Okay, we’ve heard from all the “so-called” experts, many of whom have sifted through the tea leaves and now are forecasting a rather splotchy future for the Winnipeg Jets.
“No playoffs for you!” they yelp.
Well, stop it right there. Most of your “so-called” experts have no more “so-called” expertise than most lumps sitting on a bar stool. Oh, sure, having a byline or holding a microphone under an athlete’s chin is cool, but all it really tells us is that they get paid for their prognostications, however hallucinatory those prophecies might be. False prophets, that’s what they are.
For the real poop on the Jets as they set out on a fresh National Hockey League crusade Thursday night against the not so big, bad Bruins in Beantown, I sought my favorite go-to girls—The What If Lady and The Answer Lady, fondly known as the Two Hens in the Hockey House.
They’ve got the gossip, they’re glib and they deliver the goods. So take it away, ladies…
What If Lady: What if the Jets’ prized freshman Nik Ehlers wins the Calder Trophy as the NHL’s top rookie this season? Does that make general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff a genius?
Answer Lady: Actually, our Danish Delight prefers to be called Nikolaj, not Nik. So let’s nip Nik in the bud and make it Nikolaj. Can Nikolaj win the Calder Trophy? Sure. If Connor McDavid breaks a leg or retires. So Chevy still won’t be a genius.
What If Lady: Are you surprised that the Jets are letting Andrew Copp wear No. 9?
Answer Lady: I’m absolutely shocked! I mean, I thought Dustin Byfuglien threw that sweater in the ice tub with the rest of Evander Kane’s clothing.
What If Lady: Did Copp call Bobby Hull and ask his permission to wear No. 9 like Kane did a few years back?
Answer Lady: That would be like George Strombouloupouloupoulous calling Ron MacLean to ask permission to use really bad puns. Or like P.J. Stock calling Don Cherry for permission to turn his granny’s drapes into a sports jacket. No one requires B. Hull’s permission to do anything.
What If Lady: That’s disrespectful. What if Hull hadn’t signed with the World Hockey Association in 1972?
Answer Lady: There’d be no Jets 2.0. But that’s down to Ben Hatskin more than Hull. Benny is the father of pro hockey in River City as we know it. There should be a statue of him inside or outside the Little Hockey House on the Prairie.
What If Lady: I see where the New Jersey Devils are erecting a statue to honor Martin Brodeur. What if the Jets erected a statue of a player? Who would it be?
Answer Lady: They had a statue years ago. His name was Sergei Bautin. When last seen, he was part of the rubble after the wrecking ball whacked the old Winnipeg Arena.
What If Lady: Getting back to Evander Kane, what if he scores 50 goals for the Sabres this season? Does that mean Jets general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff made a bad trade when he shuffled our resident bad boy off to Buffalo?
Answer Lady: Bartenders and servers at pubs and restaurants in Winnipeg won’t think so.
What If Lady: Don’t you think Kane got a bit of a bum rap in Winnipeg with all that dine-and-dash stuff? There was never any proof that he weaseled out on his tabs, was there?
Answer Lady: Nope. He got the bum’s rush for a bum rap.
What If Lady: Speaking of paying or not paying, both Andrew Ladd and Dustin Byfuglien become unrestricted free agents at the end of this season. What if the Jets can’t afford to keep both of them?
Answer Lady: They’ll unload big Buff because he’ll fetch far more in return. Chevy won’t let happen to Byfuglien what he let happen to Michael Frolik, which is to say let him skate away for zip.
What If Lady: The Jets will definitely miss Frolik because he was a Jack of all trades kind of guy. Do you think Alexander Burmistrov can fill that Swiss army knife role?
Answer Lady: Ah, yes, the prodigal son. Born-again Burmi. It’s almost like he’s a rookie again. After two years in Mother Russia, it’s uncertain what he’ll deliver. Hopefully, it won’t be a bad attitude. I always liked the guy. If the bolts in his neck are screwed on tight, I see him as a Fro Lite.
What If Lady: Speaking of light, I note that Mark Scheifele has put on 15 pounds of muscle. Does this mean he’ll no longer fall down as often as Bambi?
Answer Lady: Once a Bambi always a Bambi. But I have an inkling that this will be a true breakout season for Scheifele. Dancing Gabe will be doing the Scheifele Shuffle in the aisles. It’ll be all the rage at Whiskey Dix.
What If Lady: What are you saying? That the Jets are a bunch of post-game party boys?
Answer Lady: Hey, they’re young. They’re wealthy. As far as I know, they all like young women and young women like young, wealthy hockey players. If the skate fits…
What If Lady: I can’t imagine any of them being as bad as Keith Tkachuk or that Kane kid in Chicago, but what if the team veterans can’t keep the youngsters on the straight and narrow?
Answer Lady: I think we all know what happens when one of the Jets’ young stallions strays from the herd. That’s right, his track suit ends up in the ice tub. I really don’t see it as an issue or a concern.
What If Lady: What are your concerns heading into this season?
Answer Lady: Two words: Chris Thorburn. Two more words: Anthony Peluso.
What If Lady: Seems to me a couple of spare parts should be of little concern, so why them?
Answer Lady: Goons in hockey have rapidly gone the way of the bare-faced goaltender, yet here we have the Jets with not one but two low-talent, back-alley thugs on the roster. They bring nothing but bruised bare knuckles to the table.
What If Lady: But what if there’s nobody to ride shotgun for smaller, skilled guys like Ehlers and Nic Petan?
Answer Lady: You don’t need that kind of guard dog today. What’s Peluso going to do if someone runs one of the Smurfs? Throw his box of popcorn at the ruffian from his perch in the press box?
What If Lady: You mention Ehlers and Petan. Are those two, along with guys like Scheifele, Jacob Trouba, Adam Lowry and Copp, proof positive that Cheveldayoff’s draft-and-develop blueprint is a stroke of genius?
Answer Lady: Good grief. You sound like someone who writes for the official newspaper of the Winnipeg Jets. Look, it’s not like Chevy invented sliced bread or the curved blade. Sam Pollock did that. To date, though, it would seem that Chevy’s bird dogs have flushed out some dandy prospects. I can’t say that there’s a Jimmy Mann or Sergei Bautin in the bunch.
What If Lady: Last question…what if the Jets are out of the playoffs this season?
Answer Lady: Can you say Auston Matthews?
Patti Dawn Swansson has been writing about Winnipeg sports for more than 40 years, longer than any living being. Do not, however, assume that to mean she harbors a wealth of sports knowledge or that she’s a jock journalist of award-winning loft. It simply means she is old and comfortable at a keyboard (although arthritic fingers sometimes make typing a bit of a chore) and she apparently doesn’t know when to quit. Or she can’t quit.
She is most proud of her Q Award, presented to her in 2012 for her scribblings about the LGBT community in Victoria, B.C., and her induction into the Manitoba Sportswriters & Sportscasters Association Media Roll of Honour.