About the Winnipeg Jets group no-show…questions going forward…pie charts and Twig Ehlers’ fancy skating…Jacob Trouba had plenty of bad company…the Auston Matthews shrine…blind video replay judges…E-Town still likes the Looch…and scapegoats for the Jets fallen crusade

Another Sunday smorgas-bored…and that Jets loss really knocked the frills off my Easter bonnet…

Well, there is no joy in Mudville today. The mighty Winnipeg Jets have struck out. Without really taking a final swing.

I mean, six shots through 40 minutes? One in the second period?

That’s the best you can do when it’s win or go to the beach? Talk about throwing a handful of confetti in a knife fight.

Oh, sure, you can say the St. Louis Blues had something to do with that. You know, suffocating defensive scheme and all. But, c’mon man. No team, not even the Montreal Canadiens circa 1970s, should be able to limit les Jets to one measly shot on goal. There’s too much talent.

Connor Hellebuyck

I’d accuse les Jets of mailing it in, except I’ve mellowed over the years. I can’t be that cruel. So let’s just say I believe some of them tried in their 3-2 loss Saturday night in St. Loo. They just didn’t try hard enough, goaler Connor Hellebuyck being the notable exception, and the local hockey heroes’ premature ouster from the Stanley Cup tournament isn’t how a whole lot of folks, myself included, had Beard Season scripted. I was confident that there would be boisterous Whiteout parties in and outside the Little Hockey House On The Prairie well into May, if not June.

Alas, the Blues’ series-concluding cakewalk at the Enterprise Center put an end to all the fun, and there’s little point in wondering what might have been for les Jets had their playoff push advanced beyond the sixth game of this best-of-seven skirmish.

Certainly the window of opportunity had been pushed wide open, with top seeds falling like April rain, and I liked their chances in this Stanley Cup crap shoot. Based on their disgraceful group no-show in St. Loo, though, it’s apparent that les Jets had less belief in themselves than much of the rabble. Again, including myself.

The inclination, of course, is to play the Blame Game for this wasted opportunity, but I’m not prepared to go there this morning. I’ll leave that to the “experts.”

I’m more interested in what this face plant does for les Jets moving forward and, as the local lads went through the final throes of another National Hockey League crusade gone wrong, I found myself asking these question:

  • Blake Wheeler

    Does Blake Wheeler have any more 91-point seasons in him? No.

They’ll be paying their 33-year-old captain $8.25 million next autumn, and the only guarantee is that his production will begin to drop faster than Justin Trudeau’s approval ratings.

  • Is Dustin Byfuglien going to get any younger or any smarter? No.

Big Buff has always marched to his own drummer, and that old dog isn’t about to learn new tricks at age 34. As much as he can hold sway in a game, he’s prone to massive brain farts and, frankly, he’s 260 pounds worth of liability.

  • Paul Maurice

    Is Paul Maurice going to become a better coach? No.

I’ve said it before: Coach Potty Mouth is not the right man to take this young outfit to the next level. He’s reached his level of (in)competence, and it’s time for him to do what he does best—talk. That is, a career in either the TSN or Sportsnet studio awaits him.

  • Does Puck Pontiff Mark Chipman have the coconuts or desire to punt Coach Potty Mouth? No.

Many among the rabble are crying out for Maurice’s ouster, but they can save their breath. Both the Puck Pontiff and GM Kevin Cheveldayoff are on record as saying Maurice is here “for the long haul,” so you can bitch about him all you like. He isn’t going anywhere.

  • Is Jacob Trouba prepared to sign long term? Good luck with that.

On a scale of 1-to-10, I’d say there’s less than zero chance the still-young defender keeps a River City postal code beyond next winter. Actually, I suspect he’ll be out of Dodge before they drop the puck again. Chevy might feel obliged to move him this summer.

  • Twig Ehlers

    Is Twig Ehlers capable of doing anything more than skate pretty? No.

Don’t talk to me about Ehlers’ wonderful zone entries. I really don’t care what the pie charts tell you. He’s paid to score. Instead, he’s doing triple salchows and sit spins, like he’s auditioning for Ice Capades. Perhaps he can partner with Tessa Virtue and they can tour with a fancy skating company. Seriously. Zero goals and seven points in 21 playoff assignments? There’s just no game in his game.

  • Is Kevin Hayes worth keeping around? No.

Turns out that the lanky centre was Stastny Lite, with minimal impact after joining les Jets at the NHL shop-and-swap deadline. He had his moments. Just not enough of them. Acquiring Hayes was a right thing to do that didn’t work out.

  • Chevy

    Will Chevy put together a package to retrieve the first-round draft pick he surrendered in barter for Hayes? Unlikely.

I doubt the other 30 league GMs have any appetite for helping Chevy.

  • Is Chevy prepared to enter another crusade with Bryan Little in the second centre slot? No choice.

Chevy, by his activity at the last two trade deadlines, has told Little that he’s not a No. 2 centre. Trouble is, the Atlanta holdover has a no-movement clause, so Chevy is stuck with him. The No. 2 centre slot was an issue heading into this season and, unfortunately, Hayes wasn’t the solution. Chevy’s mistake was waiting until the 11th hour to attempt to fix it.

  • If rumors of infighting among the players are true, will the toxic elements be discarded? Hard to say.

We only have Mike McIntyre’s word for it that les Jets changing room was a pit full of bickering sourpusses with self-serving interests, so unless the Drab Slab beat guy is prepared to give us the skinny we won’t know the true story.

Jacob Trouba

Let’s make something quite clear: Jacob Trouba wasn’t solely responsible for the goal that did in les Jets in their stunning Game 5 loss to the Blues last Thursday. Yes, he made a poor decision to attempt to freeze the puck on the end boards. A real D’oh! Boy move with about 25 ticks left on the clock. But what of his defensive partner, Josh Morrissey? He was working in concert with Trouba, trying to free the puck vs. Alex Steen and Jaden Schwartz of St. Loo. When it came loose, Rink Rat Scheifele promptly handed it to the Blues Tyler Bozak. Kyle Connor then made a pathetic one-handed poke check attempt, but refused to engage Bozak. Both Trouba and Wheeler then ignored Schwartz, standing unmarked in front of the net to redirect a Bozak feed past Hellebuyck. It was, in short, a 10-second, total team collapse.

If the Tranna Maple Leafs beat the Boston Bruins in their Game 7 showdown on Tuesday to advance along the Stanley Cup trail, I sure hope Sportsnet and TSN will clear some air time and web space to finally give some coverage to the Buds.

Auston Matthews

Let’s put the shrine to Auston Matthews on hold, shall we? I mean, if not for some replay goomer who failed to see what the rest of us saw, Matthews’ goal in les Leafs’ 2-1 victory over the Bruins on Friday night in Beantown would have been waved off for goaltender interference and, for all we know, they’d still be playing.

That’s twice in less than a week that a hockey outfit has been royally ripped off by a video replay judge. First the Finnish women were denied the world title they had earned, and now the Bruins. What are the requirements for that job? A white cane? I think we all knew this replay business would be iffy, but, c’mon man, no amount of official bafflegab from the IIHF or NHL can justify this level of stooge-ism.

Milan Lucic

Postmedia Edmonton allowed readers to have their say on their favorite hockey team, and this was among the many questions asked: “Assuming no team would trade for him given his salary and term remaining on his contract, what should the Oilers do with Milan Lucic?” Shockingly, 3,857 (42 per cent) people who apparently had their eyes shut when the Looch was on the ice answered “Keep him.” Each of those 3,857 Sad Sacks is now qualified to work as an IIHF and NHL video replay judge.

I assume the Winnipeg Sun will run a similar You Be The Boss survey now that garbage bag day has arrived for les Jets, because it’s a tabloid kind of thing to do. Who will the rabble in Good Ol’ Hometown fit for the biggest pair of goat horns? I predict there’ll be three main fall guys: Head coach Paul Maurice, assistant coach Charlie Huddy, and head-strong defender Jacob Trouba, although not necessarily in that order.

And, finally, I don’t know about you, but I feel no obligation to root, root, root for the Maple Leafs simply because they’re the only Canadian outfit still standing in Beard Season.

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About Humpty Harold, a blowhard in Bytown, a CE-D’oh! in Edmonton, a Puck Pontiff in Pegtown…Kevin Hayes a keeper?…the undressing of P.K….TSN Sportscentre gets leggy…a cat fight on court…Adrienne Clarkson’s furniture…our Pebble People lose…best-selling books…and other things on my mind

Another Sunday smorgas-bored…and now that spring has sprung let them play ball…

Humpty Harold Ballard

Time was when Humpty Harold Ballard provided the National Hockey League with its soundtrack for stupid. Now we get it in surround sound.

I mean, talk about clowns to the left and jokers to the right. Meet Bob Nicholson and Eugene Melnyk.

I’m not sure if Nicholson and Melnyk were trying to one-up each other last week, but the sound bites they delivered were definitely Ballardian in bluster, crass in content and, basically, outrageous.

Where to begin? Well, let’s start with Melnyk.

The Ottawa Senators bankroll did the gasbag thing on both 590 The Fan in the Republic of Tranna and CFRA 580 in the nation’s capital, and he told the mayor of Bytown, Jim Watson, to shut the hell up, he labeled one news snoop “bush league,” and this owner of the 31st-place team in a 31-team league felt the need to counsel the architects of the fifth-place team in the proper construction of a championship roster.

Eugene Melnyk

He stopped short of instructing his head coach, Marc Crawford, to wear a paper bag over his head while behind the bench, but it could be that it simply slipped his mind.

“I better not say what I was going to say,” Melnyk said before saying what he was going to say about the Toronto Maple Leafs, “but they’re going to have a very hard time winning a Stanley Cup without defence. Because they are hitting the cap. They can’t bring anybody new in. They’re stuck. And that’s where you have to be extremely careful…mistakes were made. Somebody forgot about defence.”

That from a man who held a garage sale and peddled off most of his shiny playing pieces, including Erik Karlsson who is—oh, that’s right—a defenceman. One of the very best, in fact.

Bob Nicholson

Meanwhile, Nicholson also summoned his inner Humpty Harold.

Once upon a time the head of Hockey Canada and now CE-D’oh! of the Edmonton McDavids, Nicholson stood before a live audience of disgruntled, if not hostile, devotees and laid the blame for another playoff-free spring in E-Town on a spare part named Toby Rieder. That’s right. Toby Rieder.

“If Toby Rieder had scored 10 or 12 goals, we’d probably be in the playoffs,” said Nicholson.

Cripes, man, I didn’t even know Toby Rieder existed until Nicholson went off on him, but now I know where we can find him—under a bus. It might even be the same bus that Humpty Harold hurled Inge Hammarstrom and his pocketful of eggshells under back in the day.

At any rate, the squawkings of the two Ballard wannabes—you can call them Harold Lite and Harold Lite Jr.—made me think of our own Puck Pontiff, Mark Chipman.

Mark Chipman

Will we ever hear a similar level of bombast emanate from the ivory tower at the Little Hockey House On The Prairie? Not bloody likely. You’re more apt to see a UFO land at Portage and Main first. I mean, Chipman is chatty like a Zamboni is a dinky toy. Compared to the Winnipeg Jets co-bankroll, a street mime is a blowhard. The Puck Pontiff is seen and heard from so infrequently that I’m convinced he’s actually Howard Hughes, tucked away in some dark room, watching old hockey film, walking around with Kleenex boxes on his feet, peeing in pop bottles, and munching on candy bars and pecans. That’s not really Chipman you see in the owner’s suite at les Jets home games. It’s a stunt double, probably some bit player on loan from the Prairie Theatre Exchange across the street.

Should we be thankful that the Puck Pontiff is a recluse? That he doesn’t go off his nut like the clown to the left and the joker to the right?

Well, it’s a lot less entertaining but, ya, we can do without the racket. Serenity now! Serenity now!

Apparently Rieder was disturbed by CE-D’oh! Nicholson’s unflattering remarks. “I’m offended,” the E-Town forward said when news snoops tracked down what was left of him under the bus. Offended? Ya think?

Leave it to Brian Burke of Sportsnet to deliver a blunt take on Melnyk’s runaway mouth: “He is aiming at both of his feet. He’s not just shooting himself in the foot, he is aiming at his feet. This guy’s gotta stop doing interviews. He needs to take a nap. He needs to get out of the media.”

Kevin Hayes

I hate to be a Debbie Downer, but let’s wait to see how Beard Season shakes down before we talk about les Jets signing Kevin Hayes long term. Based on the early returns, yes, it appears that GM Kevin Cheveldayoff has knocked it out of the park with the addition of Hayes, the long, tall drink of water Chevy scooped up at the NHL shop-and-swap deadline. Hayes contributed a goal and three helpers in Winnipeg HC’s most significant victory of the current crusade, a 5-nada paddywhacking of the Nashville Predators on Saturday night, but let’s not lose sight of the fact it’s all about the Stanley Cup runoff for les Jets. If Hayes delivers at the Paul Stastny rate (15 points in 17 games) when the skirmishes matter most, I’ll agree that Chevy should make the Little Hockey House On The Prairie the lanky centre’s permanent address.

Just wondering: Were the Preds lying in the fetal position and sucking their thumbs when they left Good Ol’ Hometown? Seriously. If les Jets weren’t in the Preds’ heads prior to the Saturday rag-dolling, they are now. And what kind of unspeakable nightmares must Pekka Rinne be having?

The Golden Boy

Yo! P.K. Subban! You can collect your laundry—lock, stock and jock—at Kyle Connor’s locker. An undressing? What Jets sophomore Connor did to the Preds veteran defender should be illegal in 10 provinces and three territories. He left P.K. as naked as the Golden Boy.

I don’t get it. Why do people keep throwing down on Zdeno Chara of the Boston Bruins? I mean, what part of “Ouch, his fists really freaking hurt!” do they not understand?

So, how’s your March Madness bracket doing? I’d like to report that mine is doing just fine, but I don’t have a bracket. Never have had a bracket. More to the point, I don’t know what a March Madness bracket is. I just wish it would end so we can go back to regularly scheduled highlights on TSN and Sportsnet.

Kara Wagland

Is it my imagination, or are the heels and hemlines getting higher on TSN Sportscentre? It’s either that or Lindsay Hamilton and Kara Wagland have grown longer legs. Notably, no one at TSN has attempted to sexify the male talking heads, unless you consider Jeff O’Dog’s butt cleavage sexy. It’s a blatant sexist double standard that the women must look and dress the way they look and dress while a male talking head can have a face like and old catcher’s mitt and clothes right off the rack at Couture de Riff Raff. That isn’t a complaint. Just an observation.

Just wondering: Why does Kara Wagland think it’s “funny” when a man gets drilled in the nuts with a tennis ball? When did injuries to such a delicate area of the bod become “funny?”

Apparently Angelique Kerber doesn’t like Bianca Andreescu. After losing to our girl in the third round of the Miami Open tennis tournament on Saturday, Kerber bared her fangs and showed her claws at the post-match handshake, calling Bianca the “biggest drama queen ever.” Guess Kerber has never seen Ru Paul. Or Serena Williams at the U.S. Open. Whatever, I can’t say that I blame Kerber. I mean, I wouldn’t like someone who kept stealing my lunch money either.

Adrienne Clarkson and her cup.

Nice of our national media—print division—to notice women’s hockey. Both Scott Stinson of the National Post and Cathal Kelly of the Globe and Mail genuflected in the direction of the Canadian Women’s Hockey League title tilt today in the Republic of Tranna, but they had very different takes. Stinson scribbled something about the participants—it’s the Calgary Inferno vs. Les Canadiennes de Montreal—while Kelly wrote about Adrienne Clarkson’s furniture and sipping tea with the former Governor General. WTF? It’s nice to know that Lady Adrienne is of considerable refinement and that her home furnishings didn’t come from the Sally Ann’s, but can’t we make it about the women who’ll actually compete for the trophy she donated to the CWHL?

Connor McDavid: Better than Auston Matthews.

Must be difficult days for news snoops in The ROT. They spent much of the winter prattling on and scribbling about the unparalleled, other-wordly wonders of Auston Matthews and Morgan Rielly of les Leafs, making one out to be a latter-day Wayne Gretzky and the other a born-again Bobby Orr. Now along come more than 500 NHL players to tell them they’re full of phooey. Best forward in the world? The players’ poll says it’s Connor McDavid. Matthews wasn’t even a blip on the radar. Best defenceman? Victor Hedman. Rielly didn’t register. Most difficult to play against? McDavid. The guy you’d want to start a franchise with? McDavid. But, hey, what do the guys on the ice know compared to a bunch of balding, overweight, out-of-shape, middle-age men with food stains on their shirts?

Chelsea Carey

Oh drat. Chelsea Carey’s crew crashed and burned at the World Women’s Curling Championship in Denmark, failing to qualify for the playoffs, and that leaves me to wonder what it is about Alberta-based outfits that they can’t get the job done on global pebble. The women from Wild Rose Country remain 0-for-life when wearing the Maple Leaf, and that’s at both the worlds (0-5) and Olympics (0-2). Are they not drinking the same water as the men?

Hard to believe, but Alberta remains the only western province that has yet to produce a women’s world champion. B.C. and Saskatchewan have four each and Manitoba three.

And, finally, this from Steve Simmons of Postmedia Tranna: “Sometimes I wonder about this country I adore: Cathal Kelly and David Shoalts have written fine books but are not found on the bestsellers list for non-fiction but last time I looked Steve Dangle had a book on the list.” So, if we aren’t buying his friends’ books, there’s something wrong with the country? What freaking ever. (Quick aside: One of his copy editor’s might want to introduce Simmons to the comma. Punctuation is useful, also advisable, in a 32-word sentence.)

About the Winnipeg Jets making Hayes…get ready for another Nashville-Winnipeg donnybrook in Beard Season…no one will be singing the Blues…Nic gets a taste of popcorn in The ROT…Tradey and other oddballs on TSN…L is for loser and Ottawa…

Another smorgas-bored…and I hope you had better things to do than watch the entire NHL trade centre gab-a-thon on either TSN or Sportsnet…

I must confess, kids, Kevin Cheveldayoff fooled me.

Chevy

I had him figured for a thumb-twiddler at the National Hockey League shop-and-swap deadline on Monday, mainly because he’s known since July uno last year that he needed to fix the hole that Paul Stastny filled at the close of business last spring.

I mean, eight months. Nada. What, his phone wasn’t working all that time?

So, call me cynical, but I wasn’t confident the Winnipeg Jets general manager had an ace hidden up his sleeve and he’d pull it out at the 11th hour, providing the local hockey heroes with a winning hand as Beard Season approaches.

As we now know, Chevy did not dither or twiddle on D-day. He made more moves than a hustler in a singles bar.

Kevin Hayes

Chevy’s big catch—literally and figuratively—was Kevin Hayes, a tall drink of water who doesn’t carry the same cred as Stastny but will certainly do in a pinch. Let’s just call the now-former New York Rangers centre Stastny Lite until he proves otherwise.

Some might look at Hayes as a consolation prize, because the main object of Chevy’s affection (or so we’re told) was home boy Mark Stone, who found Las Vegas and the Golden Knights more to his liking. And yes, now that you mention it, it is somewhat annoying that the guys we want to keep or to bring on board continue to make Bugsy Siegel’s desert town their preferred locale. First Stastny, now Hayes. Who will they want next in Glitter Gulch? Burton Cummings?

Mark Stone

At any rate, the bottom line is that Chevy did what he had to do, and if you prefer to look at the Hayes transaction as settling for second best, so be it. It’s still a good get, and it better positions les Jets in their quest to secure the extra home date in Beard Season.

Otherwise, Chevy’s handiwork was mostly meh.

Some pundits, mind you, were heard touting the added presence of Matt Hendricks as beneficial, because he’s “good in the room” and you never want savvy to be in short supply, especially on such a young outfit. There is, however, a lurking danger: Head coach Paul Maurice seems to harbor a peculiar fascination for veteran forwards of limited skill, and he might be inclined to go ga-ga over Hendricks and give him first-line minutes. You know, like he did with Chris Thorburn, who was also “good in the room.” It took the jaws of life to pry him away from Maurice, and I don’t think anyone is interested in Chris Thorburn, The Sequel.

So let’s just say Hendricks won’t be the difference between les Jets and the Nashville Predators, unless Coach Potty Mouth loses his mind. Then all bets are off.

Wayne Simmonds

Once all the cards were dealt and chips were played on Monday, how do les Jets stack up against their Central Division foes? Well, the Nashville Predators certainly bulked up with the additions of Mikael Granlund and wrecking ball winger Wayne Simmonds. Although betrayed by his scoring touch this crusade, Simmonds can be a force and perhaps a difference-maker in a nasty, bitter seven-game series. Les Jets don’t have anyone who compares to Simmonds. They are, however, stronger down the middle and better in goal because, you know, Pekka Rinne. Unfortunately, the home boys have become a train wreck on the backline, otherwise Chevy wouldn’t be bringing in Bogdan Kiselevich and Nathan Beaulieu, who’s pretty much been a washout since his name was called 10 shouts after Rink Rat Scheifele’s at the 2011 auction of freshly scrubbed teenagers. Here’s my guess: Les Jets and Nashville will meet in the second round of Beard Season, they’ll knock the slobber out of each other for seven games, nobody will survive to play the Western Conference final, so the San Jose Sharks will win by default.

What about the St. Louis Blues, you ask? What about them? Don’t be fooled by their recent run of good fortune. Once the puck stops hitting Jordan Binnington, they’ll be back to run-of-the-mill.

The downside of Chevy’s day: He needed to make a bigger play to prop up the backline, notably on the left side. Been saying that since October. He didn’t. That might prove to be les Jets’ undoing in the Stanley Cup runoff.

Nice to see Jets recluse forward Nic Petan catch a break and land on his feet with the Maple Leafs in the Republic of Tranna. I hope GM Harry Potter isn’t bringing him to The ROT just so he can sample the popcorn in the Scotiabank Arena press box.

Quick observations from TSN’s Trade Centre gab-a-thon on Monday: Does the filter between Dave Poulin’s grey matter and mouth work? I mean, host James Duthie and his cast a-plenty announced that the Vegas Golden Knights and Mark Stone have agreed on an eight-year contract extension, yet less than an hour later Poulin was telling us “There’s not going to be eight-year deals anymore.” It’s also known that the Ottawa Senators offered Stone and Matt Duchene eight-year deals. We ought not be surprised, though, because Poulin is among the mooks who left the NHL scoring champion, Connor McDavid, off his all-star ballot last year…I’m not sure why, but some of the buffoonery made me laugh, most notably when panelist Jeff O’Dog attacked ugly mascot Tradey for stealing food. Mind you, I could have done without seeing O’Dog’s butt cleavage…Tradey is one bad-ass mascot who, among other things, gave us the finger, and Duthie’s running commentary was giggle-worthy. The didn’t-see-that-coming kicker arrived at the end, when SportsCentre anchor and CFL on TSN host Rod Smith was revealed as the man inside the Tradey costume. Made me laugh out loud…Who in the name of Giorgio Armani dresses and grooms Steve Simmons? The Postmedia Tranna columnist joined former The Reporters gum-flappers Bruce Arthur and Michael Farber to dissect the events of the day, and he looked like a cross between Boxcar Willie and a circus clown. I mean, it’s one thing to be a scrubface, but he might want to prune those chin whiskers. As for the shirt and necktie, Bozo wants them back. I only mention Simmons’ appearance because there’s no way a female panelist on TSN would be allowed to go on camera looking like a railyard hobo. It’s a classic double standard…As for the Jay-and-Dan clown act: Why?

Eugene Melnyk

There’s little point in declaring winners and losers after the trade deadline, because we won’t know that until June. There is, however, one exception in the Loser category: The Ottawa Senators. Mark Stone, Matt Duchene, Ryan Dzingel—all shipped out the same week. Eugene Melnyk—still there. That’s an L of an outfit.

And, finally, to sum up what Chevy said when asked what went wrong in his bid to land Stone, he said he wouldn’t comment on comments. I have no comment on that comment.

About the Winnipeg Jets at the NHL trade deadline…Dustin Byfuglien’s ice tub…the bullying and harassment of Puck Finn…Sportsnet’s meathead gets his wish…news snoops in E-Town have a pity party…the Buffalo Girls stink it up in Sydney…Jennifer Jones at the top of the heap…and other things on my mind

Another Sunday smorgas-bored…and I have a no-trade, no-movement clause, so don’t even think about telling me to get lost…

Who wrote the script for the Winnipeg Jets last week? Charles Dickens?

I mean, the past few days definitely were the worst of times and the best of times for the local hockey heroes.

Then, again, perhaps it was Robert Louis Stevenson with pen in hand, because this was strictly Jekyll-and-Hyde stuff—The Strange Case of the Mile-High Keystone Kops in Denver and the Rat Pack in Glitter Gulch.

Twig Ehlers

Whatever the case, we are left to ponder a Jets outfit that didn’t merely lay an egg vs. the Colorado Avalanche on Wednesday, it served up a 12-egg omelette in the form of a 7-1 paddywhacking. To confound matters, Winnipeg HC followed by delivering an emphatic 6-3 wedgie to the Golden Knights 48 hours later in Las Vegas, a success that included significant contributions from glam-and-glitz guys Twig Ehlers, Kyle Connor and Patrik Laine, the prodigal goal-scorer who’d been wandering the wasteland for the better part of three months.

So what do we say about Team Topsy-Turvy with the National Hockey League shop-and-swap deadline upon us? The same as some of us said back in October: Help!

Les Jets were found wanting in last spring’s Stanley Cup runoff, falling seven bricks short of a full load, and that was with Paul Stastny on board. I’m uncertain what part of replacing Stastny that Kevin Cheveldayoff doesn’t understand, but it ought to be Priority One when the Jets general manager and his accomplices assemble in the Winnipeg HC trade war room on the morrow.

Chevy

Those same deep-thinkers might also be inclined to do something about their team’s Keystone Kopish defensive play. But, again, we said these things in October, so I’m at a loss to explain why we’ve arrived at the 11th hour and we’re still waiting for Chevy to take out his tinkering tools.

As assembled, I believe les Jets can get out of the Central Division if they secure home-ice advantage, but I don’t see them getting the best of the Calgary Flames or San Jose Sharks. My guess is that Chevy stands pat tomorrow. If so and les Jets fall short in their Stanley Cup quest, the lost opportunity is on him.

How do les Jets notify a player that he’s been traded? Dustin Byfuglien tells him he can find his track suit in the ice tub.

Best line about the NHL trade deadline was delivered by Brian Burke on Hockey Night in Canada: “It’s a four-aspirin headache for the general manager.”

Puck Finn

Now that Laine has freed himself from an epic goal-scoring funk, perhaps the leather-lungs in Jets Nation can turn down the volume on the trade-him, ship-him-to-the-farm, give-him-a-box-of-pressbox-popcorn blah, blah, blah. The noise in the past 2½ months has been as loud as it’s been irrational, confirming that Puck Finn is the victim of his own success. He lit more lamps than a Kentucky coal miner as an NHL freshman and sophomore, and nothing shy of 44 snipes is going to sate the rabble. At the least, his two goals in Glitter Gulch should shush the crowd. Until the next time, of course.

What’s this? Some among the rabble believe Puck Finn has been the target of bullying and harassment from news snoops and fans? Oh please. It’s professional sports. Criticism comes with the gig. Besides, it’s only bullying or harassment if you hear it, and I doubt Laine leaves his PlayStation gadgets long enough to stick his nose in a newspaper or lend an ear to yadda, yadda, yadda sports radio.

Nick Kypreos

Well, Nick Kypreos got his wish and I can only assume he’s pleased that Connor McDavid has been told to go away for a couple of games.

It wasn’t so long ago, you might recall, when the resident meathead on Sportsnet/Hockey Night in Canada suggested that McDavid forget about scoring highlight-reel goals and, instead, morph into a fellow meathead.

“I would have loved Connor McDavid to turn around and two-hand Lindholm,” Meathead growled on Hockey Central at Noon after the Edmonton Oilers captain had been sent careening into the boards by Hampus Lindholm in an early-January game vs. the Disney Ducks. “I don’t care. If Connor gets suspended a couple of games, so be it. Send a message. Send a message that I’m not taking this, okay? And Connor doesn’t have to fight, but pull the Mark Messier, pull a couple of old-time guys and say, ‘Listen, you wanna shove me into the boards? I’m gonna take my stick and I’m gonna jam it down your throat. I don’t care if I get two games, 10 games, I’ll make a hundred and 50, two hundred million dollars by the end of my career, I’ll spend 50 grand, I’ll spend a hundred grand just to send a message to you and everybody else. I ain’t taking this.’”

So McDavid lays Nick Leddy low with a shoulder to the head, and Sheriff George of the player safety department sends the Oilers captain to his room for two games. Plus, the kid is out $134,408.60 in pay. Just as Kypreos wanted.

Well, I’m sorry, but I fail to see the benefit of having the game’s most dynamic offensive performer sitting in stir. Just as I fail to see the benefit of having Kypreos spew rubbish on Sportsnet.

Free Connor McDavid! Pull the plug on Meathead!

Connor McDavid

You’ve got the Edmonton Oilers and you’ve got the Edmonton Wailers, otherwise known as the biased news snoops in E-Town. Many of them are crying foul on the NHL and Sheriff George for grounding their hockey hero. Some samples (reader advisory: Kleenex optional)…

Terry Jones, Postmedia: “The National Hockey League, repeatedly and consistently, punishes Connor McDavid for being Connor McDavid. Players are allowed to treat arguably the world’s greatest hockey player with all manner of spit and abuse with a minimal number of trips to the penalty box. But have McDavid, a first-time offender, create an unintentional hit to the head of New York Islanders’ Nick Leddy and he’s suspended for two games? This looks and smells like the NHL announcing to one and all that it treats its superstar player with the same rules of justice as all others. And that would be fine, if it were true and it worked both ways, but it doesn’t.”

Rob Tychkowski, Postmedia: “I never had much faith in George Parros. He has a tendency to overcompensate in these situations, ask Andrew Cogliano. But a multiple repeat offender who whacks someone on the head with a stick, that’s the guy who gets the break…if the NHL wants to treat him equally when it comes to infractions he commits, which it should, then maybe the NHL should treat him equally when it comes to the infractions he receives. That would be fair.”

Bob Stauffer, Oilers broadcaster: “Pretty ironic that a superstar player who doesn’t get protected by the officials gets no benefit of the doubt on a first-time infraction. There is a reason why the NBA kicks the NHL’s ass in the U.S. The NBA respects their stars, the NHL doesn’t!”

Wah, wah, wah.

Briane Meilleur, Shannon Birchard, Val Sweeting, Kerri Einarson.

If I had told you that Kerri Einarson and her all-skip outfit would fail to qualify for the Scotties Tournament of Hearts, and that the Tracy Fleury foursome would fail to make the championship round, and that Jennifer Jones would fail to execute a simple draw to the rings and her world championship crew would fail to make the playoffs—horror of horrors!—you would have called for the men in the white coats, right? I mean, no one of sound mind would have forecast such calamity for the Buffalo Girls at the Canadian women’s curling shindig in Sydney. So how do we explain what went down at Centre 200? Manitoba is supposed to be a powerhouse. No province does curling better. And we went 0-fer. Go figure. But, hey, we still lay claim to Chelsea Carey, don’t we? Damn straight, we do. Doesn’t matter that she curls out of Saudi Alberta. She’s one of us. So a win in today’s Canadian women’s curling final vs. Rachel Homan and her gal pals from Ottawa is a win for good, ol’ Toba.

Chelsea Carey

Speaking of Chelsea, if you’re looking for a good read, check out Melissa Martin’s feature on the Alberta skip and her pop, Dan Carey, in the Drab Slab. Melissa doesn’t mention that Dan is an old neighbor of mine from way back in the day (we’re talking the 1950s), but I won’t hold that against her. It’s a terrific piece.

One of the curlers detected a foul odor at Centre 200 in Sydney during Thursday’s play. She’s right. Something did stink. It was Tracy Fleury’s draw weight. Seriously. The Manitoba champ lost her touch somewhere between Gimli and the Maritimes, and it was painful to watch. I felt sorry for her.

Kaitlyn Lawes

In the department of Things That Don’t Make Sense: TSN assembled a panel of 31 “experts” to determine the greatest female curlers in history, and they voted Jan Betker the best to ever throw third stones. So far, so good. But those same 31 “experts” rated both Cathy Overton-Clapham (No. 6) and Kaitlyn Lawes (No. 7) among the top 10 players in history, regardless of position. Betker was nowhere to be found on that list. So how does it figure that two thirds, Cathy O and Lawes, are better players than Betker but not better thirds? I’d say the 31 “experts” have some explaining to do, but I won’t hold my breath waiting for their reasoning.

Jennifer Jones

Congrats to the fabulous Jennifer Jones, now the winningest skip in Scotties history, with 141 Ws. Even though she came up empty in Sydney and isn’t getting any younger, I doubt we’ve seen or heard the last of the great champion. I certainly hope not.

And, finally, Les (Ronny) Lazaruk and Joe Daley were blowing out prairie fires last week. Ronny had 60 candles on his birthday cake and the Holy Goalie had 76, so it was a three-alarm day for both. Ronny and Joe are genuinely good guys and two of my favorite people in sports. Belated happy birthday, boys.

Hens in the Hockey House: A deep dive into the Winnipeg Jets

Two weeks in front of the National Hockey League trade deadline seems like an appropriate time to take inventory of the Winnipeg Jets, and who better to do that than our two all-seeing, all-knowing Hens in the Hockey House?

Take it away, ladies…

Question Lady: My goodness, how long has it been since we last got together to muse on the Jets? A month? Two?

Answer Lady: Try October, girlfriend. It was before they dropped the puck. You know, back when everyone in Good Ol’ Hometown still thought Patrik Laine was god’s gift to the one-timer.

Question Lady: Was it really that long ago? My, oh my. So where should we begin this chit-chat? With Laine?

Puck Finn

Answer Lady: That’s as good a place as any. That seems to be what most of the rabble is talking about. They’re calling out Puck Finn for everything from the Jets’ wonky powerplay to the recent shoot-’em-up at Johnny G’s. He’s certainly become their whipping boy, and he’s made me out to be quite the fool. I predicted he’d score 57 goals and win the Rocket Richard Trophy. Some rocket he’s turned out to be. More like a used Iraqi scud missile.

Question Lady: Have you given up on the kid? Think they should trade him?

Answer Lady: Trade him? Would CBS trade Tony Romo? Would Penn trade Teller? You don’t give up on a 40-goal scorer just because he’s hit a rough patch. And before you ask, girlfriend, no I wouldn’t send him to the farm or hand him a box of popcorn and tell him to find a perch in the press box. Let’s at least wait until the kid’s old enough to buy a beer in the U.S. before we toss him into the dumpster.

Question Lady: So you’re saying that Laine is an untouchable?

Donald Trump

Answer Lady: For now, yes. That could change. I mean, once the Edmonton Oilers told Wayne Gretzky to get out of Dodge there were no more sacred cows. Anyone can be traded. So let me just say this about that: I doubt Puck Finn will finish his career in Jets linen, but he isn’t going anywhere before the trade deadline on Feb. 25. Seriously, it’s ridiculous to use up valuable oxygen talking about it. What would you like to debate next? If Donald Trump should hire a new hair stylist?

Question Lady: Geez, a bit touchy this morning, aren’t we?

Answer Lady: Sorry, girlfriend, but it’s been snowing where I live and seeing the white stuff on palm trees has got me off my game. I’ve been holed up since last Thursday and don’t figure to step out of doors until the snow’s vamoosed. That could be another two days, and I’m already starting to get cabin fever. So mea culpa.

Paul Stastny

Question Lady: Not to worry. When we last talked in October, you suggested the Jets could use an upgrade at centre ice. Now everyone is talking about that very thing—when they aren’t moaning about Laine, that is. So do you see Kevin Cheveldayoff pulling another rabbit named Paul Stastny out of his fedora before the deadline?

Answer Lady: Rabbits? I hear all kinds of chatter about Chevy going big-game hunting. As if. Here’s how I think it’ll shake down: He’ll kick tires, he’ll look under the hood, he’ll check out and consider sticker prices, then he’ll pass. No deals. Look, just because the (quote) all-knowing (unquote) pundits believe the Jets need beefing up down the middle, it doesn’t necessarily follow that Chevy believes it. I’m convinced he’d be comfortable going into the Stanley Cup runoff with the group he’s gathered together. I really am. He’ll likely say that very thing post-deadline.

Chevy

Question Lady: That isn’t what you told me last October. As I recall, you said, “Chevy will do something at, or just before, the trade deadline. It’ll involve centres and defencemen.” And now you’re singing a different tune?

Answer Lady: Hey, I also said Connor Hellebuyck would win the Vezina Trophy and Rink Rat Scheifele would finish behind only Connor McDavid in the scoring derby. D’oh! D’oh! So sue me.

Question Lady: What makes you believe that Chevy doesn’t—or refuses to—recognize the wants and needs that others see?

Answer Lady: He’ll be fooled by all the smoke and mirrors. Think about it, girlfriend: Big Buff goes out and the club keeps winning. Twig Ehlers goes out and the club keeps winning. Hellebuyck soils the sheets for three months and the club keeps winning. Puck Finn goes drier than a popcorn fart and the club keeps winning. So Chevy has to be thinking everything will be tickety-boo once all the pieces are in their proper place. Hence, no need to tinker.

David Poile

Question Lady: But David Poile is already tinkering with the Nashville Predators, so doesn’t Chevy have to match his moves?

Answer Lady: Whatever. Poile has added Brian Boyle and Cody McLeod. That’s like Betty White adding another candle to her birthday cake. Do you really think the 97th candle makes the cake any better? Sure, Boyle is useful, but McLeod is a lunkhead. Talk to me if and when Poile adds Matt Duchene, Mark Stone or Artemi Panarin.

Question Lady: If you’re correct and Chevy does nothing, it begs the obvious question: Is this Jets outfit better than the team that was found lacking last spring?

Answer Lady: No, ma’am. That gang wasn’t good enough, this gang isn’t good enough. It’s one Paul Stastny, or a reasonable facsimile thereof, short of a load. Said that in October, repeating myself now.

Question Lady: So, Debbie Downer, you’re telling me this is another lost season?

Answer Lady: If my guess is right and Chevy twiddles his thumbs for the next two weeks, I’m afraid so. Nothing short of an appearance in the Stanley Cup final is acceptable.

Question Lady: That’s setting the bar awful high, don’t you think?

Answer Lady: I didn’t set the bar, girlfriend. The Jets did when they advanced to the Western Conference final last spring. It’s like Puck Finn. He’s had 36- and 44-goal seasons, so that’s what we expect from him. Maybe that’s not fair but, hey, if life was fair old friend Randy Carlyle would still have a job and Corey Perry wouldn’t. That really stinks.

Question Lady: Yup, sure is a bummer about Carlyle. Good man. At any rate, I’m guessing you have some snow to shovel, so I’ll let you go.

Answer Lady: Snow? Shovel? As if. I might dust the white stuff off the palm leaves next time I step out, but I’m afraid I surrendered my shovel 20 years ago when I put Good Ol’ Hometown in the rearview mirror. The only thing I shovel now is BS…100 per cent Canadian BS.

Question Lady: Okay, what say we do this again just before the playoffs?

Answer Lady: Well, I know I’ll be here because I’ve got a no-trade, no-movement clause, so it’s a date.

 

About Major Junior hockey and Benny’s pie in the sky…put that WHL name on Ice…Barnum & Bailey & Mayhem on Maroons Road…Jeff Hamilton racing a woman…Jake and les Leafs…open season on Puck Finn…and good reads from Teddy Wy and Mike M.

A midweek smorgas-bored…and it’s a good day for stepping into the Junior shinny Way Back Machine to a time when some hockey coaches wore fedoras…

Major Junior hockey. Winnipeg.

Some of us are old enough to recall the days when those two went together, like Johnny Carson and late-night laughter.

That’s right, kids, once upon a brief time Major Junior worked in Good Ol’ Hometown.

Bobby Clarke, Chris Worthy and Reggie Leach

Oh, they didn’t exactly sardine-can them into the old shinny barn on Maroons Road every night, but it wasn’t just family and friends who surfaced to watch the Winnipeg Jets. Especially when the Flin Flon Bombers of Bobby Clarke and Reggie Leach rode into River City with a sneer and something to prove to the big-city boys.

Logically, the Brandon Wheat Kings, being just a hoot and a holler down the road, should have been cast in the role of the Jets’ antagonist in what was then known as the Western Canada Hockey League. But no. It was the bunch from the northern Manitoba mining town named after the fictional Josiah Flintabbatey Flonatin who wore the black hat.

The dreaded Bombers were piloted by Paddy Ginnell, a rascalish head coach given to filling news snoops’ notebooks with goading, in-your-face candor.

Paddy Ginnell

In the spring of 1969, for example, the Jets evened a playoff joust with the Bombers at 2-2-1 (yes, there was a tie game), which meant the eight-point series was heading back to intimidating Whitney Forum in Flin Flon.

“How the hell are they going to win up there?” a cocksure Ginnell scoffed. “They’ve never won there. If I was Ben (Hatskin, Jets bankroll), I’d forfeit the series and save the money.”

Turns out Paddy was right.

The Jets couldn’t quite figure out a way to win in the Flin Flon Forum, which provided cozy comfort for the Bombers but served as a chamber of horrors for the Winnipegs in ’69 and the following spring.

Pistol Dorohoy

The thing is, whatever pre- and post-game hype Ginnell and his counterpart, Eddie (Pistol) Dorohoy, were selling to anyone with a notebook or microphone, the rabble was buying. The Jets topped out at a head count of 7,326 and totaled 20,516 for three home dates in ’69, and upped that in 1970 with a WCHL single-game record of 9,043 and 33,206 for their four home dates vs. Flin Flon.

Queen Liz looked down approvingly from the north end of the barn.

That all changed, however, when the aforementioned Ben Hatskin saw two bigger pies in the sky. One was called the World Hockey Association. The other was Robert Marvin Hull.

Five years after Benny and the WHA Jets reshaped the local shinny landscape in 1972, Major Junior hockey disappeared, despite the earnest intentions and heavy sledding of people like Gerry Brisson, Muzz MacPherson, Gordie Pennell, George Dorman and so many others.

Ben Hatskin

My perch in the press box allowed me to witness the slow, steady decline of a franchise that morphed from the Jets to the Clubs to the Monarchs, and customers disguised as empty seats was not only a bad optic but a killer on the bottom line.

“I don’t understand why people won’t come out to watch us,” Brisson would lament the day after a home assignment would attract an audience numbering no more than 1,200 diehards.

It didn’t help, of course, that Brisson did some goofy things, like replacing his head coach with the team trainer in the middle of a game and later demoting the same head coach to assistant coach, to scout, then firing him via Canada Post. Correct. He sent George Dorman a Dear John letter. And, in general, Brisson iced outfits that could scarcely lick their lips.

Bottom line, though, was the WHA and the Jets. That was the nut nobody could crack.

I’m guessing that Greg Fettes and Matt Cockell are aware of this unfortunate history (not to mention the aborted re-entry of the WHL in the early 1980s), yet they’re still planning to pitch their tent in the boonies (RM of Macdonald) and swim upstream next autumn. Their Kootenay Ice will become the Winnipeg Ice, and Fettes/Cockell seem convinced they can make a go of it in a hockey pool that includes the NHL Jets and American Hockey League Manitoba Moose. You can take them for fools if you like, but, hey, it’s their coin.

Someone please tell me that Fettes and Cockell plan to rename their franchise. Ice doesn’t work for me, nor does an angry Sasquatch as a team logo. We haven’t seen anything resembling a Sasquatch in Good Ol’ Hometown since Jimmy Mann was dragging his knuckles around the freeze.

Wild Bill Hunter

Among the selling points of the old WCHL were the owners/operators. Guys like Brisson, MacPherson, Ginnell, Pistol Dorohoy, Punch McLean, Scotty Munro and Wild Bill Hunter were Sideshow Bobs, equal parts Barnum, Bailey and Ringling Bros. Some, notably McLean and Ginnell, were maestros of mayhem. It wasn’t uncommon for all hell to break loose on any given night, and the lads really frothed at the mouth with Flin Flon in town. Then it was Mayhem on Maroons Road, and much of it seemed orchestrated. Neither Fettes or Cockell strikes me as a carnival barker, and I somehow doubt their head coach, homeboy James Patrick, is inclined to hurl garbage cans onto the ice when his universe isn’t unfolding as it should. Oh, the good, old days.

Here’s how popular the Junior Jets of Ben Hatskin, Pistol Dorohoy and coach Nick Mickoski were: Some fans actually purchased passage on the team charter to attend playoff skirmishes in Flin Flon.

Jeff Hamilton

Young Jeff Hamilton of the Drab Slab writes this about the Ice’s entry into the River City shinny glut: “A WHL franchise in Winnipeg, together with the unprecedented investment in hockey development, would create a unique sports marketplace and position Winnipeg as the hockey capital of North America, home to teams in the NHL, AHL and the Canadian Hockey League.” Whoa there, young fella. There’s this little burg I call the Republic of Tranna that trumps Good Ol’ Hometown. The ROT has the Maple Leafs, the Marlies, the Mississauga Steelheads, plus the Furies and the Thunder. Unless young Jeff is one of the many men who pooh-pooh the distaff side of the game, The ROT’s two Canadian Women’s Hockey League franchises give it the edge. If young Jeff isn’t convinced, let’s see him beat Kendall Coyne Schofield in a foot race and then we’ll talk.

Leafs GM Harry Potter

Something tells me the Maple Leafs made a trade this week. And I think it involved Jake Muzzin. I could be wrong, though. I mean, maybe I was just dreaming when I saw those 12 headlines about Muzzin on the front page of the Leafs blog known as the Sportsnet website on Wednesday. They usually reserve that kind of over-the-top coverage for Auston Matthews’ grooming habits (film of toenail clipping at 11). So I guess I’m mistaken and Muzzin is still working the Los Angeles Kings blueline.

Let’s be clear about something: Les Jets do not have to make a significant move just because les Leafs snared Muzzin. This isn’t tit-for-tat. The Muzzin transaction has no impact on Winnipeg HC unless they’re the last two National Hockey League clubs standing in the Stanley Cup runoff. If that’s how it shakes down, it won’t be because general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff was prodded into action by Leafs GM Harry Potter.

Puck Finn

Tough week thus far for Patrik Laine. The young Jets winger still can’t score, he spent most of Tuesday night in Beantown glued to the pine, and the natterbugs in print and on air went off on the kid. According to my scorecard, Ted Wyman, Jason Bell, Tim & Sid, Noodles McLennon and Jeff O’Dog all had a go at Puck Finn and, to sum up their deep, penetrating analysis, Laine “isn’t moving his feet.” Tough to move your feet when you’re sitting on the bench.

I’m not saying coach Paul Maurice was wrong to plop Puck Finn on the plank vs. the Bruins, but there’s more at play here than the moving of feet. I say Laine’s issues are at the opposite end of his lanky body—between the ears.

If you’re looking for a good read, check out Mike McIntyre’s piece on former U.S. Navy SEAL James Hatch in the Drab Slab. Hatch is in town as part of a dumb bet he made against les Jets last year, and Mike M. hits it out of the park with his yarn. Also worth a look is Ted Wyman’s feature on former Jets forward and all-round good guy Randy Gilhen in the Winnipeg Sun. Good stuff.

And, finally, I have personal links to two of the main players in the old WCHL. Pistol Dorohoy is the only coach who ever cut me, and I played for Gerry Brisson. So, ya, I feel the warm and fuzzies for Junior shinny and I hope it works for Fettes and Cockell.

About Puck Finn and the Magic man…Burkie telling it like it is again…more numbers from Pie Chart Boy in the Freep…Mike Mac gets the columnist gig…what goalie controversy?…the Winnipeg Blue Bombers meal ticket…pregnant Pebble People…and a nice tribute to Joe Daley

Another Sunday smorgas-bored…and, as Cactus Jack used to say, it turned out nice again…

There are two things I really like about Patrik Laine: 1) his shot; 2) his age.

I’d probably like him as a person, too, because he strikes me as a nice young man with wry humor and a blunt honesty that’s uncommon among play-for-pay jocks. He seems like a cool kid.

Puck Finn

But I’m here today more to discuss Puck Finn the hockey player, not the cool kid and his passion for PlayStation and whatever other techno gizmos and gadgets that have caught his fancy and keep the Winnipeg Jets winger occupied when he isn’t lighting lamps at one end of the freeze and handing out free pizzas at the other.

I recognize some Kent Nilsson in Laine, on and off the ice.

Kenta was as laid back as a Sunday afternoon in a one-horse town. He was also blessed with a wicked sense of humor. (Nilsson once sneaked up behind a scribe tapping away at his computer keyboard in the Calgary Saddledome press box and said, “How could so much shit come out of such a little machine.”)

In terms of pure skill, though, there’s no comparison between Laine and Nilsson. I maintain to this day that no one who’s worn Jets linen was, or is, more gifted than the slick Swede. Not the Golden Jet, Ulf or Anders. Not Ducky. Not the Finnish Flash. If you’d like to debate the issue, consider that Wayne Gretzky once said Nilsson “might have been the most skilled hockey player I ever saw in my career.” That’s good enough for me.

Kent Nilsson

In the mood, Magic Man Nilsson was a maestro. The game was played at his tempo. On his terms. It was best to toss a second puck onto the ice so the other 11 guys had something to play with.

Trouble is, Kenta was an enigma. That is, engaged one minute, disinterested the next. And the rabble recognized both his other wordly talent and his indifference.

When Nilsson scored 131 points for the Calgary Flames in 1980-81 (fewer than only Gretzky and Marcel Dionne), expectations became heightened to the point of delusional. The faithful assumed there would be more of the same. There wasn’t. The best Nilsson could do for an encore was 104 points, ninth in National Hockey League scoring, and that just wasn’t up to snuff for the Flames faithful. Those 104 points would have/could have/should have been 134.

“If only he applied himself all the time like Gretzky,” they would moan.

In that sense, Puck Finn is a Nilsson doppelganger. He introduced himself with 36- and 44-goal seasons, so he’s boxed himself in at those numbers. Anything less and frustration and much braying ensues.

At present, Laine’s sitting on 25 snipes, best among les Jets. But you’d swear he’s stuck on 10 goals.

Trade him! Ship him to the farm! Stick him with the fourth-line sluggos! Get him a skating coach! Take his Fortnite game away! Oh, yes, the lunatic fringe is in full throat.

Let’s call a timeout on that, though.

Wayne Gretzky

I mean, it’s fair to be critical of Laine. Been there, done that. But give the kid a new postal code? Send him down the hall at the Little Hockey House On The Prairie and tell him to suit up with the Manitoba Moose? Sure, and maybe we should think about bringing Pokey and the Bandit back to stand in the blue paint.

Let’s get a grip here, people.

Yes, Laine is seriously lacking in certain essentials. There’s very little lickety-split in his stride, he’s prone to boneheaded blunders, and he’s been known to zone out mentally. And, like Nilsson, he’s maddeningly frustrating because there isn’t a fire burning in his belly at all times. Those flaws are easy to overlook or forgive when he’s scoring. When not, the rabble feels cheated.

But repeat after me: Puck Finn is 20 years old. That isn’t an excuse. It’s a fact.

Nilsson produced his benchmark season at age 24. Teemu Selanne delivered his at age 22. Mario Lemieux had his most productive year at age 23. Gretzky topped out at age 25.

I say we give Laine a chance to grow his game before heaving him onto the dung heap.

Brian Burke

I found Brian Burke’s take on Puck Finn’s game interesting. In a chin-wag about Laine’s earning potential once he becomes a restricted free agent, Burke had this to say on Sportsnet’s Hockey Central at Noon: “I’m not as big on Patrik Laine as a lot of people are. I don’t like his 5-on-5 game. Wonderful goal scorer and I’d have him on my team in a heartbeat, but there’s some holes in his game, too. Now, we know we pay goal scorers. We can find guys to offset those deficiencies. I can find a winger to play with Patrik Laine, to do the backchecking, do some of the things he’s not proficient at. But it’s gonna be north of ($9 million), it’s gonna start with a one. We have always paid snipers. We have always paid snipers. I can bitch all I want about certain deficiencies in his game…he can play on my team tomorrow. I do think he’s a good kid…I do feel when he’s not scoring he’s a liability.” I’d say that’s spot on.

Andrew Berkshire doesn’t share my thoughts on Burke’s assessment of Laine. In the Drab Slab, he writes: “Former NHL executive and current Hockey Night In Canada/Sportsnet analyst Brian Burke has said Laine gives you goals, but nothing else. Goals are pretty significant in the NHL, and I would say that statement is remarkably harsh.” Harsh? You want harsh? The headline on Berkshire’s piece labeled Laine “a D-zone disaster” and the stats geek described Puck Finn’s work in the defensive zone as “disastrous.” Now that’s “remarkably harsh.” Again, why the Winnipeg Free Press runs Pie Chart Boy’s graphics is a mystery to me. He simply uses them to confirm what a lot of us already know. Bring back Scotty Campbell.

Speaking of the Drab Slab and its stable of scribes, I guess it’s official that Mike McIntyre is the new sports columnist. I wish him well, because it’s a tough gig and the rabble is never shy about reminding you that you’re a total moron.

For those of you scoring at home, McIntyre is the fifth sports columnist at the Freep this century, the others being Scott Taylor, Randy Turner, Gary Lawless and Paul Wiecek. Over at the Winnipeg Sun, meanwhile, they’ve had one—Paul Friesen. You might not find the turnover rate at the Drab Slab interesting, but I do.

Connor Hellebuyck

Is there a goaltending controversy with les Jets? Well, yes, in the stands, in watering holes and among news snoops. But until I hear it from the inner sanctum (read: head coach Paul Maurice, GM Kevin Cheveldayoff, Puck Pontiff Mark Chipman), it doesn’t exist. Connor Hellebuyck is their guy, and Laurent Brossoit is the other guy.

So, there won’t be a World Cup of Hockey in 2020. Such a shame. I was really looking forward to ignoring it.

Interesting to note that Winnipeg Blue Bombers quarterback Matt Nichols has cut cheeseburgers and other greasy grub from his diet. Does that mean the Calgary Stampeders will continue to eat his lunch? Is he still the Bombers’ meal ticket? Is he going to lay another egg? Whatever the case, it’s food for thought and gives us something to chew on. OMG! I just overdosed on really bad, cornball clichés/puns. Someone slap me silly so I’ll stop.

Rachel Homan

If Rachel Homan isn’t the best female curler on the planet, she’s definitely the best pregnant curler. Rachel’s down there in Glitter Gulch today, helping the North American side attempt to subdue the World group in the Continental Cup, and she’s very preggers. Her due date is June 14 and here’s what I’m wondering: If Rachel wins the Scotties Tournament of Hearts and the world championship while pregnant, will news snoops give her the same over-the-top, “mother of all mothers” glorification that they heaped upon tennis player Serena Williams? I very much doubt it. After all, most news snoops ignore the Pebble People until an Olympic year arrives. A real shame that.

And, finally, it’s a big day for one of the truly good guys in Good Ol’ Hometown—Joe Daley. He’ll be honored this afternoon at my old stomping grounds, Bronx Park Community Centre, when mucky-mucks unveil a mural featuring the former Jets goaltender. Such a nice tribute to a nice man. Really pleased for him.