I am all for having a plan, a strong blueprint, and a management team dedicated and devoted to seeing it through. Quick fix roster moves can put you behind the 8-ball and do more harm than good. However, there has to be a middle ground here within this long-term plan. It's not a one-way street, it doesn't have to be all or nothing. You can have a long-term plan but still be proactive within that plan. Gary Lawless recently suggested otherwise. At this point in "the process", I disagree. Quite strongly.
I like Kevin Cheveldayoff, I have faith in him. With that being said, the NHL is a moving parts business. When the doors you ordered don't fit the blueprint of your long-term, forever home, no matter how much you love the design and believe it to look beautiful, you have to change them. When a player or coach doesn't fit, you have to change them, too.
There is such a thing as being "too patient". This season is nearing the danger zone of no playoffs once again. Next season, Jets Captain Andrew Ladd will be in his fourth year of his five year contract extension he signed in July 2011 after the relocation. He'll have one season remaining on his contract after next season and it's safe to say the Jets will be wanting to negotiate a new, likely long-term contract with their Captain in the summer of 2015. That's not all that far off.
Andrew Ladd during his interview with CBC this past weekend touched on promises the organization made to him at the time of signing his long-term contract. Those promises included that when the organization had to spend money they would do it; and they did by locking up key players over the summer. However, when does the time come that the organization forms this group of long-term contracts into a winner on the ice? When do results truly begin to matter and dictate roster change and personnel change when it appears necessary?
If next season comes and goes and we potentially miss the playoffs again and Andrew Ladd has one year remaining on his contract, it may be difficult swaying a player to stay with your organization when he has just endured four frustrating seasons to that point in his five year deal with no playoffs and no signs of improvement on the the ice. This is a business after all, and let's face the cold, hard, truth; these players want to win.
The Jets were not an expansion team upon arriving in Winnipeg, they were a team who arrived with a potential core already in place, and one obviously good enough for management Kevin Cheveldayoff and TNSE to hand out 5-7 year contracts worth millions of dollars. $194,850,000, to be exact, is currently tied up to seven core players.
When does the point come in the process that General Manager Kevin Cheveldayoff adds, tinkers, makes critical decisions when things appear to not be going well on the ice for both player and coaching personnel? How long do we sit still "Like a rock"? The core is set in stone, the prospect cupboard has grown by leaps and bounds, when do on-ice results come in to play? When do those not getting the job done face the consequences?
I want a strong organization from top to bottom, one that walks to the beat of it's own drum and does things it's own way because they believe it to be the right way. However, I also want an organization that isn't status-quo when things get to a point where changes must be made, and it becomes all too evident areas of the organization need addressed.
I am impressed with Kevin Cheveldayoff and co. for the job they have done in building up the prospect cupboards. Drafting and developing is hit or miss, but as of today for all we know things look steady. Drafting and player development appear to be on a good road, much better than it was when we received the team. I have some major concerns however with the results on the ice through player personnel and a head coach who in year three has yet to implement and breed any sort of on-ice identity other than being inconsistent. This group doesn't play like a 'team', nor do they carry any sort of on-ice identity. That is very concerning at this point in the process.
We are at the point in this process that if something isn't working I am left to wonder when does management try to fix it? How long do we continue spinning our wheels? This isn't a 15 game issue as of this season. Nor is it one hard to identity based on a shortened 48 game season last year. The issues with this team (lack of identity, inconsistent, zero team game) run deep. They run 145 games deep taking us right back to game one vs. Montreal in October 2011. How much more of the same do we need to see?
This is Kevin Cheveldayoff's team, from top to bottom. He signed each and every one of the core players to long-term, lucrative contracts. He has put his own supporting cast in place. The two prized first round prospects on the roster right now? they're his. Only three players remain on the roster that have gone untouched by Kevin Cheveldayoff, and those three players are Dustin Byfuglien, Mark Stuart and Chris Thorburn. That's it.
So with the NHL core firmly in place, prized prospects Mark Scheifele and Jacob Trouba in the NHL, 2013 first round pick Josh Morrissey making strong waves among all defenceman in the WHL, a few prospects have made the jump to the AHL, and there are some intriguing prospects fulfilling their junior hockey commitments. What are we waiting for? Why can't our on-ice NHL team improve and be tinkered with? Why in this process must we sit still in that regard?
I believe in Kevin Cheveldayoff, or at least I want to, but the on-ice product of the Winnipeg Jets is a concerning one, especially if we're "Like a rock" and won't move to make adjustments that are crying to be made. Sure we can hunker down and wait out the storm, but this storm isn't going anywhere and we'll be standing under the same gloomy, dark storm clouds next season just as we have been since October 2011.
We are all about breeding a "new culture" here in Winnipeg, but if that culture doesn't come with winning being a key component, what message does that send through and outside of the organization?
I'm not sure what else we're waiting for in this process in order to improve the team on the ice. If somebody knows, I'd love to hear it.