Rebuild or run it back (again ... zzzzzz)?

Maybe it's just me, but I sorta got the impression from Kevin Chevyldayoff's post-season presser that the Winnipeg Jets are going to forge ahead with mostly the same roster that has been putting people to sleep for years. They might fall prey to market conditions and be forced to say goodbye to some pieces, but they'll try their darndest to keep the band together to the highest degree.

While Pollyanna might commend the anti-insomnia effort, I think most Jets fans would rather cheer than sleep. Just the fact that it was Mr. Dithers at the podium -- indicating he'll be back to lead the charge (if "lead" is the right word, and "charge" is the right word) -- suggests that True North is not contemplating major changes. Presumably they believe that the same old roster will be -- again, certainly -- a *cough* championship-calibre team that stands the best chance of populating seats during the regular season and filling the joint to bursting during the playoffs, while a rebuild will see droves and droves of fair-weather fans jumping off the bandwagon until such time, years and years down the road, that they can once again contend for a playoff spot.

So the question is: Will people pay to watch a rebuilding team live, or will they stay home and watch on TV, or will they take up cross-country skiing or cooking classes and do neither?

When the Jets returned they were something new in the entertainment landscape. Sure, they were the prodigal son returning home so they weren't entirely new, even if the old Jets were in Arizona and that prodigal son hailed from Atlanta. But compared to the local entertainment landscape of the previous 16 years, they were very, very new. And very, very exciting. The team wasn't very good on the ice but wide-eyed fans in a honeymoon daze didn't seem to care very much, even when a labour stoppage in year two forced coitus interruptus on them. When the league resumed, so did the sellouts. The point is that something new and exciting equals fans in the seats.

Flash forward to today. The team is stagnant and stale, thanks to the organizations's neurotic loyalty, Mr. Dithers' glacial process, and too many tweeners on the roster. It is too often underperforming, unexciting and unrewarding. It is smug and self-satisfied and without accountability, both on and off the ice. For several years a sellout has been an anomaly. Yes, the covid hangover is probably partly responsible for that, and inflation, and a world that generally seems headed down the toilet. But just as Blake Wheeler is willing to bash through walls for Paul Maurice, fans would bash through unfavourable conditions to see something that excites them. The current team, the same-old same-old bunch of underachievers and part-time floaters, is apparently not that something (whiteout aside, which is more a fan-driven frenzy than a team-driven frenzy).

Now get rid of the old guard, the so-called top players who are dreaming if they think they're giving everything they have on the ice, the guys who unfailingly run up the white flag when the going gets toughest. Scheifele and Connor come to mind in that department. Also ship out players who have been pulling their weight but would be wasted in a rebuild. Hellebuyck is the prime example of that, and, reluctantly, Ehlers. And say adios to Wheeler for whatever you can get, even if you have to retain half of his cap hit. In return set your sights on getting younger, ambitious, hardworking players and a few good draft placings. Obviously you'd like some skill in the mix, but you don't need superstars to do well in the NHL if you have everything else working for you. Make wise picks at the draft. Nurture and teach, and imprint hard work, teamwork and never-say-die. Sift into the lineup as warranted

Also get rid of the tweeners who have no chance of being anything more than tweeners. Actually use your analytics department to unearth replacements who might look like tweeners now but have a realistic chance of being something more with new surroundings and new opportunities. If Vegas and Seattle can do it, why can't the Jets? (The obvious answer to that question is Chevyldayoff and the Jets pro scouting department, but more on that later.)

What you have now is something new, and if you've done a good job with the replacements, something exciting. Maybe they don't win as often as you'd like, not initially anyway, but compared to the familiar old bunch who have bred contempt, at least they get your blood moving (in a good way), keep the eyelids open, and provide a glimmer of hope. If you want to recreate the early new-and-exciting days of Jets 2.0, you are now giving yourself a chance, and you just might reinvigorate the fanverse enough to fill some empty seats. If you run it back with same-old same-old, you are inducing a fanverse coma, maiming your chance of revitalization, and the bleeding will continue.

As for Chevyldayoff, apparently some fans think he's the right man to lead a rebuild. They cite his drafting record mainly. I say half the posters on this board could have done just as well as Chevyldayoff at the draft table, and some would have done better. As for the team's pro scouts, I find it hard to believe that they've pulled their weight sufficiently when you add up the players they've found and compare that list to some of the finds that other teams have incorporated into their rosters. And we're not talking about free agents with no-trade clauses either. There are hundreds and hundreds of forwards and defencemen out there who have no say in where they play. But no, Mr. Dithers et al would rather have Hendricks and Appleton (multiple times, no less), and a Who's Who of other scrubs.

So step one is getting rid of Chevyldayoff, replacing him with someone shrewd, proactive and merciless. Is owner Mark Chipman capable of doing that? Well, he appears to have no desire to do it, and even if he did I doubt he's capable of it. He'd be looking for another yes man who doesn't mind having the boss looking over his shoulder and directing his hand. But he'd better find someone who can be that effective executive, and he'd better learn to keep his meddling nose out of everything but the budget accounts, or he's going to find himself doing a lot more begging and threatening while his arena empties out.

If this FanPost is written by someone other than one of the blog's editors, the opinions expressed in it do not necessarily reflect those of this blog or SB Nation.

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