Winnipeg Jets: Ripples on the water and the Zen of Chevy

Okay, here’s what we learned during 46 minutes and 37 seconds of a smoke-blowing to-and-fro between Kevin Cheveldayoff and news snoops on Monday:

  1. The Winnipeg Jets general manager has had a tete-a-tete with Puck Pontiff Mark Chipman about a contract extension that would allow Chevy (“I love this organization.”) to complete the restoration project he began in 2011, when the Puck Pontiff purchased a fixer-upper known as the Atlanta Thrashers with $170 million of David Thomson’s pocket change.
  2. Head coach Paul Maurice and all his accomplices (yes, kids, we said all…of…them) will return for the 2017-18 National Hockey League crusade.
  3. Nobody’s perfect, not even Maurice.
  4. If you drop a pebble in water, Grasshopper, it will create ripples.
Kevin Cheveldayoff

So, if it was insight, enlightenment, revelation or specifics you sought about your fave National Hockey League outfit, you came to the wrong place.

That’s not to say Chevy didn’t speak. Boy, did he ever flap his gums. The Puck Pontiff’s right-hand dude reminds me of a joke former Jets coach and funny man Tom McVie used to tell us about a friend who had a serious case of the yadda, yadda, yaddas: “Ask him for the time of day and he’ll tell you how to build a watch.”

Well, Chevy didn’t instruct the assembled diggers of nuggets how to build a timepiece, but he assured one and all that the Puck Pontiff’s and his way of constructing an NHL winner/champion is the right way, albeit the long way (patience, Grasshopper, and you too shall one day see the ripples on the water).

As is his norm, the GM spoke in Chevy-speak, meaning word count was maximized (why use a dozen words when 10 dozen will do?) and content required decoding. With that in mind, we give to you the Zen of Chevy, what the Grand Master said and what he really said.

What Chevy said about Puck Finn, fab Finnish rookie Patrick Laine…

He’s a wonderful person, he cares deeply about his game, he cares deeply about the team’s game and he’s got a passion to want to learn, a passion to want to keep getting better, a passion to want to be the best. He’s a driven individual and a proud individual and a humble individual. For us, as a franchise, it’s a big, key piece in helping us get to where we want to get to.”

What Chevy really said: “You talk about your craphouse luck. I still cannot believe those ping pong balls bounced our way at the draft lottery last year. You think we can fall into that same dung heap and come up smelling like orchids again? Karma, baby.”

What Chevy said about Maurice and a contract extension for the third-losingest coach in NHL history…

“Paul Maurice is the coach of this hockey team. What, where, how we go to the next steps, we’ll have discussions as we go. For me, Paul’s got my full support. I think it really goes to what we’ve asked Paul to do over his period of time here and, again, this hasn’t been something that we’ve knee-jerked and said ‘We’re gonna go in this direction now’ or ‘We’re gonna change and go in this direction.’ When Paul and I talked when he took over the team, we talked about the steps that were going to be necessary in order to build this franchise and continue to push it in the direction that we wanted. It was really at that point in time his enthusiasm and his willingness, for a veteran coach, to take on that task and understand that it wasn’t going to be smooth. You know, there’s gonna be steps along the way that you’d like accelerated and there’s gonna be steps along the way…some coaches that maybe aren’t as secure in their own skin or belief or where they’re at in their careers wouldn’t want to take on, they wouldn’t want to maybe take some of the youth, opportunities we had in front of us and really not coach for the best interests of the team. Paul’s coached for the best interests of this team and the best interests of the future of this team as we’ve asked him. He’s a leader. Is he perfect? No. We’re all not perfect here.”

What Chevy really said: “I like this Maurice dude almost as much as I like Chris Thorburn.”

What Chevy said about the positives he takes from a season in which the Jets failed to qualify for the Stanley Cup tournament for the fifth time in six tries…

“We talk about the youth and we talk about the development of this organization. When we took over, we were clamoring to be able to have young players that we could look at and say ‘Hey, we want to build this franchise with (him).’ That has taken time. It’s taken time not only to draft them and unfortunately you don’t get that opportunity to draft all your players all at once. Sometimes you have to wait, sometimes as we have seen the wait is definitely worth it. But you can only implement what you have when you have it. And when you do have it, you should be looking at pushing it forward. Again, if you’re looking for the greater goal of trying to achieve something, you want to build a core, you want to build it as big as you can. You have to be able to go through that process to be able to do it. Drafting and developing is the way that we chose. That’s what we set out to do and that’s what we’re going to continue to do.”

What Chevy really said: “I can’t think of any positives right now. I’ll have to get back to you on that.”

Connor Hellebuyck

What Chevy said about the Jets goaltending this season…

“I think anybody who can manage in hindsight is a better manager than anybody that’s in pro sports. You don’t manage in hindsight, you learn from experiences and you certainly grow from experiences. But you also need to understand that you have to take steps to move forward. You have to make decisions. You don’t sit and try and say ‘Well I hope.’ You make that decision. It’s not unlike a skater. You have to give them that opportunity to grow. The decision that we made to move forward with the goaltending and how we chose to do it this year, it was not done in a vacuum. It was done with lots of conversation within the group, understanding that if we didn’t do it at that point in time that, one year forward, we would be sitting here today, tomorrow meaning at the beginning of the season, saying ‘Can Connor Hellebuyck take us to that next level? Is he going to be that No. 1?’ Well, if we didn’t give him that opportunity to play the games this year, we don’t know. Well, we better give him those opportunities in order to find out. We made that decision. You have to make decisions. You have to make choices. We made that choice. For a player like Connor, the sky’s the limit. Can he grow into being that No. 1? Ya, for sure he can.”

What Chevy really said: “We rolled the dice and we crapped out.”

What Chevy said about the need for a veteran goaltender…

What direction we choose to go, we’ll look at all the different options that are available to us. We will look at a lot of different scenarios to see if there’s a chance to push it, to move forward with it, whether it’s a veteran, whether it’s a young guy. Again, these are things that I can’t sit here and tell you in a hundred per cent certainty what’s going to happen. But, again, we’re going to look at all the different options.”

What Chevy really said: “After the entry draft in June, I’ll take the rest of the summer off. You know, same as I always do.”

What Chevy said about the challenge of signing all his young talent in the future…

Salary cap management is probably one of the biggest and foremost responsibilities for a general manager at the National Hockey League level. Certainly at the situation we’re in, when you look to acquire young talent and they have excelled under the staff that’s here and the opportunities that are given them, that’s a good thing. Again, if you have young talent that doesn’t challenge you and push you from a contractual situation, then maybe you’d be a little concerned. Are they the right people to push us moving forward? We’ve been very conscious in trying to understand that one bad decision, one long-term financial decision can have major ramifications and ripples all the way through. It’s like when you drop a little pebble into a water, you get the small ripples maybe happen right there but they keep getting bigger and bigger and expand the longer you go out. You want to make sure the decisions you make today…again, instant gratification is something that we all think is just the be all, end all and that there’s that magic pill, there’s that magic cure to cure all ills with respect to your team, but no team has found it yet. We have some good young players. We will make the necessary steps and necessary decisions to keep those good young players. That’s been our promise, that’s been our mandate, that’s been something we’ve said since day one. And that day is coming.”

What Chevy really said: “We’re totally screwed financially in another year or two.”

Jacob Trouba

What Chevy said about Jacob Trouba, who delivered a trade request last May and withdrew his services at the start of last season…

We’ve never deviated from the fact that, when we talk about Mark Scheifele and Jacob Trouba, we believe that those two players are going to be the ultimate drivers on this team. I can’t sit here and tell you we’re gonna open contract negotiations tomorrow. We might. Those are things that do unfold and stay behind the scenes, close to the vest.”

What Chevy really said: “Have you seen the pictures from Jacob’s draft day that I have on my office wall? Sweet.”

What Chevy said about another “wasted” year for soon-to-be-greybeard and captain Blake Wheeler…

I think, again, you can’t help but get excited about some of the youth that’s here. I think whether you’re in sports or whether you’re in school or whatever it is, when you have the potential to do something great you want it to happen now. So…again, the players, Blake…they all play this game to try to get to this point to try to win the Stanley Cup. One thing that is very certain in this league, you do not know what the future holds. You do not. And whether you’re a young player that wins a Stanley Cup at 18 years old and thinks that it’s going to happen each and every year…you know, you may never get back there. So, again, for Blake you empathize with those kind of players that lay it out there every night, provide the examples. But I think deep down you relish that opportunity knowing that how much you have helped those young guys is, again, gonna point them in the right direction. Blake’s passion, Blake’s desire will never be questioned. Certainly, it’s what drives me as well. When I sit there…when I sat there and talked to Blake the last time we did his contract extension, I gave them my commitment, I gave them my promise that I was going to do what’s necessary to push this team not only to try to win but to try to win the big prize. That ultimately is what they want. When I get a chance to speak with Blake, we’re gonna go over that as well.”

What Chevy really said: “Hey, it’s like the ripples on the water. Eventually, they fade away, so you drop another pebble in the water and new ripples appear. Unfortunately for Blake, he isn’t one of those new ripples.”

What Chevy says to Jets Nation…

They’re gonna get an opportunity to see a team that has grown. You know, the process was started…from the moment that we took over, the idea of what we were going to do and how we were going to do it…the seeds were planted. Those seeds took a while to germinate. They took a while to start growing. We have one of the best ownership groups in the league, because they know that there’s a plan in place and they know that they’re gonna stick to that plan.”

What Chevy really said: “We have a plan with no beginning and no end, Grasshoppers.”

Patti Dawn Swansson has been scribbling about Winnipeg sports for 47 years, which means she is old and probably should think about getting a life.

Will Blake Wheeler want to hang around if the Winnipeg Jets can’t win?

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

Blake Wheeler
Blake Wheeler

So, you’re Blake Wheeler, sitting in the Winnipeg Jets changing chamber.

You look around. You see all those freshly scrubbed faces, with less fuzz than a well-used tennis ball. You have arrived at your peak years as a National Hockey League worker. You are at your most productive, on the scoresheet and in team-related intangibles. But you remind yourself that there’ll be 30 candles on your next birthday cake, in August. More than anything, you want to win. Alas, you cannot win, not with team ownership/management operating the NHL’s equivalent of a day-care centre.

Given that you are contracted to wear Jets linen until 2019, you might feel trapped. So, do you get on the blower to your agent and demand he get you the hell out of Dodge? Or do you buy into this youth build and play the part of the loyal foot soldier? After all, you might be wearing the ‘C’ on your Jets jersey next autumn. Unless, of course, the deep-thinkers in the Secret Society that is True North Sports & Entertainment anoint one of the sprigs, such as Mark Scheifele or Jacob Trouba, team captain.

It’s a tough call.

I don’t know Blake Wheeler, but I do know professional athletes, and what they want most is to succeed. That’s why you won’t see players, as a group, tanking. Ownership and management tank (hello Mark Chipman and Kevin Cheveldayoff), but players do not tank.

So I can’t help but wonder what Wheeler is thinking these days, as opposed to three years ago.

For me it was virtually a no-brainer,” the Jets power forward told news scavengers after putting his signature on a six-year contract in July 2013. “I sat down with my agent in April or May and we had the discussion. I looked him in the eyes and said, ‘This is where I want to be.’ I believe in people like Mark Chipman and Chevy, what everyone stands for and especially my teammates. I have believed since I got here that we have what it takes to get to the next level, so this is just part of that process. I truly believe that great things are in store for this group.”

Much of that group in which he expressed faith has been dispatched hither and yon, including his longtime stablemate, captain Andrew Ladd. The next level remains the next level. There have been no great things. And he has already heard his head coach, Paul Maurice, advise one and all that the Jets’ growing pains will not be short-term.

Which means, by the time these young Jets resemble anything close to a competitive outfit, Wheeler will be leaning into his long-in-tooth years.

All of which begs the question: Does he really want to play the role of Daddy Day Care, or does he want an opportunity to win the Stanley Cup?

Interesting read from Paul Wiecek, who uses his column in the Winnipeg Free Press to lament the lack of access scribes are given to pro jocks, notably those in the employ of the Jets and Winnipeg Blue Bombers. Among other things, he notes that the Jets have two people who “cover” the club for the team website, thus they don’t require the media to deliver the message. But he describes their dispatches as “mostly pap.” I’ve got news for Wiecek: With the exception of Freep freelancer Scott Campbell, I’ve been reading nothing but “mostly pap” from the beat guys at the Free Press and Winnipeg Sun for the past month. Limited access means there are less boring, cookie-cutter quotes, but it shouldn’t prevent scribes from delivering strong critical analysis and opinion. That’s why blogs are so popular. So boo freaking hoo.

What's not to like about Winnipeg?
What’s not to like about Winnipeg?

Oh, woe is Winnipeg. In a recent Postmedia poll of NHL players, River City was voted the worst and least favorite Canadian burg to visit. Then there was Craig Custance of ESPN advising us of his findings from a poll whereby he asked 10 player agents which locales pop up most frequently on no-trade lists. You guessed it, Good Ol’ Hometown is second, behind only Edmonton. Okay, I get it that no one wants to go to Edmonton, but Winnipeg? I mean, what’s not to like about a town where it’s snowing and the wind chill is minus-20 two weeks into spring?

Why are so many people in Jets Nation convinced there would be serious interest in Michael Hutchinson on the trade market? Other than a couple of terrific months at the beginning of last season, he’s provided no indication that he’s a No. 1 goaltender at the NHL level. He’ll be a career backup at best.

If Nazem Kadri of the Toronto Maple Leafs isn’t the most annoying player in the NHL, will someone please tell me who is. Kadri is the new Rat. He’s no Ken Linseman, but he’s out-ratting Brad Marchand, who apparently decided to spend most of his time scoring goals for the Boston Bruins rather than annoying foes this season.

Patti Dawn Swansson has been writing about Winnipeg sports for 45 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 in 2015.

 

What are the Winnipeg Jets afraid of…Big Buff a man of many words…no Sun in Twang Town…and a non-diving Dane

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

It’s almost Groundhog Day. Does that mean Grand Master Kevin Cheveldayoff is about to poke his head out of his hiding hole and do something? Or say something?

chevy
Grand Master Kevin Cheveldayoff

That would be refreshing, since the man who does Saint Mark Chipman’s bidding hasn’t done or said much of anything since shuffling Evander Kane and Zach Bogosian off to Buffalo. For those of you keeping score at home, that was almost 365 days ago.

Chevy is the Howard Hughes of National Hockey League general managers. A recluse. He is the anti-John Ferguson.

When Fergy was at the wheel during the Winnipeg Jets’ initial whirl in the NHL, he took ownership of his deeds. Good (hello, Dale Hawerchuk) or bad (hello, Jimmy Mann). He didn’t hide from the faithful or news scavengers. From the moment he arrived in River City from Gotham until the day he was asked to leave, Fergy was up front and loud. His was the face and voice of the franchise.

What we now have with Cheveldayoff and the present-day Jets is complete non-accountability.

If there is a face and/or voice to this franchise, I can’t see it or hear it. No one can. Cheveldayoff says less than a street mime. The Winnipeg Sun recently requested an audience with the Grand Master for its three-part, state-of-the-union series on the Jets and was told, “Sorry, no can do. Chevy’s too busy doing stuff that is none of your business or anybody else’s business.”

That is so lame.

What I find myself wondering is this: Is Cheveldayoff standoffish by nature, or is he under some sort of gag order issued by team co-bankroll Saint Mark? I mean, it’s one thing for Chipman to operate a secretive society that suckles at the public teat in the form of tax advantages/subsidies and gaming revenue, but this isn’t about True North Sports & Entertainment profits. It’s about a hockey team, one in which the community has invested deeply, whether through ticket/merchadise sales or emotions. What is he afraid of?

If Chipman hasn’t instructed Cheveldayoff to keep his lips zipped, what is the GM afraid of?

Answering a few questions in advance of a looming NHL trade deadline ought not be an option. It ought to be an obligation.

big buff
Big Buff

On a similar theme, it was interesting to read dispatches from this weekend’s NHL all-star hijinks in Twang Town, Tennessee, because we discovered a side of Dustin Byfuglien seldom, if ever, seen in Winnipeg. Turns out Big Buff is humorous, witty, glib and an all-round nice guy who seemingly enjoyed his 25-minute parry-and-thrust with hockey scribes on media day. That Nashville scene, of course, would never take place in River City, because the Jets are so freakish about controlling the message that they shield their players from prying eyes and ears. News scavengers aren’t granted the opportunity or time to get to know players like Byfuglien as people and, by extension, Joe and Josephine Phan are also left out of the loop. Shame, that.

Not surprisingly, the Big Buff chin wag referenced his contract negotiations with the Jets. The all-star rearguard and pending free agent was asked point blank if his desire was to remain in Winnipeg, and, while he had some favorable comments about good, ol’ Hometown, part of his reply likely left a few in Jets Nation a tad uneasy. “I just want to put on a jersey, to be honest with you.” He didn’t say a Jets jersey. Apparently, any NHL jersey will do. He later said, “I wouldn’t want to go anywhere else, but business is business.” Reminds me of the answer Evander Kane delivered in July 2014 when Team 1040 Radio in Vancouver quizzed him on his status with the Jets: “Well, I think, um, I’m a Winnipeg Jet right now and, um, you know there’s been speculation and rumors for the three years since I got there. You know, we’ll see what happens, and we’ll carry on as if I’m a Winnipeg Jet.” We all know how that ended.

Sad, but not surprising, that there’s no Winnipeg Sun presence in Nashville. The tabloid was served by the Toronto-based Michael Traikos of Postmedia and Mike Zeisberger of the Toronto Sun. Get used to it, people. Meanwhile, the Winnipeg Free Press has its own man, Tim Campbell, on site. Score one for the Freep.

Best reads this week were delivered by the Freep’s Paul Wiecek, whose piece on Saint Mark Chipman is superb. It’s Wiecek at his best and a prime example that the Free Press is well-served with him in the columnist’s seat. Meanwhile, the much-maligned John Scott told it like it is in a Players Tribune article that offers insight and humanizes one of the NHL’s dying breed—the enforcer.

Tell me if this is coincidence or an attitude adjustment: On Jan. 7, the NHL dinged Nikolaj Ehlers $2,000 for diving/embellishment. It meant he was a repeat offender. To that point in time, the diving Dane had scored six goals and 13 points in 40 games. Since the NHL dipped into his pay envelope, the Jets freshman winger has scored six goals and collected nine points in nine games. Apparently, Ehlers has concluded that staying on his feet is more productive than flopping around like a European soccer player. Skating alongside linemates not named Chris Thorburn likely helps, too.

Patti Dawn Swansson has been writing about Winnipeg sports for 45 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 in 2015.

 

Ed Tait’s “meh” rouses the rabble…Winnipeg’s downtown football stadium…Hamonic or harmonica…a homophobic heavyweight champ…and other things on my mind

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

grey cupOh, woe is Ed Tait.

Poor guy had the bad manners to “meh” the 103rd Grey Cup game and the many frills that provide the Grand National Drunk with its pulse, and that has roused the rabble. One reader demands to know who peed in Tait’s Corn Flakes. Another suggests he’s been too long in the company of Winnipeg Free Press colleague Paul Wiecek, whose scribblings are often measured by the masses as glass-half-empty musings. Yet another proposes the passing of a collection plate to finance a getaway to a Mexican resort for the two Freep sports scribes, who then could engage in some serious navel gazing and be fitted with a proper pair of rose-tinted glasses.

Well, in the words of Colonel Sherman T. Potter, “Mule muffins!”

I didn’t attend the Peg pigskin party, so I can’t speak to the hijinks around and about good, ol’ Hometown during a Grey Cup week than concluded on Sunday, but I surely watched the Canadian Football League championship skirmish between the Edmonton Don’t Call Them Eskimos and the Ottawa RougeNoir. My take? I’m with Tait—meh.

Let’s face it, that was a rout dressed up as a burning barn. The final score was 26-20 Edmonton, but it was 26-7 Edmonton after the initial six minutes and nine seconds had ticked off the clock. The best Ottawa could do after putting the game’s first 13 points on the tote board was two field goals and a rouge. In 54 minutes of football. So one more time with feeling—meh. (You think if I say “meh” often enough someone will send me on a vacation to a Mexican resort?)

osborne stadiumI cannot imagine what manner of madness existed in Paul Wiecek’s mind when, in referencing the 1991 and 2006 Grey Cup jousts in Winnipeg, he wrote, “both of those games were played at the downtown stadium.” The closest thing to a downtown football facility in River City was Osborne Stadium, home of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers from the mid-1930s to the early 1950s. It sat across the street from the Leg and lost an argument to a wrecking ball in ’56. Both the ’91 and ’06 CFL title games were, of course, played at Winnipeg Stadium, a more recent victim of the wrecking ball.

I find the banter about bringing Travis Hamonic to the Winnipeg Jets’ blueline somewhat amusing. I mean, I’d hazard a guess that 75 per cent of Jets Nation didn’t know Hamonic from a harmonica before his yearning for a trade was made public last month. To hear it now, though, it’s as if the New York Islanders’ defenceman invented the stretch pass. Should the Jets covet Hamonic? Absolutely. He’d enhance any National Hockey League outfit. But the Jets aren’t going to get him in barter for Dustin Byfuglien, whose game can shift from spectacular to slovenly in a heartbeat. Unless Isles’ general manager Garth Snow has suddenly morphed into Mike Milbury, Hamonic for Byfuglien will never happen.

Paul Maurice. Sigh. Search as I might to find a legitimate reason why Anthony Peluso is gainfully employed by an NHL outfit, I always arrive at one conclusion: Winnipeg Jets head coach PoMo refuses to budge from the horse-and-buggy notion that there must be a cement-head element in his lineup. So don’t blame Peluso for being a slug. Blame Maurice for keeping him around and, worse, inserting his bare knuckles into the lineup.

I note that Forbes magazine has devalued the Winnipeg Jets franchise from $358 million a year ago to $350M today. I’m not sure what accounts for the dip of $8M, but there’s no truth to the rumor that it has something to do with Evander Kane leaving unpaid parking tickets and unpaid bar tabs behind when he bolted for Buffalo and the Sabres.

Tyson Fury, left, took the heavyweight boxing title from Wladimir Klitschko.
Tyson Fury, left, took the heavyweight boxing title from Wladimir Klitschko.

Someone named Tyson Fury is now champion of most of fist fighting’s heavyweight alphabet. Does anyone care that there exists a new king of the boxing ring, or are followers of fistic mayhem still more concerned about Ronda Rousey’s fat lip and bruised ego?

Until he boxed defending champion Wladimir Klischko’s ears on Saturday night in Germany, winning the WBA, WBO, IBF and IBO heavyweight boxing titles by unanimous decision, little was known about Tyson Fury. We have since discovered that he’s a descendent of Irish gypsies, his dad, John, was a bare-knuckle boxer who just got out of jail for gouging a man’s eye out in a brawl at a car auction, and Tyson is 6-feet-9, 258 lb. of raging, Bible-thumping homophobic bleatings. Once fined for calling two foes “gay lovers,” in a recent interview with the Mail on Sunday in the U.K., Fury delivered rants about devil worship and days end, saying, “There are only three things that need to be accomplished before the devil comes home. One of them is homosexuality being legal in countries, one of them is abortion and the other is paedephilia.”

Although Tyson Fury holds four heavyweight title belts, it should be pointed out that he does not own the complete boxing alphabet. Deontay Wilder is the WBC champ. You have to go back to the last century to find the man who could call himself the undisputed heavyweight champion—Lennox Lewis.

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.

 

Winnipeg Jets: Hope for a future without Chris Thorburn or Anthony Peluso

Time for a reality check, kids.

I realize you’re all giddy about the package of prospects Grand Master Kevin Cheveldayoff and his bird dogs collected this weekend in the sunshine of Sunrise, Fla., but I have this real nasty (some call it annoying) habit of providing a pinch of perspective to all things Winnipeg Jets. Thus, I feel obligated to remind you that, come October when the local lads commence their 2015-16 crusade, no player in the opening-night lineup will be named Kyle Connor or Jack Roslovic.

There will, however, be a winger named Chris Thorburn. And most likely another named Anthony Peluso.

Sigh.

I don’t know about you, but I tend to use Thorburn and Peluso (the former more than the latter) as measuring sticks vis-a-vis the growth of the National Hockey League franchise, on-ice division. The way I have it figured, as long as either is wearing Jets linen, he is clogging the club’s developmental arteries.

I mean, Grand Master Chevy has been working this gig since the Atlanta caravan rolled into River City in 2011. He’s been the overseer of five NHL entry drafts. He has laid claim to 38 freshly scrubbed wannabe Jets, including the aforementioned Connor and Roslovic this weekend. Each year he leaves the annual garage sale to a hail of hosannas (mainly from his lap dogs in the local media) for his handiwork in adding another set of trinkets to his collection of teenage talent.

And yet we are left with Chris Thorburn and Anthony Peluso. Still.

Double sigh.

The fact that not one of the Grand Master’s recruits has been capable of kicking Thorburn or Peluso to the curb leaves me to wonder if the scouting staff is found to be wanting, or if the coaching crew requires a session with Dr. Phil.

Feel free to discuss among yourselves.

A Gift from Sweeney Odd: Don’t run off with the notion that I’m sour on Grand Master Chevy’s fancy footwork in Florida.

I realize this June crap shoot is all about stocking the organizational Hope Chest and not meant to address present-day needs. And, by most reckoning, Chevy and his bird dogs did boffo business.

Let’s be honest, though. Because the Jets GM tried and failed to move up in the entry draft pecking order, he was at the mercy of the 14 outfits handing out jerseys and ball caps before his first call. The selection of Kyle Connor with the 17th shoutout was not a stroke of genius. It was Christmas morning.

Seriously. The only thing Don (D’oh!) Sweeney didn’t do for the Jets was wrap a ribbon around the American schoolboy. The Boston Bruins newly minted GM, hereafter known as Sweeney Odd, had a shot at Connor with No. 13. He passed. He had a shot with No. 14. He passed. He had a shot at No. 15. He passed. We can only assume that Sweeney Odd’s mind had fogged over after dealing away Dougie Hamilton and the Looch, Milan Lucic, and he awoke the morning after the draft asking, “I did what?”

Whatever the case, Kyle Connor was an unexpected gift from Beantown, which is why this thing is a crap shoot.

Stars ‘n’ Gripes: Some patriotic noses might be out of joint in Jets Nation because the club is beginning to look as American as John Wayne movies and apple pie.

Well, just chill.

I mean, adding four U.S.-born draftees (Connor, Roslovic, Erik Foley and Mason Appleton) doesn’t convince me that Grand Master Chevy has hatched some sort of diabolical plot to satisfy a fetish for Uncle Sam’s lads. This isn’t like Mikhail Smith’s make-work-for-Russians project in the 1980s, whereby the GM of the day attempted to transform the roster into the Central Red Jets (where have you gone, Sergei Bautin?).

There’s substantial supporting evidence that suggests Americans play the game at a rather lofty level (hello, Patrick Kane). To ignore them would be folly.

Draft Day Notable Quotable: “The No. 1 characteristic of a Toronto Maple Leaf is a good human being. Period. So if you don’t fit that, you’re not going to be here,” says bench boss Mike Babcock.

What are we to make of that when Phil Kessel is given his marching orders?

Typing-Before-Thinking Tweets: This from Steve Simmons of Sun Media on possible NHL expansion—“Just what no real hockey fan asked for: Expansion.”

Really? I’m sure the good people in Quebec City who have been involved in an ongoing crusade to bring the NHL back to Le Ville will be disappointed to discover that they aren’t “real” hockey fans.

This from Damien Cox of Sportsnet after the Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup—“Best era of Chicago hockey I’ve seen, even the best Hull years.”

Unless he was watching the Blackhawks from his mother’s womb, his crib or during nap time at day care, it’s a serious stretch for Cox to pass himself off as an eye witness to the “best” of anything re Chicago and Bobby Hull. Cox, you see, wasn’t even on his mother’s breast when the Hawks won the Stanley Cup in the spring of 1961. He was born in August that year, four months after the fact. The Blackhawks also visited the Stanley Cup final in ’62 and ’65, at which time Cox would have been eight months and three years old, respectively.

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.

Dis the Disney Ducks? Winnipeg Jets Nation doesn’t want to go there yet

So, it’s the Winnipeg Jets vs. the Disney Ducks in an opening-round skirmish of the Stanley Cup tournament. Puck drops on Thursday evening

Gotta get a hate-on. Gotta dis the other guy. Trouble is, there’s nothing to hate. Nothing to dis.

First of all, you don’t trash talk the Disney dudes. You don’t trash talk anything connected with Disneyland. Not even the Disney Ducks of Anaheim.

Yes, Ducks is a stupid name for a National Hockey League team, but none more so than Penguins or Flyers. And, let’s face it, the name Jets isn’t exactly dripping with dynamics or creativity, is it. Cripes, man, it isn’t even original. It’s a recycled ripoff from bygone days when Winnipeg was a member of the Western Canada Hockey League before becoming a force in the World Hockey Association and, later, a NHL outfit that did nothing other than break your heart every spring and stick a dagger into it in 1996.

But we aren’t prepared to reopen the name debate and mention how Jets’ co-bankroll Mark Chipman was bullied into regurgitating it, are we?

Second, Walt Disney’s head isn’t stored in a beer cooler. That’s myth. Faux lore, not folklore. Despite what you might have read, Walt’s noggin is not a skull-cicle. Even if it were, one block of ice hardly compares to the 750,000-plus frozen heads that trudge around Winnipeg from November to March every year.

So, no, you don’t trash talk the man who gave us Cinderella, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Sleeping Beauty, Pinocchio, Dumbo and Bambi, who now plays for the Jets and wears No. 55.

Just like Walt’s head, dissing Disney ain’t cool.

You also leave Mickey and Minnie alone. I’m a big fan of the mice.

If you’re a member of Jets Nation, you can’t even trash talk the city of Anaheim. I mean, it’s in Orange County. That’s in Southern California. You know, sun, sand and surf, 365/24/7. Orange County sounds refreshing. Fruity. Citrusy. It conjures images of orange groves. Not at all like Winnipeg on the Frozen Tundra, whose images are snow drifts and snow plows. Sounds harsh. Cruel. C-c-c-c-c-old.

More to the point, how can anyone in River City trash talk a town that has never lost the NHL franchise it was awarded? The Ducks were hatched in 1993. They’ve survived in SoCal longer than the original Jets NHL franchise lasted in Pegtown. Anaheim has only required one kick at the cat. Winnipeg is working on its second. So here’s the scorecard on lost franchises: Winnipeg 1, Anaheim 0.

And, let’s not forget, Anaheim has won the Stanley Cup. For those of you keeping score at home, Winnipeg/Arizona is the sole survivor of the WHA which has yet to lay claim to hockey’s holy grail.

Peggers, and Canadians in general, like to look down their noses at U.S. Sun Belt cities that are home to NHL outfits. We pooh-pooh their very being. We see the empty pews in their ice palaces and we snicker. Rudely. To us, ice is for skating. To them, ice is something you put in your cocktail. Yet, an outfit from the Great White North has not brought the Stanley Cup home since 1993. In the ensuing years, the big, silver chalice has been housed in Anaheim, Los Angeles (twice), Tampa and Dallas.

Good grief, we mock the Sun Belters, yet we’re giddy because five Canadian-based outfits qualified for this spring’s Stanley Cup tournament, which commences Wednesday night, and two of them are guaranteed to advance to the second round. Oh joy.

The point is, Jets Nation can’t trash talk Anaheim or the Ducks because because they don’t have any ammunition. Anaheim and the Ducks have it all.

I have no doubt that the Jets and Ducks will strap on a good bit of nasty before their best-of-seven Stanley Cup playoff joust is history, but dis the Disney dudes before the puck is dropped? Sorry, can’t go there. Not until the first elbow is raised in anger, and I have a hunch Ryan Getzlaf will have something to do with it. Now there’s a Disney Duck we can dis.

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 GM Kevin Cheveldayoff: Come out, come out wherever you are!

So, this is what happens when you attempt to control the message by saying nothing.

That’s what the Winnipeg Jets have been doing since Evander Kane arrived for a team meeting (allegedly) adorned in a track suit, which Dustin Byfuglien (allegedly) hurled into a tub of ice-cold water (or the shower) in a classic display of message-sending, which led to head coach Paul Maurice (allegedly) making Kane a healthy scratch, unless it’s true that Kane (allegedly) quit on his team by (allegedly) refusing to play because Byfuglien (allegedly) hurled his track suit into a tub of ice-cold water (or the shower).

Except for the cryptic comments of coach PoMo, Jets officialdom has remained mum on the matter of Byfuglien (allegedly) delivering the peer, dressing-room discipline that resulted in the mercurial left winger (allegedly) withdrawing his services Tuesday night in Vancouver.

In this case, silence equals all hell breaks loose.

I’m not sure what the Jets would have, could have, should have said about the frat boy behaviour that (allegedly) transpired in the team boudoir during their recent visit to Van City for a joust vs. the Canucks, but even one of the daily lies all teams tell would have been better than saying squat.

The Jets are not unlike any other National Hockey League outfit. They don’t want the media controlling the message. The thing is, when you say nothing about one of your most-significant workers being told to take the night off because he has (allegedly) breached club dress protocol, news scavengers have no choice but to dig, dig, dig. And we all know what they’ll discover under all that dirt, don’t we. That’s right—more dirt.

I find it curious that we have yet to hear from the phantom who generally manages the Jets. Groundhog day has come and gone, but Kevin Cheveldayoff has yet to pop his head out of whatever hole he’s hiding in while his club implodes.

Perhaps this Phantom of the Soap Opera doesn’t feel that the rabble in Jets Nation have the right to know if it’s true that the club’s highest-salaried worker (allegedly) quit on his teammates. If it is true, what does he plan to do about it? Trade Kane? Suspend Kane? It’s one thing to put him on injured reserve, but what course of action does the GM take once Kane is in fine fettle?

Inquiring minds, and the people who pay those handsome salaries, would like to know. So what say you, GM Groundhog?

I have not been a strong advocate of a Kane trade, but I also believe that once Wayne Gretzky was dispatched all those many years ago, all bets are off. No one is untouchable. I believe Kane to be a terrific talent. Troubled, yes. But terrific, nonetheless. Having said that, I’ve long held that he’s been working on borrowed time in Winnipeg, if for no other reason than the fact a large majority of top players are moved at some point. Examine the list of the NHL’s all-time point-collectors and you’ll discover that only three of the top 10—Steve Yzerman, Mario Lemieux and Joe Sakic—began and finished their careers with the same franchise. Add Stan Mikita to that list, and it’s four of the top 30.

Thus, the likelihood of Kane running the table with the Jets was remote.

An argument can be made that GM Groundhog should have moved Kane last summer, when a number of teams were (allegedly) sniffing around. Chevy would have received maximum value in barter. Making bold strokes is not how he rolls, though. Some say he has the patience of Job. The hell, he does. Cheveldayoff makes Job look like a flaming knee-jerkist.

The Jets GM has positioned himself whereby he now would be peddling damaged goods. Not because of whatever mystery owie has placed Kane in sick bay, but due to this week’s tempest and past trespasses.

Cheveldayoff could have made this mess go away long ago. He chose not to. He chooses not to do a lot of things. Like talk.

Speak up, Chevy. Tell us what you think. You’re the team GM. Allegedly.

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.