Kevin Cheveldayoff can make some nice moves. His acquisitions of Michael Frolik and Matthieu Perreault prove that, but he makes too many questionable decisions regarding depth players and money to ignore. Just when you think the Winnipeg Jets understand that they need to improve their depth in order to compete in the Western Conference and the difficult ConferenceIII. There are ways that they can achieve this without breaking the bank. It takes some savvy general managing, but it is possible.
Then there is what Chevy has decided to do. He decided to re-sign Chris Thorburn. He decided to give Thorburn a raise. He decided that Chris Thorburn is a key player on the Winnipeg Jets...and he is wrong.
The Main Issue:
The problem extends well beyond Thorburn though and down the lineup to other players who are not necessarily bad, but not worth the money they are making compared to the role that they are expected to play on the Jets. There is a fourth line forward who is not making bad money for their role (Eric Tangradi), but other players like Anthony Peluso takes up a roster spot from a more skilled player from the farm. Would the Winnipeg Jets be worse off if they played Carl Klingberg instead of Chris Thorburn? They may be a better team if they did that AND Klingberg is a player that has some potential and isn't an aging quasi tough guy.
Then there is the defence. Instead of giving Zach Redmond a shot, Chevy decided to stay with old faithful Mark Stuart for $2 625 000/year while paying Grant Clitsome $2 066 667/year. While the Jets have gotten and continue to get great value out of some of their forwards, their defence features some highly problematic contracts that, when combined with an internal budget, may lead to forcing Josh Morrissey into the lineup before he is ready for the minutes that the Jets will need him to play due to poor planning on their part. The Jets currently have 9.39% of their cap tied up in defencemen that will ideally occupy spots 5-8, not 4-7. These defencemen (Stuart, Clitsome, Adam Pardy, and Paul Postma) are capable NHL defenders and two of them (Pardy and Postma) are paid fairly for their role ($700 000 and $712 500 respectively). Stuart and Clitsome are different entities entirely.
I will go on the record and say I like what Clitsome brings to the Jets when playing the correct role. As a number five, he can fill in as a top four defender when called upon, but probably should not be slotted there for an extended length of time. His cap hit doesn't allow for that on a budget team like the Jets. They need better value from him and from all their depth players. Perreault is a start, but can the Jets continue to sign players like Perreault if Chevy falls in love with his own players time and time again?
Nobody Wants to Sign Here (for a smaller salary):
I can buy this argument entirely. In fact, I believe it entirely. I was reading over quotes from Tom Gilbert and Manny Malhotra after they signed with the Montreal Canadiens and the one thing that struck me was they both mentioned that they signed with Montreal because they thought they could win there and the money they signed for lined up with those comments. So maybe to become more desirable the Jets need to open up the vault a bit more and overpay good players to get them to sign in Winnipeg until Winnipeg becomes a place that players choose because they think they can win here. The Edmonton Oilers did just that on July 1; giving term and money to Benoit Pouliot and Mark Fayne in attempt to improve their team. Was the money a little rich? Probably. Was the term a little much? Probably. Did they bring in good players that will help their team in the long run? Probably. Are these players better than what the Oilers had last year? Yes.
I guess the Jets could bank on Journey to Churchill and the Human Rights Museum becoming must see places that attract free agents with their coolness, but I would rather pay a bit more for good players than be stuck with over-paying bad ones.
He's Well Liked in the Room:
Do I think that having leaders on a team is important? Yeppers. But why commit term to bad players who are leaders when you may be stifling the leadership of younger players by keeping the old guys around? Just because a player is "good in the room" does not mean he needs to remain on the team. Does Mark Stuart's leadership really cost $2 625 000/year or is that an excuse to keep him around? I'm sure Andrew Ladd is a capable enough captain that he can lead the Jets without Chevy signing guys to expensive contracts because they are well liked and good in the room.
Being likeable is a good trait, but it shouldn't be the only trait that a player is evaluated on. In fact, it should be that last trait. More important is if they can can be an effective hockey player in relation to their role and if they are willing to sign a contract that fits that role. If not, don't overpay for character.
The Crux of the Issue:
Contracts can no longer be looked at individually; the salary cap ended that ability. Instead, everything must be evaluated as a whole entity and this is where the Jets get shaky. The Jets have good value contracts in their top six forwards and their top pairing defencemen, but the lower half of their roster is out of whack with other teams who are not budget teams. It isn't the top guys that is the problem, it is the fact that the Jets have Eric Tangradi, Anthony Peluso, Jim Slater, and Chris Thorburn as fourth line guys, blocking a spot for an AHL guy, who would be cheaper, for no reason.
The defence needs to be fixed. You cannot make a player better by paying them more, you have to take that money and spend it on a better player. Can this player be one who is "good in the room"? Of course. It cannot be fixed by paying guys money and term based on small sample sizes and hoping they pan out, the Jets cannot afford that.
The Winnipeg Jets look so fixable from the outside. They had two compliance buyouts (since expired), that could have been used to fix the goaltending. They need one LHD and one more forward with some skill and possession abilities. The Jets just keep painting themselves into a corner, afraid of depth players they don't know well. The Jets have used character as a crux to retain bad players for a long time now; they have used the excuse that no one wants to sign here as an excuse for not improving the roster. It is time it stopped. It is time that the Jets realize that they can control their own destiny, but that they have to stop sticking with bad players because they know them and put their (limited) resources to good use by acquiring good players.