.

YELLOW CARD: To my very own self because of what I scribbled about the Winnipeg Blue Bombers for The Huddle Magazine last September.

“Be afraid, kids. Be very afraid. Here’s why. What transpired at Football Follies Field in Fort Garry on Friday night might have been a preview of the 2014 Canadian Football League season.

Keep in mind that your Winnipeg Blue Bombers will be keeping company with B.C., Calgary, Edmonton and Saskatchewan next year, so the 53-17 paddy whacking the B.C. Lions laid on the locals could become the rule rather than the exception.

Scary thought, isn’t it?

I mean, if you’re the bottom feeder in the CFL East Division, what’s going to happen when you’re running with the big dogs in the West Division? Well, here’s a hint: The Bombers are 1-6 vs. West outfits in 2013 and they’ve been outscored 238-145 for a per game average of 34-20. So batten the hatches and hide all the women and children.

Oh, I suppose a lot will change between now and next July. Maybe the Bombers will find a general manager. Maybe they’ll find a head coach who knows where the Xs and Os belong on the offensive side of the football. Maybe they’ll find a quarterback who doesn’t give the ball away like candy on Halloween. Maybe they’ll find some large lads who can pass block. Maybe they’ll find some receivers who don’t have alligator arms in traffic. Maybe they’ll find someone who can kick a field goal.

And maybe I’ll be Miss Grey Cup 2013.”

Well, our football heroes are 3-and-oh and atop the Canadian Football League West Division standings.

D’oh!

(FOOTNOTE: I invite your comments. I do not, however, welcome some of your comments. If you believe what I’ve written is the natterings of a nincompoop and belongs at the bottom of a bird cage, let ‘er rip. Tell me why. I enjoy healthy debate. That can be fun. If, on the other hand, your idea of a critique is to attack/insult me about my gender or sexual orientation, then we aren’t going to get along. Let’s put it this way: It is permissible to question the size of my IQ, but not the size of my boobs. Bottom line: I don’t get paid to write this crap, so play nice, kids.)

Corsi and Fenwick: What the *%&$#* are QoC eTOI% and QoT TOI% F rel supposed to mean?

So, who are Corsi and Fenwick? Do they have first names? Or are they like Brazilian soccer players and Madonna?

rooftop riting biz card back sideI have a confession to make: I’m old school.

I’m so old school that I sometimes think I was on the work crew that helped Don Cherry build the old school.

I mean, I still call a chalk board a black board. To me, the word “hip” means something other than one of my many body parts that requires replacing. I don’t listen to music unless it includes a turntable, a needle and a thin slab of round vinyl. I’m still having difficulty with the notion that the Cubs play night games, that the 1970s are over and that Hedberg and Nilsson left Winnipeg for Gotham.

That doesn’t mean I live in the past. Nor does the past live in me. It isn’t that I’m anti-progress or anti-change (lord knows I fully embrace change). It’s just that I’m a bit slow on the uptake when it comes to new-fangled thingamajigs.

So you’ll have to excuse me if I’m having difficulty with these Corsi and Fenwick dudes.

For the longest time, I was quite curious about Corsi and Fenwick. It was a curiosity that bordered on fascination. I’d never seen them. I just kept reading and hearing about them. All…the…time.

I figured Corsi and Fenwick were finalists for the Hart Trophy and every other significant National Hockey League award. After all, they’d been mentioned in every shinny story written in the past half dozen years. I kept waiting for them to arrive on the red carpet at the NHL awards gala last month in Vegas, but they were no-shows. I was quite disappointed because I wanted to see what their dates were wearing.

That was quite presumptuous of me, though. Why would I assume that they had dates? Female dates. For all I knew, Corsi and Fenwick were a couple of gay dudes. Perhaps partners.

Naw. Couldn’t be that. We all know there aren’t any gay dudes in hockey (even though we all know there are gay dudes in hockey).

So, who were Corsi and Fenwick? Did they have first names? Or were they like Brazilian soccer players and Madonna and Shakira?

Hockey people and media types have long been in constant debate about Corsi and Fenwick. Take Steve Simmons of Sun Media (please, take him). He scoffs at, and heaps scorn upon, anyone who suggests Corsi and Fenwick are what hockey is all about today. My friends at Arctic Ice Hockey, on the other hand, are convinced that Corsi and Fenwick are the be-all, end all. Corsi and Fenwick do it all.

I figure if Corsi and Fenwick are that bloody good, the Winnipeg Jets should make a play for them. Give me Corsi, Fenwick and a first-round draft pick and I’ll give you Evander Kane. I’ll even toss in a player to be named later, as long as that player’s name is Ondrej Pavelec.

Well, we can’t make that trade because it turns out that Corsi and Fenwick aren’t hockey players. They don’t even have a pulse. (You know, much like Jets general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff.)

Corsi and Fenwick are fancy numbers. They are advanced stats. They are analytics. I’m supposed to look at Corsi and Fenwick and they’ll tell me everything from how often Jacob Trouba has the puck to how often and when Dustin Byfuglien takes a lunch break.

When I look at Corsi and Fenwick, though, it’s all Greek to me. It looks like something out of the Wall Street Journal, not The Hockey News.

Seriously. QoC eTOI% and QoT TOI% F rel are supposed to mean something to me? An old school girl who was weaned on plus/minus numbers?

I suppose QoC ETOI% and QoT TOI%F rel would make sense if I followed the stock markets.

“QoC eTOI% shares were up .25 at closing, but QoT TOI% F rel dipped .50 and is in free fall. Meanwhile, NZShr, DZS% and TMSh% made significant gains on both the TSE and on Wall Street.”

Quite frankly, I liked it a whole lot better when I thought Corsi and Fenwick were hockey players.

But that doesn’t mean I pooh-pooh fancy stats and the people who endorse and use them. I salute the numbers nerds who devised the stats, and I’m quite certain they have merit.

Let’s put it this way: All I need to know about fancy stats is that Steve Simmons thinks they’re stupid. That convinces me they’re brilliant.

(FOOTNOTE: I invite your comments. I do not, however, welcome some of your comments. If you believe what I’ve written is the natterings of a nincompoop and belongs at the bottom of a bird cage, let ‘er rip. Tell me why. I enjoy healthy debate. That can be fun. If, on the other hand, your idea of a critique is to attack/insult me about my gender or sexual orientation, then we aren’t going to get along. Let’s put it this way: It is permissible to question the size of my IQ, but not the size of my boobs. Bottom line: I don’t get paid to write this crap, so play nice, kids.)

Winnipeg Jets: We take you to the year 2025

rooftop riting biz card back sideWe now take you to the year 2025, where Kevin Cheveldayoff is holding court with news scavengers after the Winnipeg Jets have failed to qualify for the Stanley Cup tournament for the 14th straight National Hockey League season…

Paul Friesen, Winnipeg Sun: “Chevy, when do you expect this team to make the playoffs, if ever?”

Chevy: “As you know Paul, we are following the draft-and-develop blueprint we established in 2011, and we won’t deviate from that plan. We cannot deviate from that plan. The plan is fluid. It has no time frame.”

Friesen: “You didn’t answer my question, Chevy.”

Chevy: “I believe I did answer your question, Paul. It just wasn’t the answer you wanted to hear.”

Friesen: “Okay, let me approach it from a different angle. You’ve had the same main group of players since 2011—Pavelec, Little, Ladd, Big Buff, Kane, Wheeler, Bogo, Enstrom, Slater, Thorburn. They’re all in their late-30s or early 40s. Don’t you think it’s time to break up your core after 14 years of losing?”

Chevy: “Hey, don’t blame me for those guys! Rick Dudley and Don Waddell are responsible for those guys!”

Friesen: “Ya, you inherited them from Atlanta, but that was 14 years ago! You could have traded one or more of them by now. Starting with Ondrej Pavelec.”

Chevy: “Speaking of starting, I want you all to know that Ondrej will be our No. 1 goaltender again next season. I’m confident that he’s confident and that the other players are confident that he can get his save percentage up to at least .870 and his goals-against average down to 3.50. It’s just a matter of having confidence in his confidence. As for trading some of those other guys, I haven’t made a player-for-player trade in 14 years and I’m not about to start now. That would be a deviation from my draft-and-develop strategy, and I refuse to deviate from my draft-and-develop strategy. Guys like Mark Scheifele and Jacob Trouba are proof that my draft-and-develop strategy works.”

Friesen: “Ya, but you developed Scheifele and Trouba for the Vancouver Canucks.”

Chevy: “Hey, it’s not my fault that they got tired of playing in front of Pavs. I can’t say I blame them for signing with the Canucks as free agents. I think it’s great that we finally got to see what Scheif and Troubs look like with playoff beards. I was happy for them when they won the Stanley Cup and they were co-winners of the Conn Smythe Trophy. It proves I wasn’t wrong when I drafted them.”

Gary (La La) Lawless, Winnipeg Free Press: “You’ve never been wrong, Chevy. You’re the right man for the right job for the right team at the right time. Some see your propensity for doing nothing for 14 years as a flaw, but I see it as sheer brilliance.”

Chevy
Chevy

Chevy: “Still got your nose up my butt after all these years, eh Gary?”

La La Lawless: “You bet, Chevy. As long as you’ve got a butt, I’ve got a place to park my nose. That’s why they call me the True North Toady.”

Chevy: “Do you have any questions, Gary, or are you here just to suck up to me?”

La La Lawless: “No questions. I just came for the donuts and to glorify you.”

Ed Tait, Winnipeg Free Press: “I have a question, Chevy?”

Chevy: “I’m sure you do, Ed, and I’ll bet it’s a real freaking doozy.”

Tait: “If you were going to blow up this freaking team—I mean really blow it up real freaking good—would you do it with a shot gun, a machine gun, a cannon, a big-ass keg of dynamite or would you just kick everyone in the freaking nuts and tell them to get the hell out of Dodge?”

Chevy: “You always ask the most unusual questions, Ed. But why would I want to blow the team to pieces?”

Tait: “Fourteen freaking years of freaking losing, that’s why.”

Chevy: “Why is there so much emphasis on winning and losing? The emphasis should be on drafting and developing. The emphasis should be on the journey, not the destination.”

Tait: “Well, you might want to take a freaking look in the freaking stands, Chevy. Your freaking building was half freaking empty at most home games during this season’s freaking journey. Talk about a solid whack in the freaking junk.”

Chevy: “Let me ask you this, Grasshopper: If a hockey team misses the playoffs every spring and no one is there to see them miss it, did it really happen?”

Friesen: “Oh, Eddie’s right, Chevy. It really happened. You missed the playoffs for the 14th straight season. And the few fans you have left are demanding to know what you’re going to do about it.”

Chevy: “You’re feeling very frisky this morning, Paul. Somebody piddle on your Corn Flakes?”

Friesen: “No. I just think people who pay $1,500 for a ticket in the nose bleed section deserve a better team and when they don’t get it for 14 years they deserve some answers.”

La La Lawless: “Why don’t you get off Chevy’s case, Friesen? You’re such a negative Nellie. Chevy’s a genius. Only a genius would think of hiring Zinger to coach the Jets.”

Friesen: “That was going to be my next question, Chevy: Why did you hire Craig Heisinger as head coach? He’s a glorified jock washer, for gawd’s sake. He isn’t qualified to coach an NHL team.”

Chevy: “Why can’t people like you get past Zinger’s past as an equipment manager? So what if he used to sew and scrub jocks for a living. Zinger is a loyal soldier. He’s got a True North tattoo on his butt, just like Lawless. He’ll sell programs if we tell him to. Come to think of it…he could do that during the pre-game warmup.”

Friesen: “Why the hell would anyone want to buy a program at a Jets game? You’ve had the exact same lineup since 2014. You don’t make trades. You don’t sign free agents. You do nothing.”

Chevy: “That’s not true. Scheifele and Trouba are gone to Vancouver. Josh Morrissey is gone to Los Angeles. Nicolaj Ehlers is gone to Toronto. I’ve only had the same lineup since 2019. Now, if you’ll excuse me guys, I have to prepare for Free Agent Frenzy 2025. There are a lot of unrestricted free agents who don’t want to come to Winnipeg, and I want to make sure none of them do.”

(FOOTNOTE: I invite your comments. I do not, however, welcome some of your comments. If you believe what I’ve written is the natterings of a nincompoop and belongs at the bottom of a bird cage, let ‘er rip. Tell me why. I enjoy healthy debate. That can be fun. If, on the other hand, your idea of a critique is to attack/insult me about my gender or sexual orientation, then we aren’t going to get along. Let’s put it this way: It is permissible to question the size of my IQ, but not the size of my boobs. Bottom line: I don’t get paid to write this crap, so play nice, kids.)