Winnipeg Jets' General Manager Kevin Cheveldayoff has come under fire recently. Authors from premier hockey blogs, Puck Daddy and Down Goes Brown have taken shots. It isn't just the bloggers though. Mainstream media outlets have also got in on the fun. Jabs are also flying in the Toronto Sun and the pages of Sports Illustrated. Some of the criticism is fair, but some of it seems to be coming from people who don't really follow the Jets.
So which is it? What did Chevy do? What has he done poorly? What has he done well? We took a look last year, and the results showed more good than bad, but this seems like a good time to revisit Chevy's portfolio.
Ed Note: We did this a year ago and many of the yeas and nays will still apply, but they won't be reintroduced unless there has been a readily apparent change, and / or a double down.
Chevy's Best Moves
#TroubaBest: Jacob Trouba made the list of solid moves a year ago, so this isn't an addition, but Trouba's next step was notable. Trouba jumped into the the NHL as a 19 year old and logged BIG minutes. He was rarely sheltered and there is a case to be made that he has already surpassed roommate - and fellow top 10 pick Zach Bogosian with his skill level. None too shabby for a 19 year old.
Adding Math: Mathieu Perreault doesn't need to play a game in Winnipeg for this deal to be a big win. Sure, there is risk. There is always risk when adding a player, but MP doesn't carry as much as some. Throughout his career, Mathieu Perreault has produced at an elite rate. He has been a top 20 per minute scorer over the last three season. That is elite production.
Perreault has easily outpaced many players who signed bigger deals and he has done it without giving up much defensively. Perreault was also one of the youngest unrestricted free agents on the market - thus closer to his prime than most. $3MM for 3 years makes this a smart, savvy signing.
Frolic with Frolik: Chevy was able to land a 25 year old possession wizard in exchange for 3rd and 5th round draft picks. THIRD AND FIFTH ROUND PICKS! That's peanuts! Add in the fact that Frolik is a restricted free agent - which makes him a team controlled asset for at least another year and that all adds up to a big win. 40+ points and top line ice are cream. This deal was all win and will remain that way unless Frolik bails for the KHL or something this offseason.
Joshie says: Josh Morrissey was drafted with little initial fanfare, but it didn't take long the the Winnipeg Jets' smooth skating defender to start turning heads. Some actually thought Morrissey out-played fellow super stud D prospect Jacob Trouba in the 2013 pre-season. He followed that up with a dominant WHL season as arguably the league's best defender (even if he didn't win the award).
Josh led WHL defenders in points per game and represented Canada in the World Junior Hockey Championships. He followed up this wonderful season of junior hockey with a strong AHL playoff run playing against men. This left many wondering if he is NHL ready. I may be jumping the gun on this one, but Josh looks to be a very nice pick.
Clutch your Hutch: The Winnipeg Jets may have found their goalie of the future in a another transaction that saw little fanfare. Kevin Cheveldayoff and Company were able to ink for Boston Bruin's prospect to a contract as a free agent. Michael Hutchinson is a rock solid prospect - arguably the Jets' best goalie prospect. Hutch suffered through some turbulence with the Bruins, but he was a was always a player with upside. An incredible showing for the IceCaps, then again in the Calder Cup playoffs, have done nothing but improve his resume.
Michael Hutchinson's resume:
- Top 10 CHL goalie.
- Top 10 ECHL goalie (twice).
- Top 10 AHL goalie (twice).
- Career AHL save percentage of .921.
And the cost of acquiring his was next to nill! Regardless of what happens from here out, this was a solid move. Chevy added a potential NHL starter - who has RFA years left - for peanuts.
Not Trading Evander Kane: Evander Kane is always at the centre of attention. He has also been at the centre of most of the aforementioned anti-Chevy banter. Why? We know the Kane stuff is a distraction, but we don't know the impact it is having on his teammates. If that impact is marginal, there really isn't a rush.
The most important factor in a potential Evander Kane is the return, not the time line. Kane a huge asset and one that the Jets can't afford to giveaway. IF Chevy trades Kane, he HAS to get top dollar. The fact that a move hasn't been made is not in any way a negative. Kane is under contract. There isn't a rush. Trading Kane - if it happens - should be judged solely on the return.
Chevy's Worst Moves
The Gooch leaves a dirty taste in your mouth: Despite the hype, adding Devin Setoguchi was always a puzzling decision. The issue here wasn't so much the player or even the cost. A second round pick for a middle six player is fair. The issues with the Gooch trade, were two-fold.
- There was no reason to think he'd be an upgrade over Kyle Wellwood or Nik Antropov as he hadn't been for years (by the numbers). Those players, and others of similar skill, were available in free agency and they wouldn't have cost the team any draft picks.
- From the get go, the Jets were a long shot to make the playoffs. Moving a pick for a player, that is effectively a rental, is strange for a non-playoff team that preaches draft and develop.
The road to hell is Pav'd: Believe me when I say, I hate harping on the Winnipeg Jets' goaltending woes. I wish these issues would go away. That said, they can't go unmentioned when talking Chevy. Ondrej Pavelec has been the team's biggest blunder to date and the issue hasn't gone away - some would argue it has gotten worse.
Last year's commentary suggest that Chevy would be wise to add a 1B goalie to challenge his much maligned starter. Skilled goalies like Anton Khudobin and Thomas Greiss were on the market. Ben Scrivens and Jonathan Bernier were traded. Chevy could have got in on one. He didn't. Ondrej Pavelec rewarded his GM's good faith with the worst season of his career, while the aforementioned players went on to have career years.
Ondrej Pavelec posted a .901 save percentage. By the numbers, he was not a top 45 NHL goaltender. The difference between a .901 and the .920+ that the aforementioned goalie targets posted is THIRTY+ goals against. That is a lot! It isn't at all a stretch to say Ondrej Pavelec's play is largely is responsible for Dustin Byfuglien's move to forward, Claude Noel's firing and three straight seasons of playoff free hockey.
If that wasn't enough, Kevin Cheveldayoff is seemingly still aboard the Ondrej bandwagon. He has said as much and his actions say it too. The compliance buyout window passed and Pav remained a Jets. A flooded UFA goalie market - which saw 10 goalies signed within the first few hours - was also left untouched. All indications are that we will see another season with Ondrej Pavelec as the unquestioned starter. Michael Hutchinson may be able to push him, but who knows what it will take to actual supplant him.
I know this minus features a very long description, but it has to. The Pavelec contract was puzzling before it was signed, but Kevin Cheveldayoff's unwillingness to move away from it - or even challenge his starter has made what could have been a little problem into a much bigger issue.
Of course it is possible that a trade will take place, to add a goalie, between now and the start of the season. If that happens it could potentially erase this point, but it is also possible that we will see goaltending tank another season and that would be a damn shame.
Many L's with Noel: This past year, the Winnipeg Jets made a midseason coaching change. The why and the how aren't really important, but there is no way around it - a coaching change represents a failure.
Once Thorburned, never shy: Yes. Chris Thorburn can play both wings. Yes. He will fight Chara. I am not here to debate whether or not he can do either of these things well. There is more at play in this scenario. We can say with certainty that Chris Thorburn's own coaches realize that he isn't a regular NHLer. Afterall, he was scratched when healthy a couple times last year. Coaches seemingly agree that Chris Thorburn is a marginal roster player.
Coaches also agree that he is a great guy, but If you know a player isn't an NHL regular - on your own non-playoff team - why then do you give this player three year contract extension? We are talking about a player who is one of the bottom two or three forwards on a non-playoff team. Can that position not be upgraded? Can it not be upgraded within the next three years? The contract says no. Weird.
A Pair of Threes: Mark Stuart and Grant Clitsome are quality depth defenders, but for the second year in a row one is likely to be thrust onto the Winnipeg Jets' second pairing. This isn't ideal. Then again, it isn't ideal to jam them both on the third pairing either as sheltered minutes are often reserved for rookies.
Clitsome has two years remaining on his contract. Mark Stuart has four years remaining. Do their contracts prevent the Jets from acquiring an upgrade? Does their presence inhibit the growth of a rookie like Josh Morrissey? If the answer to either question is "Yes" (and I think the answer is yes to both), there is a clear downside to this deal.
You've got to know when to hold'em. Know when to fold 'em. Know when to walk away: For the second year in a row the NHL's trade deadline passed and the Winnipeg Jets did nothing. Apparently there were a few near hits, but near hits are still misses. Is this a big deal? In a vacuum it is not, but watching assets walk away without a return still hurts.
Scheif the Chef is still cooking: Mark Scheifele vs Sean Couturier, this has been a debate for years in the eyes of some Jets fans. Who will be better long term? Who knows, but Scheif defintiely flashed some goodness this year. Did he pass Couter? Probably not yet, but many are optimistic that he will. Until then - hold.
What does this all mean?
Nothing really. I am but one dumb man with an opinion. It is also important to note that I don't have the same information at my disposal that Chevy does. I am surely wrong about some of it. I could be wrong about all of it. Still, that is the world as I see it. What do you think should rank among Chevy's best and worst moves? How happy are you with the Jets' progress? Let us know below.