The River City Renegade


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

pegsunRED CARD: To the Winnipeg Sun.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jets GM Kevin Takethedayoff

Jets GM Kevin Takethedayoff

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Scary thought, isn’t it?

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

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

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

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

D’oh!

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