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About the Winnipeg Jets and the Nashville Model…the Blue Bombers and soccer…the Puck Pontiff going into hiding…and what the women on the tennis tour think of our Genie

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

Mark Chipman, the Puck Pontiff.

When the Puck Pontiff, Mark Chipman, purchased his new play thing in 2011, he turned his eyes due south, directly toward Twang Town U.S.A., and found himself a role model for his team to be named later.

The Nashville Predators,” he mused. “I wanna be just like those pesky Predators.”

Now, it’s quite unlikely that the Puck Pontiff spilled those exact words, but he did confirm that the plan for the outfit he later named Winnipeg Jets was (still is?) to follow the blueprint laid out by Nashville, now in its 18th National Hockey League season and still winners of exactly nothing.

That may sound strange to people in Winnipeg,” he supposed.

Yup. Strange like hiring Justin Bieber as a life coach strange. Strange like wanting to dress like Don Cherry strange. I mean, Nashville is like that Dwight Yoakam song—guitars, Cadillacs and hillbilly music. With a whole lot of Hee Haw and the Grand Ole Opry tossed into the mix. But hockey? Come on, man.

They’ve done it methodically,” the Puck Pontiff advised news snoops in springtime 2012, “they’ve done it by developing their players and they’ve done it with a consistency in management and philosophy…I think but for a couple of bounces that team could have a Stanley Cup banner hanging under their rafters.”

That team” he spoke of so fondly failed to qualify for the next two Stanley Cup tournaments, but let’s not let facts get in the way of a misguided notion.

The point is, the Puck Pontiff likes to think of his fiefdom as Nashville North sans Dolly, Carrie and Little Big Town, so, with the Predators awaiting a dance partner in the Western Conference final for the first time in club history, let’s take a look at them to see if they tell us anything about the Jets.

  • The Predators were built from scratch, as a 1998 expansion team. They missed the playoffs their first five crusades.
  • The Jets were a pre-fab outfit built in Atlanta, but the Puck Pontiff operated it like an expansion franchise, gutting the management side down to the studs. They’ve missed the playoffs in five of their six seasons.
  • The Predators have known just one general manager, David Poile, who learned at the knee of Cliff Fletcher in Calgary then earned his chops as GM of the Washington Capitals for 15 years.
  • The Jets have known just one (official) general manager, Kevin Cheveldayoff, who apprenticed under Stan Bowman in Chicago and has done the Puck Pontiff’s bidding for six years.
  • The Predators have had two head coaches, Barry Trotz and Peter Laviolette. Poile didn’t ask Trotz to leave the building until 15 years had passed.
  • The Jets have had two head coaches, Claude Noel and Paul Maurice. It only took about 15 months before Noel was asked to leave the building, but it’s apparent that the Puck Pontiff is prepared to stay the course with Coach Potty-Mouth for 15 years.
  • The Predators, under Poile’s direction, preached the draft-and-develop mantra from the outset.
  • The Jets talk about nothing but draft-and-develop.
  • The Predators can be found in the lower third of the pay scale.
  • The Jets can be found in the lower third of the pay scale (if not at the bottom).

So there are your commonalities: Methodical, consistent, patient, steady-as-she-goes, loyal (to a fault for the Jets) and frugal.

Where do the Predators and Jets part company? In the GM’s office.

David Poile

Poile is unafraid to deliver bold strokes. He dared to send a first-round draft pick, defenceman Seth Jones, packing in barter for Ryan Johansen, the top-level centre he required. He shipped his captain, Shea Weber, to the Montreal Canadiens in exchange for flamboyant P.K. Subban. He somehow pried Filip Forsberg out of Washington in exchange for Martin Erat and Michael Latta. His captain, Mr. Carrie Underwood, and James Neal came via trade. Yannick Weber is a free-agent signing.

By contrast, Cheveldayoff is only allowed to make significant troop movements when backed into a corner (see: Kane, Evander; Ladd, Andrew).

So what do the Predators teach us about the Jets? Well, if the locals follow the Nashville Model to the letter, we can expect to see meaningful springtime shinny at the Little Hockey House on the Prairie as early as next season. As for arriving in the Western Conference final, put in a wakeup call for 2030.

In rooting through archives, I stumbled upon a most interesting discovery: Once upon a time, the Puck Pontiff spoke to his loyal subjects. Honest. Chipman actually stood at a podium and did the season-over, chin-wag thing with news snoops in April 2012, at which time the city was still in swoon and the rabble didn’t much care that there’d be no playoffs. He has since become Howard Hughes, hiding himself in a room somewhere, no doubt eating nothing but chocolate bars and drinking milk. I found one remark he made at the 2012 presser to be rather troubling: “I don’t want to give the impression that I’m managing our hockey team, ’cause I’m not. That’s what our professionals do.” I wish I could believe that he allows the hockey people to make the important hockey decisions, but I can’t.

I note the Winnipeg Blue Bombers are looking to branch out into another sport and secure a franchise in a proposed Canadian pro soccer league. Ya, that’s just what Winnipeg needs—more dives.

Carolina Hurricanes have had goaltending issues. Ditto the Dallas Stars. Double ditto the Jets. So ‘Canes GM Ron Francis uses a third-round draft choice to acquire the rights to Scott Darling, then signs him to a four-year contract. Stars GM Jim Nill uses a fourth-round pick to secure the rights to Ben Bishop, then lock him in for six years. The Puck Pontiff and Cheveldayoff, meanwhile, do nothing. Don’t you just hate the sound of crickets?

I look at the Ottawa Senators, who ousted the New York Rangers from the Stanley Cup derby on Tuesday night, and I mostly see smoke and mirrors. Yes, they have Erik Karlsson, the premier player on the planet at the moment, and Craig Anderson often provides the Sens with stud goaltending. But beyond that, it’s largely a ho-hum roster. Where is the stud centre? You don’t win championships without a stud centre. At least not since the New Jersey Devils. My guess is that the Senators’ fun is soon to end.

Here’s one way of looking at this year’s Stanley Cup tournament:

 

 

 

 

 

 

Genie Bouchard proved nothing with her win over Maria Sharapova at the Madrid Open this week, except that she can beat a player who had been away from elite tennis for almost a year and a half. And that she can’t win gracefully. I don’t like rooting against Canadian athletes, but our Genie has become increasingly difficult to embrace. Branding Sharapova a “cheater” and suggesting she ought to be banned for life due to a drug violation is good copy, but surviving a second-round match and acting like you’ve just won Wimbledon because you have a hate-on for your opponent is bad form.

Bouchard claims that a number of players on the Women’s Tennis Association tour approached her on the QT prior to her match with Sharapova, wishing her bonne chance. Simona Halep of Romania was not among those women. “I didn’t wish good luck to Bouchard because we don’t speak, actually,” Halep advised news snoops. “She’s different, I can say. I cannot judge her for being this. I cannot admire her for being this. I have nothing to say about her person.” Ouch.

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.

 

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Hey, look who’s talking about the Winnipeg Jets now

During my youth, the family would often enjoy a roast beef dinner on Sunday, then leftovers the following day. So that’s what we have on the menu this morning, kids—weekend leftovers.

Well, lookee here. The natterbugs on TSN’s The Reporters with Dave Hodge have discovered life beyond the borders of the Republic of Toronto. Hockey life. In the colonies. You read that right. Do not adjust your computer screen. The Gab Four actually mentioned the Winnipeg Jets and Calgary Flames during their chin-wag. At the top of the show.

This, of course, would be their version of slumming. Or dumpster diving.

Each Sabbath morning, you see, host Hodge and his regular accomplices—Bruce Arthur, Michael Farber and Little Stevie Blunder (Sun Media’s Steve Simmons)—gather for an exercise in gum-flapping, and it is normally a Tranna devotional. How about them Blue Jays? Are the Raptors for real? Why aren’t the Argos feeling the love? Phil Kessel is fat and why can’t he be more like Wendel Clark?

Yadda, yadda, Harold Ballard.

So there they were on Sunday morning, discussing National Hockey League outfits not named the Maple Leafs. And players not named Kessel, Phaneuf or Lupul. One of those players not named Kessel, Phaneuf or Lupul was Ondrej Pavelec. Mostly, they gave him props for the Jets’ early-season success, although Farber went rogue by saying the much-maligned backstop remains “a below-average NHL goaltender and in the wash that will come out.”

Farber, by the way, called him “Pavlich.” Arthur called him “Ondredge Pavlich.” Simmons opened with something that sounded like “Ondrez Pavlek.”

I’m sure the’ll get it right once they actually watch On-dray Pav-e-lets and the Jets play a game.

NILL AND VOID: Is it too early to demand a recount on that Jim Nill-for-executive of the year award?

Nill is one of the good guys. A longtime exec with the Detroit Red Wings, the former Jets 1.0 forward was saluted far and wide for his reshaping of the Dallas Stars during the past summer. He did boffo work, most notably the recruitment of Jason Spezza. Yet when the Dallas general manager opened his lids this morning and glanced at the NHL standings, he was seeing Stars—at the bottom of the Western Conference heap.

So what’s the scoop, Jim boy?

“When you dig a hole, and then try to fill it back in, it never seems like there’s enough dirt to fill it back in,” he says. “So then you have to go find extra dirt. We’re really close to filling in the hole, but we have to all find a little extra dirt.”

Right. It’s dirty work, Jim, but someone’s gotta do it.

RANDOM THOUGHTS: Bobby Hull’s original Jets jersey, circa 1972-73, fetched $122,057 at auction. How did ex-bride Joanne overlook that valuable piece of linen when she sold all his keeper trophies and memorabilia at her screw-Bobby garage sale during the 1970s?…I like Elliotte Friedman. He’s a pro and it’s obvious that he’s well-respected in hockey circles. But sometimes I wish he’d stop his 30 thoughts at about 20 thoughts…Hands up anyone who’s shedding tears for Patty Roy, coach of the woeful Colorado Avalanche. Didn’t think so…Isn’t it time someone called the Hometown Hockey Tour what it really is—a make-work-for-Ron MacLean project? There have been some good features, but it’s so sugary that I fear too much of it might send me into diabetic shock…Watching Curmudgeon’s Corner on Saturday night, I couldn’t help but think Don Cherry was playing a dangerous game of chicken with Rogers Media. Either they grant the Lord of Loud more time to spew from his Bully Pulpit, or they fire him…Is it just me, or does anyone else think there’s sometimes a greasy, groupie feel to George Strombouloupouloupoulous when he has a special guest in the Hockey Night in Canada red chairs? I thought he was going to ask Wayne Gretzky for an autograph on Saturday…Speaking of Gretzky, during his chin-wag with Stromboy, he said, “The greatest thing about the hockey players is they’re wonderful people.” I’m not sure the women on the receiving end of C-bombs from two Ontario Hockey League players would agree…When I learned that the New York Rangers were auditioning Tomas Kaberle, I thought it rather odd. If not desperate. But then they lost to the Edmonton Oilers, 3-1 at home. According to Larry Brooks of the New York Post, the Blueshirts looked like “an uninterested house-league team put together at the last minute.” I guess Kaberle would fit in after all…Out here in the boonies, we prattle on about Western Conference superiority. So how is it that the New York Islanders can go into Los Angeles, Anaheim and Phoenix and win three straight games? Phoenix I understand. The others I don’t…Couldn’t believe it when Steve Simmons of Sun Media confessed he doesn’t know what a beer snake is. Then I remembered his home base is Toronto. Maple Leafs fans are too busy tossing jerseys on the ice to make beer snakes.

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.