My Two Hens in the Hockey House deliver the goods on the Winnipeg Jets and Kevin Cheveldayoff’s addition by subtraction

Well, look who’s dropped in for an unexpected chit-chat about all things Winnipeg Jets. That’s right, it’s the Two Hens in the Hockey House, who, when last seen, were breaking away to enjoy summer. Turns out they delayed their good, ol’ summertime frolic to discuss the most recent goings-on with their fave National Hockey League outfit and its general manager, Kevin Cheveldayoff.

Take it away, ladies…

Question Lady: What gives, girlfriend? I thought we were going to give our jaws a rest until October. What happened to a summer sans chit-chat about the Jets?

Answer Lady: Kevin Cheveldayoff happened, that’s what.

Question Lady: How so?

Answer Lady: Well, once they put the NHL entry draft to bed, I was convinced he’d become Rip Van Chevy and snooze the summer away, like he always does. Remember? Way back in April, I predicted this would be Chevy’s seventh annual Summer of Nothing. So what does the guy do? Instead of heading to the cottage to dip his fishing line into the lake, he dips his toes into the free-agent pool. He goes all GM on us. Go figure.

Question Lady: So, what are you telling me, that you were wrong?

Answer Lady: Yes, I was wro…I was wro…geez, I’m like the Fonz on Happy Days. I can’t say the word wro…oh, pooh. I was mistaken about Chevy. This time. Every other time I was unmistaken.

Question Lady: Actually, you weren’t wrong, girlfriend. You predicted that Chevy would be active once the free-agent bell rang. You said he’d sign at least one player. Remember which player?

Answer Lady: Oh, ya, Chris Thorburn. D’oh! Can you believe the St. Louis Blues actually reeled that sluggo in for two years, at 900K per? Were they not paying attention? Thorbs is a five-minutes-a-night forward with zero upside.

Question Lady: Aren’t they buying his bare knuckles? You know, to replace Ryan Reaves? One goon for another?

Answer Lady: Oh, ya, like that’s going to fly with the faithful in St. Loo. Thorbs is a fighter like I’m Jennifer Aniston’s stand-in. He drops his gloves and holds on like barnacles clinging to the hull of a rusty, old ship. He had what, 13 scraps last season? And threw maybe four punches. By the way, they don’t call players like Reaves and Thorbs goons anymore. They’re energy enforcers, don’t you know.

Chris Thorburn

Question Lady: I’ll try to keep that in mind. Meanwhile, won’t Thorbs be missed?

Answer Lady: Ya, like a yeast infection. Thorbs and Anthony Peluso have long been my measuring sticks for the Jets’ progress. I said in June 2015 that the presence of either in the lineup served as a retardant to the development of the young players, and only when Thorbs and Joe Palooka were told to vamoose would we see actual progress. They’re both gone—hallelujah!—so I guess it’s game on.

Question Lady: Is Steve Mason going to be the answer in goal next season?

Answer Lady: I’d feel a whole lot better about Mason if he wasn’t coming over from Philadelphia. I mean, the Flyers know goaltending like Gary Bettman knows the North End of Winnipeg. They haven’t had anyone who could stop a sniffle since Ron Hextall was acting like a one-man SWAT team in the 1980s. Talk about a guy off his nut. And now Ronnie Axe-tall is the Flyers GM. Who’d have thunk that?

Question Lady: Shouldn’t we be concerned that if Hextall has no use for Mason, Cheveldayoff could have done better than a recycled Philly Flyer?

Answer Lady: I’m going to cut Chevy some slack here. Yes, he’s goalie blind. As goalie blind as the Flyers. And it’s of his own doing that he found himself sifting through the dregs of the goaltenders who became available in the past 2½ months. But…at least he did something. Finally. Even a Philly Flyers reject has to be better than what Connor Hellebuyck and Michael Hutchinson delivered last season.

Question Lady: You don’t think Hellebuyck is the real deal?

Answer Lady: Is Homer Simpson the poster boy for good parenting? Does the Pope skip mass? If Hellebuyck played in New Jersey or Columbus or San Jose, no one in Jets Nation would be talking about him. I mean, it’s not like everyone in the NHL is saying, “Geez, if we could pry that Hellebuyck guy out of Winnipeg we’d be a shoo-in to win the Stanley Cup.” I think Hellebuyck will be an upgrade on Hutchinson as a backup. That’s as half full as I can make that glass.

Kevin Cheveldayoff

Question Lady: What do you know about the defenceman Chevy reeled in, Dmitry Kulikov?

Answer Lady: I know he’s a Russian, he shoots left, he spent an awful lot of time in the repair shop last season, he’s buddies with Blake Wheeler and Rink Rat Scheifele, he’s overpaid, and he could use one more vowel in his first name.

Question Lady: That’s it? That’s all you have to say about him?

Answer Lady: What else is there to say? The guy was a bust in Buffalo, but the Jets believe he’ll be boffo paired with Buff. Now stop me before I OD on alliteration.

Question Lady: So are you giving Chevy a passing grade for his off-season tinkering?

Answer Lady: Mostly, it’s been addition by subtraction. Gone are Thorbs, Peluso, Ondrej Pavelec, Mark Stuart, Paul Postma…that’s all good. Meanwhile, the Jets are better with a Mason-Hellebuyck combo than Hellebuyck-Hutchinson and, if buy-a-vowel Dmitry works out, the blueline is improved. But Chevy gagged at the expansion/entry drafts by dropping 11 slots in the first round just to protect fringe players on a non-playoff roster. And, he still hasn’t dealt with the elephant in the room—Jacob Trouba’s desire to get out of Dodge. Getting Trouba’s signature on a long-term contract ought to be priority No. 1. Overall, I’d give Chevy a passing grade C, for getting the goalie and for what he unloaded. He’s probably earned a week or two of down time at the cottage.

Question Lady: Before we go, what did you think of the TSN and Sportsnet coverage on free-agent day?

Answer Lady: I mostly watched TSN and their talking heads did boffo business, although I cringe every time I see Aaron Ward. Still can’t get past that domestic violence issue. As for Sportsnet, was it bad-hair day on the panel, or what? I mean, what’s up with the mops on Elliotte Friedman and Nick Kypreos? Friedman looked like he had half a head and Kypreos looked like he had his hair cut at Coif du John Deere. I swear, he must have laid down on the lawn and let someone run over his head with a riding mower. And the glare from John Shannon’s coke-bottle glasses blinded me. I’m still seeing double. Other than that, it was all good. Both groups were on their games.

Question Lady: Okay, that’s it. Time to do summer. See you in October.

Answer Lady: Sounds like a plan. Have fun and don’t forget your sunscreen.

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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About the Winnipeg Jets being gobsmacked at the NHL entry draft…mama’s boys…a boy with two mamas…Wheat Kings and Flin Flon Bombers power…and everything’s just Ducky

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

Every time I watch the National Hockey League’s annual garage sale of freshly scrubbed teenagers, I think of John Bowie Ferguson, the cigar-chomping, one time maestro of a long gone, but not forgotten Winnipeg Jets franchise that actually made the playoffs.

John Ferguson

It didn’t matter which player Fergy and his scouts had plucked from the entry draft pool, first round or fifth. The same words would gush from his mouth: “We couldn’t believe he was still there.”

It was Fergy’s way of telling us that he and his bird dogs had pulled one over on every other outfit in the NHL. How could all those teams have been so blind as to overlook so-and-so? D’oh!

And so it is with Kevin Cheveldayoff and shinny sleuths in the employ of the present-day Winnipeg Jets, whose sole playoff experience in six years was like bad speed-dating. You know, one and done, don’t call me I’ll call you. GM Chevy and underlings would have us believe that their prize catch in Friday night’s auction of teen talent, Kristian Vesalainen, was among the select group of players they had targeted with their original pick, No. 13 overall. So, imagine their gobsmacked disbelief and delight when the Finn “was still there” at the 24th shout-out.

We were surprised he was there,” insisted director of amateur scouting Mark Hillier. “There were certain guys we were targeting at 13 and then 24, but he would have been in the mix at 13. We were happy to get him for sure at 24.”

It’s worth noting that Hillier’s pants weren’t on fire as he spoke, so I’ll play along and accept that he was telling the truth.

The question then becomes this: Why was Vesalainen still available to Cheveldayoff on his first trip to the podium at the United Center in Chicago? Has the kid got leprosy? The cooties? Beats me. I suppose we’ll have to ask GMs and bird dogs in Las Vegas, Tampa Bay, Calgary, the Republic of Tranna, Boston, San Jose, St. Louis, New York, Edmonton and Arizona, because they’re the D’oh boys who took a pass and left the big Finnish forward to Chevy’s pleasure.

So, if we are to take the Jets’ braintrust at their word (and we all know that hockey people never, ever, ever tell fibs), here’s what they pulled off in the past week or so: They convinced veteran defenceman Toby Enstrom to waive his no-movement clause to shield one of Mathieu Perreault, Adam Lowry, Joel Armia, Tyler Myers and Andrew Copp from the clutches of the Vegas Golden Knights; they surrendered 11 places in the entry draft queue (No. 13 down to 24) and a third-round pick to protect Enstrom and/or Marko Dano in the Vegas expansion draft; and they still—still!—landed the guy they would have chosen at No. 13.

That’s pure genius, craphouse luck or someone’s nose is growing.

Here are 11 names to keep in mind for future reference: Nick Suzuki, Callan Foote, Erik Brannstrom, Juuso Valimaki, Timothy Liljegren, Urho Vaakanainen, Joshua Norris, Robert Thomas, Fliip Chytil, Kailer Yamamoto and Pierre-Olivier Joseph. We’ll never know what Cheveldayoff would have done had he held on to the 13th choice, because he and Puck Pontiff Mark Chipman don’t make their business our business, but if any one of those 11 players chosen in the 13-23 slots has a better NHL career than Vesalainen, then flipping positions with Vegas to preserve a non-playoff roster must be judged a mistake. Unless, of course, Vesalainen scores a Stanley Cup-winning goal in 2020. Then it’s pure genius.

Apparently, hockey players are a bunch of mama’s boys, because mom almost always gets the first hug after her son’s name is called at the entry draft. And I think that’s wonderful.

Jaret Anderson-Dolan with his two moms, Fran and Nancy.

Speaking of moms and wonderful, Jaret Anderson-Dolan has two wonderful moms, Fran and Nancy, and it’s a wonderful story. Drafted in the second round by the Los Angeles Kings, the Spokane Chiefs forward has been subjected to anti-gay comments and roadblocks (some Western Hockey League clubs wouldn’t touch Anderson-Dolan because of his family makeup), but the Kings were having none of that. “If anybody had a problem with his family situation, they should go screw themselves and find another job,” L.A. director of amateur scouting Mark Yannetti told the Los Angeles Times. “I don’t care if it’s two moms, I don’t care if it’s two dads. What I know is the reason he is the kid he is, is because of his upbringing. It’s that nature versus nurture thing. We certainly weren’t scared off by it. You see where we took him. For me it’s nothing. It’s a matter-of-fact thing. It’s just a detail. It was nothing we ever discussed. He has two loving, wonderful parents that raised him to be a certain way, which is why he is the player he is today. We got a kid we coveted and I’m happy that he was raised the way he was and I’m happy he’s the player that he is.” Amen to that, brother Mark.

Bobby Clarke, Nolan Patrick and Ron Hextall.

My favorite visual during the entry draft was the sight of one Brandon Wheat King standing on stage with another Brandon Wheat King while a Flin Flon Bomber looked on approvingly. I refer, of course, to former Wheatie Ron Hextall, the Philadelphia Flyers GM who selected Nolan Patrick with the second overall pick. If young Nolan develops into the second coming of Flin Flon’s Bobby Clarke, the Flyers will be a force.

I don’t know who chooses the inductees to the Winnipeg Jets Hall of Fame (I imagine the Puck Pontiff has the final say), but whomever certainly got it right with Dale Hawerchuk. Ducky goes into the Hall later this year, joining Anders Hedberg, Ulf Nilsson and the ingrate Bobby Hull, who refused to attend his own party last year. Next up should be Ben Hatskin and Lars-Erik Sjoberg. What say you, Mark Chipman?

I swear, I heard a talking head say one of the kids drafted Saturday morning in Chicago weighs 141 pounds. One hundred and forty-one pounds! Cripes, man, Dustin Byfuglien’s late-night snacks weigh more than that.

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

 

MSM vs. sports bloggers: The Flat Earth Society’s fear of hockey’s fancy numbers is ego-based

Contrary to stereotyping, sports bloggers aren’t a bunch of greaseball, ill-educated, nerd monsters who need a bath and troll from mama’s basement.

“Anyone who believes the Los Angeles Kings won the Stanley Cup because the club hierarchy believes in advanced statistics is an idiot.”

Steve Simmons, Sun Media

“It’s one part of the puzzle. You’ve got a big puzzle that’s 100 per cent. Maybe it’s a five-per center or a seven-per center, but a five- or seven-per center, whatever it may be, when you look at how close the league is, it does mean something. When you’re making decisions, it’s a tool.”

Ron Hextall, former Kings assistant general manager and current Philadelphia Flyers GM, on the value of advanced statistics

Ever since I was a kid fresh out of Grade One, when the subject of ciphering was called arithmetic rather than mathematics, I have harbored a disaffection for numbers crunching.

I wasn’t very good at it back then, you see. Actually, I was gawd awful. I failed Grade One arithmetic.

As a consequence, I spent a good portion of my summer vacation on the front porch, staring through a screen at all the other neighborhood children in full frolic on the street, sidewalks or lawns. While they engaged in their playful, pleasurable pursuits such as hop-scotch, skipping rope, roller skating, running through the sprinkler, playing ball or swapping bubble gum cards (yes, that’s what kids did in the mid-1950s), I wrestled mightily with the addition, subtraction, multiplication and division problems my mother had prepared for me in my scribbler.

I took no comfort in this. Arithmetic was a fearsome foe. An enemy on the level of brussel sprouts and spinach. No less quarrelsome was the notion that, since I was on the inside looking out at my friends in romp, I surely must have been the dumbest kid on the block, a suggestive that has gnawed at my self-worth ever since.

It was a painful time and, upon reflection, it perhaps explains my initial hesitancy to fully embrace the new-wave Corsi, Fenwick, PDO numbers that have been introduced to hockey.

I mention this because of Steve Simmons and his allies in hockey’s Flat Earth Society, a group of arithmophobes and/or neophobes waging war with the propeller heads who have penetrated puckdom with their percentages and probables. It could be that Little Stevie Blunder and the others failed Grade One math, too. Could be that they remain scarred.

So, when they see unfamiliar numbers—or, as Simmons describes them, “strange numbers”—they are threatened. They cannot comprehend. Thus, they circle the wagons and bleat about protecting their beloved game against the marauding blogger-nerds who lay seige with an arsenal of equations, slide rules and spreadsheets.

It doesn’t occur to them that theirs is a crusade without merit. Without hope. They have been Custered.

Almost across the board, National Hockey League outfits have embraced new-age analytics by creating a Department of Propeller Heads (see: Maple Leafs, Toronto; Devils, New Jersey; Oilers, Edmonton; Kings, Los Angeles; Blackhawks, Chicago; etcetera). Yet there is no surrender in the Flat Earth Societites. They won’t stand down until an NHL game sheet no longer looks like an algebra exam they once flunked. So they soldier on, like so many Lt. Hiroo Onadas hiding out in the jungle and conducting a guerilla campaign 29 years after the World War II bullets had stopped flying.

The question many of us ask is this: Why?

simmons statsI mean, Simmons and the Flat Earth Society write/talk like hockey analytics are as much a threat as the ebola crisis. In an age of information they reject information. Go figure. So what, pray tell, lies at the root of their refusal to yield to the large ball of fancy/advanced stats rolling toward them like that big boulder chasing down Harrison Ford in Raiders of the Lost Ark?

I believe the answer is contained in one word: Ego.

Simmons has no reservations about self-worth. His ego is as large as he is loud. In any discussion of sports, the Sun Media columnist believes his to be the most intelligent voice in the room. And the sole truth. Lest there be any doubt, he will shout above your side of the debate because he believes he who shouts the loudest wins the argument. He will also take your opinions and “strange numbers” and hurl them “out the window” because you are most certainly an “idiot” or a “weasel” or “you need to learn hockey.”

Many of us recognize that name-calling in a verbal to-and-fro is the refuge of the ill-informed or those who have exhausted all counterpoint, yet Simmons too often positions himself in both areas.

Mainstream sports scribes like Simmons and Damien Cox of Sportsnet reject the notion that someone outside mainstream media (read: bloggers) might know something they don’t know. They believe bloggers to be beneath bottom feeders. After all, the MSM guys went to journalism school. They’ve been sniffing jocks for 20-30 years. They sit in a press box, not in their mama’s basement. And let’s never forget the preferred argument in support of their perceived superiority over the blogger—“We attend practice.”

The MSM scribe’s ego simply cannot accept the reality that someone working out of his, or her, basement can produce copy as good, if not better and more informative, than he who attends practice.

Well, let me tell you what sports scribes do during practice: They quickly take note of who’s playing with whom and who’s hurt. They then engage in an exercise in one-upmanship, whereby each takes a turn telling the others about his adventures covering the Super Bowl, the Grey Cup or the Olympics. That is usually followed by a rousing and animated discussion on which of the Gilligan’s Island girls they’d rather boink, Ginger or Mary Ann.

Trust me. Been there. Listened to it. It was one reason for my tendency to stray from, rather than run with, the pack.

The jock sniffers in MSM must understand that they no longer are where it’s at. Sports bloggers are a significant force with something to say. And, contrary to stereotyping, they aren’t a bunch of greaseball, ill-educated, nerd monsters who need a bath and troll from mama’s basement. One survey found that the majority are college grads and 29 per cent have graduate degrees. Quite frankly, the sole advantage MSM scribes have over bloggers is access and, unfortunately, the majority of them don’t know how to use it or they flat out abuse it (that’s an article for another day).

It’s time to stop arguing whether a hockey puck is flat or round. It’s both. So someone tell Steve Simmons and his pals that they can come in from the jungle. They don’t need to shout anymore.

rooftop riting biz card back sidePatti Dawn Swansson has been writing about Winnipeg sports for more than 40 years, longer than any living being. Do not, however, assume that to mean she harbors a wealth of sports knowledge or that she’s a jock journalist of award-winning loft. It simply means she is old, comfortable at a keyboard (although arthritic fingers sometimes make typing a bit of a chore) and she doesn’t know when to quit.
She is most proud of her Q Award, presented to her in 2012 for her scribblings about the LGBT community in Victoria, B.C.

Winnipeg Jets: Why is Andrew Ladd’s favorite a ‘mishap’ but Evander Kane’s favorite is a ‘scandal?’

Let me see if I’ve got this straight:

In one corner, we have Andrew Ladd, who favorites a tweet taking a whack at management and it’s a “mishap” that causes “a bit of a stir.”

In the other corner, we have Evander Kane, who favorites a tweet suggesting he move to the Philadelphia Flyers and it’s a “scandal alert” that “ignites speculation.”

Is it just me or am I staring at a double standard here?

I mean, the captain of the Winnipeg Jets favorites a tweet that mocks the summertime siesta of general manager Kevin (The Possum) Cheveldayoff and he gets a free pass. It is a “mishap.” Headline writers, normally pit bullish if they catch a whiff of controversy, are tripping over each others’ dangling participles in their zest to offer many mea culpas for el capitán. After all, Andrew Ladd is a good foot soldier, isn’t he? He wears a ‘C’ on his jersey.

Yet when the National Hockey League club’s problem child favorites a tweet putting him in Flyers linen, the headline writers are on full red alert. It is a 72-point, bold-face “scandal.” That nasty Evander Kane is being his bad ass self again. He hates Winnipeg. He hates playing for Jets. He wants out of River City like O.J. wants out of stir.

Someone please tell me I’m wrong about this. You can’t because you know I’m right.

For those of you coming in late, Ladd favorited a tweet by someone with the calling card @sliiiiip, who wrote: “I just found a video that sums up the #NHLJets offseason magnificently!” It directs you to an extremely annoying and irritating YouTube video that shows us some grappling dude named Bryan Alvarez chanting “minus five stars” for 10 minutes So, Ladd favorites the tweet, which inspires these deadlines:

  • Andrew Ladd’s Twitter mishap was ‘accidental’
  • Jets captain Ladd ‘accidentally’ favorites tweet by fan critical of GM Cheveldayoff
  • Ladd says ‘favorite’ the result of bad hands
  • Andrew Ladd caused a bit of a stir
  • Captain Ladd believes Jets are flying in the right direction

We now take you back to late June, during the week of the NHL entry draft, at which time Kane’s name was being tossed around like confetti at a wedding (do people still do that?). The Jets left winger was rumored to be going anywhere from Buffalo to Boston to Bugtussle, so Philly fanatic Dan Schmidt tweeted: “Yes, @RonHextall, bring us Evander Kane.” Kane pushed the favorite button. And…

  • Scandal Alert: Evander Kane favorites Tweet advocating trade to Flyers
  • Jets Evander Kane favorites tweet that encourages trade to Flyers
  • Evander Kane’s Response to Fan’s Tweet Ignites Speculation

So, for Ladd it’s a big “oops, his finger slipped and he hit the wrong key” and for Kane it’s “look, that bad ass is giving us the finger again.”

Shame, shame.

rooftop riting biz card back sidePatti Dawn Swansson has been writing about Winnipeg sports for more than 40 years, longer than any living being. Do not, however, assume that to mean she harbors a wealth of sports knowledge or that she’s a jock journalist of award-winning loft. It simply means she is old, comfortable at a keyboard (although arthritic fingers sometimes make typing a bit of a chore) and she doesn’t know when to quit.
She is most proud of her Q Award, presented to her in 2012 for her scribblings about the LGBT community in Victoria, B.C.