Lots has been made of the Winnipeg Jets and their incredibly inactive summer of late, as they continue to be projected to finish in the basement of the Central Division for the second straight season. In the "Great Central Arms Race of 2014", the Jets have pretty clearly watched as the rest of the division, of which most were already much better, improve dramatically while they continue to mire in their own mediocrity. As things currently stand, the Jets are likely in for another long season.
But while media members, bloggers and fans hum and haw about the chances of the Jets this season, I'm left to wonder what the players on the team are actually wondering. It seems to me that hockey players rarely speak out about their teams chances and management choices in public, which is likely a very good thing, but what if they did? What do you think that members of the Jets are currently thinking of their chances at this very second?
A few weeks ago, the trade deadline in Major League Baseball came and went and the Toronto Blue Jays stood pat themselves. And it was much to the chagrin of some of their players, who actually spoke about their disappointment with the following quotes:
"We're in a position where we're in striking distance with not many games left and we could've use a little boost, just like some of the other teams went out and got some additions. It's not that you don't feel your team is good enough, it's just that everybody does that at the deadline, figures out a way to improve the roster. We just somehow didn't." - Jose Bautista, July 31st, 2014
We've heard (about) '92 and '93 and I think we're tired of hearing it. We want to put our own stamp on Toronto and across baseball. For me in my eight years here, I've never been this close, never had such an opportunity to make it into the playoffs and I think that's where this excitement level for this trade deadline was. It's finally our time, it's finally beating down the door and we wanted to come on the scene as strong as we can. Like I said, it didn't happen." - Casey Janssen, July 31, 2014
Now, obviously comparing baseball to hockey is like comparing apples to oranges in many regards, but I have to wonder if standing pat at the trade deadline is actually all the different across the sporting world. Though the comments from Bautista and Janssen are rarely uttered publicly, one would have to assume that these thoughts are often had in dressing rooms on every team, in any sport, that are on the cusp of making the postseason. Can it be extrapolated to different points of the season like the offseason? As in, more or less standing pat over the summer as well? I'd suggest that it could be.
Are the Jets doing a disservice to their current players by not helping them attain their goal? Are they doing a disservice to the Thrashers gang like Tobias Enstrom, Dustin Byfuglien, Evander Kane, Bryan Little and the rest who've yet to taste post-season experience in their careers yet? Did they sell Andrew Ladd on signing here in the summer of 2011 that they'd refuse to give the captain and his teammates a chance to actually make the playoffs when they needed help the most? "The scary thing is, (time) seems like it's floating by" was a quote that Ladd used earlier this season.
The following quote came earlier this spring as the 2014 Trade Deadline came and went with nary a move to help a team less than 24 hours after Mark Scheifele went down and the injury became known:
"A lot of people would love to look at the fact that we didn't make a big deadline acquisition as a failure," Cheveldayoff said.
"A lot would look at the glass half-full and say, 'They didn't sit there and sell. They believe that this group has earned the opportunity to try and move forward.'"
Sure, it could be looked at from one angle that not moving out bodies and giving the assembled group a chance to do it themselves is being loyal. But that strikes me as counterintuitive when an injury to one of their best young players happens and nothing is done about it. If loyalty is so important to this franchise, why not throw your players a bone and at least bring in a low-price rental? I'd bet that the players in the Jets dressing room were likely thinking similar thoughts as the ones that Bautista and Janssen actually uttered in Toronto.
And this isn't the first time Chevy's said something like this. He said virtually the same thing at the deadline in 2013.
"This is the group that earned the opportunity to be battling at this point in time for a playoff position and will continue to battle moving forward,"
So a team thrashing (pun intended) to keep their head above water at the playoff line is left to sink or swim on its own without bringing in any reinforcements? Nik Antropov was hurt the game before that deadline and Mike Santorelli was plucked off of waivers so at least something was done. But don't you think that the guys in the room would've preferred a bigger boost? Now, before people go off on not selling the future for a quick fix, remember that I've never advocated for that. But lots of players are acquired every season for a mid-to-late pick to help bolster lineups.
Perhaps the Jets are simply waiting for it's future "young core" of Mark Scheifele, Jacob Trouba, Josh Morrissey and Nikolaj Ehlers by not moving future assets to help. But it must be very difficult for the current "old core" of ex-Thrashers who aren't getting any help in the here and now when it's pretty clear they desperately need it.
Lots of talk has been been focused on the Jets 2.0 acquiring a Thrashers team with bare cupboards in their prospect system. Well, that part may well be on its way to being rectified through the past four drafts, but it wouldn't be that much of a stretch to say that the team at the NHL level still has plenty of bare cupboards itself. And it's at this level that the big money is spent, on both the current members of the Jets and by the fans who help pay the freight.
Ladd, Buff and company are having their primes wasted by Chevy's inactivity over the past few years and you couldn't fault them for thinking similar things to what Bautista and Janssen voiced in Toronto. It appears to me that a bunch of these guys are simply placeholders on a losing team until the kids arrive, many of whom won't be here in time to help the current veterans. It's no wonder that some players "allegedly" want out. Though Ladd, Kane and company don't voice their opinions in the media like Bautista did, you have to wonder what thoughts are racing through their heads as the predictions keep placing the Jets in the basement.
And with Ladd and Buff achieving UFA status in less than two calendar years, you best begin worrying about what players like that are thinking.