The Winnipeg Jets are a team that has to focus on two sets of goals—what happens in the short-term and what happens in the long-term. They have to address the now and the future.
The rebuilding plan may not say that it’s time to make the playoffs next season, but that doesn’t mean the Jets shouldn’t try. Because let’s face it, the Jets are a rebuilding team and rebuilding teams usually don’t make the playoffs. Nor are they expected to make the playoffs until they feel that they’ve successfully built their team. The Jets are on the path, but they’re not "rebuilt"—not yet.
Most teams want to win in the now, and while the Jets certainly have that in mind as well, it’s not as vital for rebuilding teams as opposed to winning in the future or planning for the future. However, you can almost say it’s a twofold plan. The time it takes in between to become that successful team matters as well.
Like every team, the Jets want to make the playoffs each season, but there’s also something called realism that prevents that from happening. Are they good enough? Do they have the talent? Can they win consistently? The Jets aren’t expected, and realistically, aren’t meant to make the playoffs consistently at least for a few more seasons, assuming the rebuild goes as planned.
But that doesn’t mean we just forget about next season or write it off with no set plan. Our goal is playoffs. Next season and beyond, the goal is always the same. Put it this way: the Jets have to do what they can in the offseason to become a better team in this upcoming season, but also have to realize that next season isn’t that season.
The Jets have to address needs for both the present and the future. Sometimes it’s possible to kill two birds in these situations. Some of the issues that Jets general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff has to consider are the salary cap and everything that goes with it, such as cap management and issues, the draft, free agency and trades.
One thing that the Jets have to be mindful of especially is trades. Trades can damage a team’s long-term goals if the wrong moves are made. Short-term, the Jets aren't in need of making any trades. Long-term, however, trades can be helpful for rebuilding teams when trying to move aging veterans.
The Jets have players in their system who aren’t ready for the NHL just yet. They’ll have even more after the draft in June. They also have young players on their roster who are still not reaching their potential. When all this is happening, it’s difficult to be competitive, but the Jets can still make the right moves to compete for the playoffs while still technically rebuilding.
This can be accomplished via free agency. When the market opens, the Jets may want to look for the veteran players who satisfy their needs. Players who can come in next season and help them get to the playoffs. Obviously, sometimes these players are just short-term fixes, but it helps the now. And while we’re waiting for players to grow both on the roster and within the system, a short-term free agent fix isn’t a bad idea.
This also ties in with cap management because it can be damaging for a team to overpay a player who may not be needed down the road. But when free agency begins in July, the Jets will want to weigh their options.
It’s important that Cheveldayoff doesn’t get derailed from the plan and go off track in some other direction. He can't forget about the real goal of this organization, which is leaned more towards the future. But at the same time, we don’t want to wait forever. We want to win.