Winnipeg Jets: Is Paul Maurice really that good a coach?

I lied. Sort of. Kind of. It wasn’t an intentional lie, understand. It wouldn’t even qualify as a little, white lie.

When I wrote last month that I was shutting down The ‘I don’t have a Basement but I’ve got a Blog’ Blog, I meant it. I was done after more than 40 years of scribbling about all matters on the Winnipeg sports landscape. Now, as you can see, The ‘I don’t have a Basement but I’ve got a Blog’ Blog is again very much up and running.

Perhaps I merely needed time away. Some space, as they say (whoever they are).

Paul Maurice
Paul Maurice

There have been things I wanted to write about in the presence of my own absence, most of them pertaining to the Winnipeg Jets, who continue to send front-line players to the infirmary yet still conspire to win games and make a genuine push toward participation in next spring’s Stanley Cup tournament.

I truly do not know what to make of this National Hockey League outfit. I mean, is Paul Maurice that good a coach? His backline has been ransacked, but he plugs the holes with spare parts provided by general manager Kevin (The Possum) Cheveldayoff or the farm in Newfy Land and the beat goes on, tickety-boo.

I must confess that, until this week, I had aligned myself fully with the skeptics. There is, in hockey, an axiom that tells us “You are what your record says you are.” Well, that didn’t wash with me. I remained unconvinced that these Jets, a group with no post-season pedigree, were built of playoff brick and mortar. Then they skated into the Toddlin’ Town and laid a proper paddywhacking on the Blackhawks, 5-1. You win with that defence—Adam Pardy, Paul Postma, Jay Harrison, Grant Clitsome and Ben Chiarot? In Chicago?

That’s not to dismiss the sizeable contribution (literally and figuratively) of Dustin Byfuglien, the born-again blueliner who’s been wearing his happy face ever since coach PoMo freed him from his purgatory of right wing. Big Buff has been gobbling up ice time like burgers at a BBQ. He spent just under 28 1/2 minutes roaming the Madhouse on Madison freeze Tuesday evening, and he managed to do so without crippling calamity.

This, of course, is a notable departure from the past, when Byfuglien patrolled the blueline like he had a live grenade in his hockey britches. To say Big Buff was prone to pratfalls is to say Don Cherry is apt to wear loud clothing while dissing Europeans.

So now this is the question: What does coach PoMo do when Toby Enstrom, Zach Bogosian, Jacob Trouba and Mark Stuart rejoin the fray?

He will, no doubt, do the right thing because Maurice seems to have a knack for doing the right thing.

None of this, by the way, should be taken as an indictment of coach PoMo’s predecessor as the Jets’ bench puppet master, Claude Noel. The club’s unexpected perch in a playoff position as we carve our Christmas turkeys does not mean Noel is a lousy coach. It merely confirms what many of us believed long before his dismissal last January—he was the wrong coach for this group.

Whereas these players zoned out Noel, Maurice has them in a zone.

Naturally, skeptics remain. At least one pundit, Gary (La La) Lawless of the Winnipeg Free Press, directs our attention to the Jets’ pre-break form chart which indicates they have feasted on sub-.500 outfits (12-1-3) and struggled vs. stronger sides (6-9-4).

“If they continue on the same trajectory, this team will fade down the stretch,” Gary La La writes, noting that the Winnipegs will line up against plus-.500 teams in 32 of their final 47 skirmishes.

Could be it’s an accurate assessment. After all, it wouldn’t be the first time this franchise has performed a faceplant in the back half of a once-promising crusade, and operating sans your top four defencemen surely will take a toll.

I’m still not convinced that we’ll see spring shinny at the Little Hockey House on the Prairie after April 11, but I am sold on one thing: Paul Maurice. Apparently his players are, too.

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 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.

I’m a Winnipeg Jets junkie again…damn them!

I’ve just returned from a fortnight in detox. Had to get the Winnipeg Jets out of my system. Didn’t read anything about them. Didn’t hear anything about them. Didn’t watch them. Went cold gobbler.

Life was good. Nothing like the purified, invigorating air of shinny sobriety.

Then it happened.

I was sitting in my local watering hole on Friday, trying to remain oblivious to the din of post-work week celebrants as I contemplated the events of the past five years of my life, when one of the regulars approached.

“You’re from Winnipeg, right Patti?” he said.

“You know I am,” I confirmed. “But I’ve already heard all the Winnipeg jokes about mosquitos, winter, spring flooding, slurpees, the murder capital of Canada, the Blue Bombers and especially the Jets. So save your breath.”

“But people aren’t joking about the Jets anymore.”

“Why not? Last time I looked, they were in last place.”

“Not anymore, little lady. They’ve picked up points in seven straight games. They’re only a few points out of first place. They’re winning ugly, but they’re winning.

“What do you mean by winning ugly.”

“They’re doing it without scoring any goals.”

“That’s crazy. You can’t win in the National Hockey League without scoring?”

“The Jets do.”

“What happened? Kevin the Possum (GM Cheveldayoff) finally make a trade for a bonafide NHL goaltender? They get King Henry? Jonathan Quick? Ryan Miller? Dominik Hasek come out of retirement?”

“Nope. Ondrej Pavelec is still the goalie.”

This fellow now officially had my undivided attention. I stopped nibbling on my grilled cheese-and-ham sandwich, put it down and fixed him with a hard look of suspicion. The boys in this bar tend to tease me about all things Pegtown, you see, so I thought perhaps this was another exercise in “Let’s yank Patti’s chain.”

“Don’t do this to me,” I said. “Please, please, please do…not…do…this…to…me. I’m a recovering Jets junkie. I’ve been off them for two weeks. I’m as clean as St. Bernadette’s soul. I no longer suddenly wake up at night in a cold sweat, wondering if coach PoMo really had Chris Thorburn playing on the second line or if I was just dreaming. I’m completely off Thorbs and Bogo and Pavs and Big Buff. I’ve been doing my rehab at Habs Nation. It’s a nice place to be. We have group sessions and talk a lot about the playoffs, because they’ve been there. And Stanley Cups, because they’ve won them. They retire jerseys, because they have Hall of Fame players. Lots of them. So don’t tell me the Jets are winning. I don’t want to go back there. I cannot go back there.”

Thus, I had a tough call to make. My choice on Saturday night was Montreal-Minnesota or Winnipeg-Ottawa.

I held the remote in my right hand. My trigger finger twitched like Charlie Sheen when a police cruiser approaches. Channel 13 or channel 23? P.K. Subban and Carey Price or Thorbs and Pavs? Bob Cole or Dave Randorf (my, but what a lovely set of teeth you have). Either way, I knew there would be pain, because I couldn’t avoid P.J. Stock or Curdmudgeon’s Corner (if Don Cherry spent less time whining about not having enough time to say what it is he has to say, he’d have plenty of time to say what it is he has to say), and I also knew that I’d be seeing that pudgy, quasi-annoying A&W guy out on the streets pestering people about the non-use of steroids, hormones or antibiotics in chickens and cows (hey, pal, it’s fast food; it’s not healthy whether you’re feeding the critters caviar or shooting them up like Alex Rodriguez).

At any rate, I’m here to report that addiction won the day over sobriety. I’m hooked on the Jets. Again. I think.

I mean, this was gawdawful hockey. It was borderline unwatchable. If not for Wayne Gretzky surfacing in a pinstriped, mob hit man suit and joining Stromboy in the red chairs during the second intermission, I might have fled back to the serenity of Habs Nation. Seriously. The Jets have morphed into the New Jersey Devils. That isn’t Paul Maurice behind the bench. It’s Jacques Lemaire.

What I saw was a whole lot of same old, same old. Mark Scheifele is still on his knees more than his feet. Thorburn is still losing fights. Dustin Byfuglien is still wandering aimlessly. Zach Bogosian is still fortunate to have Toby Enstrom as an accomplice. Really, the only difference I noted in the Jets, individually, was between the goal posts. Pavelec actually looked good. Really good. Especially in the shootout of this 2-1 victory over the Senators. Imagine that. Ondrej Pavelec, stud goaltender. Who knew? Certainly not me. And he’s the reason the Jets have earned points in eight successive assignments.

So now I need another Jets fix. Damn them!

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

Winnipeg Jets: Winning ugly deserves an ugly uniform

A very unreliable source (a friend of a friend of a friend of Craig Heisinger’s third cousin’s sister’s seamstress) has informed me that the Winnipeg Jets will be the first National Hockey League team to display advertisements on their jerseys.

“It’s true,” my very unreliable source said. “People say the Jets have been winning ugly, so they figured they might as well have ugly uniforms. And, believe me, these unis are five kinds of uuuuuuugly!”

This development comes on the heels of a comment this week from NHL big-wig John Collins, who informed the ’14 NeuLion Sports Media & Technology Conference that uniform advertising is “coming and happening.” He just didn’t expect it to come and happen this soon.

Jets’ bankroll Mark Chipman would neither confirm nor deny the report, but he did acknowledge (sort of) that fans might not immediately embrace the concept of ads on Jets jerseys.

jets jersey ads“The people in Jets Nation and what they think are very important to us,” he said. “Without our fans, we wouldn’t have any fans. And without fans…well, I really don’t want to think what life would be like without our fans because without them there would be no fans and, as Claude Noel was wont to say, there would be no joy if they weren’t paying some of the tallest ticket prices in the NHL. But, to those who oppose ads on our jerseys, I say this: With the additional revenue, our general manager can now afford to add another three years to Chris Thorburn’s contract at a wage normally reserved for top-six forwards.”

There’s some speculation that the Jets might debut their new duds tonight in Ottawa when they play the Senators.

“I can’t comment on that,” said Chipman. “You’ll just have to tune in to see.”

One prominent person pooh-poohed the notion of turning NHL players into skating billboards.

“Typical Bettman!” yelped Don Cherry, star of Curmudgeon’s Corner on Hockey Night in Canada. “Anythink the Europeans do, he likes! The teams over there got more ads on their unforms than a Shopper’s Drug Mart flyer, so he figures that’s a GOOD THINK! Maybe this is his way of making the Europeans feel more AT HOME! Gotta keep them European boys HAPPY! Doesn’t matter that three-quarters of the players are from NORTH AMERICA! Gary’s gotta pamper the Europeans! Next think ya know, Bettman will have the refs carryin’ red cards and yellow cards in THEIR POCKETS! And another think…I can’t believe they’re gonna do this in Winnipeg! Must need the money or somethink. Maybe I shouldn’t be surprised, though? They voted in an NDP GOVERNMENT! Bunch of PINKOS!”

Chipman met Cherry’s criticism with a shrug and a smile, saying, “That’s just Don being Don.”

“I don’t think he’d have any complaints if we placed an ad for Rock ‘Em, Sock ‘Em Hockey on our jersey. Hey, that’s not a bad idea! Canadian taxpayers have made Grapes a millionaire, so he could afford to give something back to the game other than 26 volumes of scar tissue and blood. Maybe he’d be willing to buy big Buff’s back. Probably not, though. Buff’s not a good Canadian boy.”

Our very unreliable source indicated that there would be half a dozen ads on each Jets jersey, except Dustin Byfuglien’s and Toby Enstrom’s. Big Buff’s sweater is large enough to accomodate 12 ads, eight on the front and four on the back, while there’s only room for three on tiny Toby’s.

“If we do this—and I’m not saying we are and I’m not saying we aren’t—it won’t be tacky and tawdry,” Chipman insisted. “True North is all about class, so you won’t be seeing Evander Kane skating down the left wing with a picture of a peeler joint and a half naked pole dancer in neon on his back. At True North, we’re all about family values.

“Truthfully, I can only see one negative in this idea: It’s going to play hell on Bob Cole. The game’s one big blur to the old boy as it is, so if we go slapping a whack of ads on our jerseys he’s going to think he’s looking at one of those 3D pictures with a picture hidden inside. Poor Bob will go bonkers, like Mr. Pitt on Seinfeld.”

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

Winnipeg Jets: From Big Buff to boffo biffies, these two ladies have the scoop

what if lady answer lady2

It’s a Triple H day because we have two Hens in the Hockey House—The What If Lady and The Answer Lady. 

Naturally, our favorite go-to girls have their pulse on all that matters in Jets Nation, including the uber significant issue of shorter beer lines and more potties at the Little Hockey House on the Prairie. Oh, yes, if there’s a point of discussion involving your Winnipeg Jets, the two ladies are—pardon the bad pun—flush with information about the National Hockey League outfit.

 

Take it away, ladies…

What If Lady: There are reports that Ondrej Pavelec showed up at training camp with a new body. What if his new body is as bad as his old body?

Answer Lady: Can you say Connor McDavid?

What If Lady: What if the Jets traded Pavelec to the Toronto Maple Leafs for James Reimer, even up?

Answer Lady: Toronto GM Dave Nonis would be out of a job, head coach Randy Carlyle would be out of a job and the Leafs would be drafting Connor McDavid next summer.

What If Lady: I really liked what I saw of that Nikolaj Ehlers kid at the rookie tournament in Penticton. He’s so fast. So skilled. He’s the Great Dane! What if he plays that well in the main camp?

Answer Lady: There’s only one thing preventing Ehlers from starting this season with the Jets—food. I mean, the kid’s a twig. Fear not, though. He’s a keeper. Not this year, but most likely next October after a year of mom’s home cooking has kicked in.

What If Lady: It sounds like Teemu Selanne really wanted to play another season. He said in his biography that he even considered signing with the Jets a year ago. What if Teemu had played for the Jets last season?

Answer Lady: He’d be Poh’d at Claude Noel and Paul Maurice instead of Bruce Boudreau, because they would have given all Teemu’s minutes to Chris Thorburn.

What If Lady: ESPN The Magazine ranks the Jets No. 97 out of the 122 major pro sports franchises in North America for fan experience. I think that really sucks. I doubt it if anyone from ESPN has ever been to a game in Winnipeg? What if someone from ESPN actually attended a game at the MTS Centre? Would our ranking go up?

Answer Lady: No, it would plummet to the bottom because the battery in the poor guy’s rental car would freeze during the game and he’d he’d get mugged by one of our charming citizen’s of no-fixed address while waiting for a tow truck.

What If Lady: Mark Scheifele and Jacob Trouba had really good rookie seasons. I don’t believe in a so-called Sophomore Jinx, but what if one or both of them regresses?

Answer Lady: I have spoken with my personal analytics department and the propeller heads assure me that there are Corsi reasons and Fenwick reasons why this will never happen. After crunching numbers, they say the % of probability is approximately = to the ratio of TOI divided by ESG + a certain % of salary cap against the balance of $ owed. It’s all Greek to me, but I believe the probability of both Scheifele and Trouba going into the tank is remote, but the possibility of one hitting the skids is high.

What If Lady: A lot of NHL teams created an analytics department or hired fancy-stats people this past summer. I didn’t hear anything about it from the Jets, though. What if they’ve missed the boat in this growing and increasingly important area of the business?

Answer Lady: I’m told Craig Heisinger is analyzing the analytics and Zinger will present his analysis of analytics to general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff as soon as he wakes up from his summer nap.

What If Lady: There’s been so much talk about the young players at camp this year. Guys like Nic Petan, Josh Morrissey, Nik Ehlers and Adam Lowry would give the Jets a whole new look if they make the big club. But what if youth isn’t served?

Answer Lady: Youth shall be served. His name is Adam Lowry. He’s a Western Conference forward—big and skilled. Get used to seeing him. You’ll like him.

What If Lady: Five teams from the Central Division made the playoffs last season—Chicago, St. Louis, Colorado, Dallas and Minnesota. I can’t see the Jets overhauling any of those clubs, so it looks like another non-playoff year in River City. What if they’re out of contention by the trade deadline?

Answer Lady: Say adios to Dustin Byfuglien, Andrew Ladd or Toby Enstrom. Take your pick.

What If Lady: Evander Kane sure seems to get in a lot of hot water over saying and doing the silliest, little things and he always seems to be the subject of trade rumors because of it. I have a personal theory that he does it just to provoke the media. So what if the media wise up to his shenanigans and stop writing and talking about the goofy stuff? What if they write and talk about his on-ice efforts only?

Answer Lady: Environment Canada will issue an emergency weather warning—hell has frozen over.

What If Lady: Evander has been bragging about scoring 50 goals in a season. I’m a big Kane fan, so I think that would be brilliant. But what if he only scores 19 again?

Answer Lady: Can you say Jack Eichel?

What If Lady: True North spent $6 million this summer for renovations to the MTS Centre, and that included a whack of new toilets. I hear they’re boffo biffies, but what a waste (pardon the bad pun). What if they had spent that money on another player or two instead?

Answer Lady: You want to talk about spending money on crap? Try $19.5 million on crappy goaltending. Try $3.6 million on a crappy fourth-line forward who belongs in the AHL. What’s another $6 million for a bunch of biffies when you’ve already tossed more than $20 million down the crapper on two players?

What If Lady: That’s kind of harsh. True but harsh.

Answer Lady: Okay, our work is done here for today. Let’s go check out those new toilets on the 300 Level. I’ve got some beer to get rid of.

What If Lady: Me too. Those shorter beer queues are simply marvy.

 

fish wrap

 

We now interrupt our regularly scheduled cheekiness to bring you this important weather alert: Hell hath frozen over.

That’s right, kids, at least one local news scavenger has discovered what some of us have known for quite some time—Evander Kane likes to yank the media’s chain.

Gary (La La) Lawless, who oft serves up heaping helpings of Kane-imosity, recently offered a fresh take on the Winnipeg Jets polorizing left winger, and he has decided to play nice. For now.

Kane spends the working portion of his life in Winnipeg,” girthsome Gary writes in his Winnipeg Free Press column. “When he’s here, he visits hospitals and donates time and money to helping others less fortunate than he. What else do we want from him? A signed affidavit he likes it here? Enough already.

Early on, Kane’s act caught some of us off guard and rubbed the wrong way at times. Over time, it’s become apparent that Kane is comfortable in the spotlight and not afraid to stir the pot with his well-followed Twitter and Instagram accounts.

The kid is cheeky. Give me his looks, youth, talent and money and the resulting sideshow would make Evander look like a wallflower.

Some of us, this writer included, need to offer up a bit of a mea culpa.

Kane is no villain, even if he sometimes likes to play one. And if you think he doesn’t know what he’s up to and isn’t aware of the reaction he’s about to produce, you haven’t been paying close attention. Kane is smart and calculating.”

As far as mea culpas go, I’d say that’s a good start. Well done, La La.

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.