The Winnipeg Jets seem content with the way things are even if it means playing subpar hockey. General Manager Kevin Cheveldayoff will stick with his philosophy through the thick and thin, but will his conservative approach become more beneficial to the Jets in the long run or will it set them back?
There are both pros and cons to having conservative management, but for some teams that approach is better left elsewhere. For the Jets, the result has been the same since Cheveldayoff took over the role of GM—inconsistent and losing hockey. He also hasn’t done much to give fans faith.
Jets fans shouldn’t expect a change because as I’ve already stated, Cheveldayoff is a man that likes to stick with a plan. And his plan is a five-year one…maybe longer now. We’re already in year three and there hasn’t been much of a difference from year one.
Different players are coming in, different rookies are taking over, but the Jets inconsistent and losing ways still exist.
Having a conservative strategy means the Jets are content with what they have, and the only way to get better is to let players grow while building through the draft. Maybe call some players up from the AHL, maybe make some waiver-wire claims if the team is facing injuries, but the conservative style doesn’t extend much beyond that.
A conservative strategy also means that the Jets aren’t going to be aggressive. Whether it is through free agency, at the trade deadline or making any trade in general at any time of the year, the Jets will remain happily idle in those situations.
Don’t get me wrong, building through the draft is the best way to build a Stanley Cup contender just as long as you are drafting well. And in all honesty, Cheveldayoff has done a tremendous job with all three of his drafts.
The Jets just have to wait a lot longer than other teams would to become a playoff team and beyond. It takes a lot longer to determine if a Stanley Cup contending team is being properly built yet it’s not guaranteed to work out.
The Jets aren’t the type of team that would make a splash in hopes to turn the franchise around sooner rather than later. Instead, we just have to be patient with the team as it is and keep waiting for something that may never happen.
I give Cheveldayoff props for sticking with a plan, but five years seems a bit long especially for a team that already had quality players when he took over the role in 2011.
And, if the plan fails three years from now, what happens then? If the Jets are still a mediocre-to-subpar hockey team, what happens then? Another five years? Longer? The Atlanta Thrashers had one playoff experience in 12 years for a reason.
When push comes to shove, Cheveldayoff is going to have to make vital decisions. Cheveldayoff hasn’t completely shunned away from trades, but minor ones are as significant as they’ll ever get. The acquisition of Michael Frolik has become a big payoff, but the trade for Devin Setoguchi is looking like a flop.
The ownership has already given Cheveldayoff a vote of confidence when they extended his original five-year deal in September by adding two more years which takes him through 2017-18. He has a lot to work with going forward and a lot of work to do.
The extension makes it a very long time for a GM that hasn’t done much in his three years with the team. The contract extension came just shortly after Cheveldayoff locked up key members of the Jets questionable core. However, it’s still up in the air whether or not he made the right decisions overpaying for an unproven defenseman in Zach Bogosian and a struggling, inconsistent forward in Blake Wheeler.
Sure, any GM would have re-signed those players because it was the correct move. However, Cheveldayoff vastly overpaid for Bogosian because he possesses “potential”. It's 2013, Bogosian was drafted in 2008 and we’ve only seen slight glimpses of that potential. When you sign a player to a seven-year, $36M contract because he has potential, you are sure to get burnt in the long run.
The Jets are now in the toughest division in hockey so it will be much more difficult to make the playoffs then it was when they were in the Southeast Division. It becomes a much more difficult task yet one that has to be done for a playoff-starved city like Winnipeg with more than deserving fans.
There’s no certainty in the NHL. That’s why GMs are hired to execute while we criticize from a distance. Cheveldayoff has gained a lot of fans supporting his every move, but he also has his naysayers that criticize every chance they get.
The only thing we can do is sit back, be patient and keep on watching the Jets progress individually and as a team. The only problem with that is most fans are impatient. They want to win now and they want the playoffs now. So when you make fans wait five or more years, you had better hope your plan is successful.