Hey all! This is Part II of our Trade Deadline preview regarding the Winnipeg Jets. Part one can be found HERE. Enjoy!
"With the troubles we've had scoring, if it's not going to come from within this room, we probably could use some help, there. We've got a great goaltender, we've got D that can move the puck and play both ways." -Andrew Ladd after Tuesday's 3-1 loss to the New York Islanders
They are words that still resonate through the city of Winnipeg almost a full three days after they were uttered. Fans, columnists and call-in shows have all banded together, trying hastily to mash together hypothetical trade proposals, packaging players X and Y for a wide array of speculative bounty. Their mission is simple: to "fix" what's plaguing the Winnipeg Jets - similar to how someone with a cold tries to "fix" their health by fighting through the aches and pains instead of seeking immediate bed-rest.
Nevermind that the quote itself would have meant more coming from the mouth of someone that has posted more than three insignificant assists in his last ten games - a stretch in which the team has gone an inadequate 4-6-0. That is not the issue at hand today. What is important, however, is to keep quotes like this in context - lest we wish to dwell on hollow meaning of the words themselves.
These were, after all, the words of an undoubtedly frustrated captain after another "close but no cigar" performance. As a player accustomed to competing on playoff caliber teams, Ladd has a right to be frustrated. This much is certain. However, he is not absolved of any of the criticism which he has heaped on his teammates. The Winnipeg Jets have struggled, but they have struggled as a team. Whether offensive woes, defensive blunders or at times spotty goaltending, every member of this current Jets roster has had their hand in the mix of what has been an up-and-down inaugural season. No one is above the criticism.
Frankly, none of this would be a point of discussion had the Southeast Division not been so laughably poor this year. The only reason Jets fans are all of a sudden so vested in betterment of the team is for a playoff push, which is a mentality that should be put on the back-burner for at least a few years. As Winnipeggers, we attach a civic pride to our hockey team, as if somehow getting ousted in the first round of the playoffs is more noble than not making them at all. When the team isn't properly functioning on the ice, the remedy always seems to resort to making blockbuster moves that involve the Byfuglien's, Haisney's and Antopov's, surely curing any and all ailments afflicting the team.
This, however, is a foolhardy approach that has been attempted by the franchise once before and carried with it significant ramifications.
When it became apparent that the 2006-07 Atlanta Thrashers were contending for a playoff spot and Division Title, then-GM Don Waddell set forth a string of transactions that are still hampering the club today.
It started tepidly enough on February 1, 2007 when Waddell swapped Kyle Wanvig and Stephen Baby to the Tampa Bay Lightning for Andy Delmore and Andre Deveaux.
On February 24 Waddell - a General Manager as incompetent as they come - would complete the worst trade in the teams brief history when he gave away up-and-coming defenseman Braydon Coburn to the Philadelphia Flyers for the remnants of what once was Alexei Zhitnik.
One day later, madness broke loose as any signs of sanity in Atlanta's front office seemed to have dissolved. The Thrashers packaged Glen Metropolit with Atlanta's 1st and 3rd round picks in 2007 as well as a 2nd round pick in 2008 for Keith Tkachuk.
Tkachuk would only dress in 26 games for the Thrashers - including a brief four game playoff series with the New York Rangers - before re-signing with the St. Louis Blues the following off-season (thankfully saving Atlanta their 1st round pick in 2008 which turned into Zach Bogosian).
While it could have been much worse, the current state of the Winnipeg Jets would be a different entity if not for the buffoonery that accompanied these transactions.
Cries that this team doesn't possess top-line talent or scoring threats all correlate back to Trade Deadline of 2007. Instead of the team using their draft picks wisely, Atlanta hoarded them together and offloaded them in one fell swoop along with a blue chip defenseman, completely oblivious to the magnitude of the future repercussions.
The draft picks traded away became Mikael Backlund (CGY), Brett Sonne (STL) and Phil McRae (STL). As for Coburn, he has been one of the Flyers most reliable defenseman and recently resigned with the team for four years at 4.5MM per. This is a crop of players who albeit aren't superstars, would bolster the Jets and IceCaps rosters considerably. And that's not even mentioning players they could have drafted in those spots.
Now, keep in mind that the term "standing pat" carries a different connotation in this circumstance for the purpose of this article. While I do believe that Winnipeg's management should not make any rash decisions concerning their more skilled assets, they should still actively shop players that will become impending UFA's at seasons end.
Yesterday the Dallas Stars traded defenseman Nicklas Grossman to the Philadelphia Flyers for a 2nd round pick in 2012 and 3rd round pick in 2013. Market value is now set for players such as Johnny Oduya and Randy Jones, meaning the Jets will have to act swiftly before other players of their ilk are traded to other playoff contending teams (such as Marek Zidlicky, Bryan Allen), consequently depreciating their value.
Shifting to the forwards, Tanner Glass and Kyle Wellwood will most likely be Winnipeg's most coveted players for whom management should seek compensation. While Glass and Wellwood are both well-liked in Winnipeg, there's no doubting that they will both be desired by NHL teams looking to make playoff runs and the Jets should capitalize on their inflated value as their departures will benefit Winnipeg in the long run.
The mentality of Winnipeg's front office should be to get proven prospects over draft picks as their impact will be felt sooner and will expedite the team's rebuild. That said, if the right offer comes their way regarding draft picks, then they should act on it in the best interests of their future.
As for the notion that Winnipeg should make a big splash to land one of Jeff Carter or Rick Nash, Neil Greenberg of the Washington Post summed it up perfectly as such:
Neil Greenberg Twitter - @ngreenberg
The 7.8MM contract outlined in Greenberg's tweets is the money currently allotted to Rick Nash for the next seven years (UFA at 33). As for Carter, he is signed at 5.27MM for the next ten (!) years (UFA at 37). Irrelevant of which player you choose, it's a huge cap-hit which will not match expected production levels five years down the road. The Jets will then find themselves in a worse situation than that which they are in now as they would be carrying dead salary on their books for a number of years.
Not to mention the overall cost of obtaining high caliber players is much more pricey than previously speculated:
Another source said that no Nash deal would make sense for the Blue Jackets without "a stud young player" coming back as part of the package. Specifically, a ready-now goaltender with upside would be necessary to get Columbus GM Scott Howson feeling an itch in his trigger finger. The source mentioned Cory Schneider of the Vancouver Canucks as the prototype, while Philadelphia Flyers backup Sergei Bobrovsky also would fit into that category. - Jesse Spector of Sporting News
In the end, all speculation and conjecture are irrelevant. Fans of the team will have to accept a truth they are unwilling to admit: the Winnipeg Jets are an average hockey team in all facets of the game. They rank 25th in team goal scoring and 16th in goals against. No one player will be able to come into the locker room and be the Messiah to turn the teams fortunes as if it's somehow as rudimentary as flicking on a light switch.
What this team needs is time, patience and nurturing.
They need their fans to understand that the rebuild will be a slow and steady process.
There will be no quick fixes. No shortcuts. And certainly, no personnel moves that reek of sheer panic.
The key to the Jets success won't be found in going for broke on players that make them marginally better today. Success will be achieved by building a roster that will contend for the playoffs tomorrow. To ignore this as truth is not only short-sighted, but extremely reckless.
And it has burnt them once before.
Lest we forget.