Kukla's Korner Hockey
from Gary Lawless of the Winnipeg Free Press,
Prospects must force themselves into the big club's picture and become valuable contributors or the plan just continues to sputter along and never kicks out a winner.
Cheveldayoff has a solid core of players reaching their potential. Blake Wheeler appears to be a point-a-game man. Kane has a 30-goal season under his belt. The trio of Bryan Little-Andrew Ladd-Michael Frolik is a superior puck possession group. Dustin Byfuglien is a power forward with vast potential.
There are warts. If Maurice can't find a way to improve goaltender Ondrej Pavelec's save percentage the entire endeavour will be a waste of time.
But there's no denying there's promise here. The question is whether it's ready to show up.
More of Cheveldayoff's prospects must step forward and expand the core. Patience is fine. But it can't be infinite. Not for the GM and not for the fans of this organization.
Rushing players doesn't make sense. But, as we saw with Trouba and Schiefele, young players don't have to fail.
Cheveldayoff didn't make a lot of people happy this summer. He stuck to his guns and his plan.
It's time that plan begin to supply him with the ammunition to defend his stance.
from Katie Strang of ESPN,
The Jets have missed the playoffs for three straight years, but that could change this year if those young stars start producing night in and night out.
"They’re young and they’re good, but the one thing you look at with the guys that sign those big-money deals for long terms, what they have in their backgrounds is consistency. That’s what [the Jets] need to do," Hawerchuk told ESPN.com in a recent telephone conversation. "That should translate into the team being consistent every night. Right now, the consistency is what they’d like to achieve. I always tell players, you have to have the whole package to get to the NHL, but you have to have consistency to be a real pro."
Having spent nine seasons in Winnipeg -- beginning when he won the Calder Memorial Trophy for the league’s top rookie in 1982 -- Hawerchuk knows that the brutally-cold locale is not for everyone. It does not have palm trees or a flashy nightlife to offer free agents, as other NHL cities do. Because of that, the organization’s ability to draft well is paramount, Hawerchuk thinks.
"Those good, young players will get the roots and the closeness to Winnipeg. As they get time in there, these guys will develop and they should start to turn corner, but that takes a bit of time," Hawerchuk said.
from Tim Campbell of the Winnipeg Free Press,
Given the forecasts of pessimism for a team many believe is falling behind in the NHL's difficult Central Division, thick skin is going to come in handy this fall, Jets captain Andrew Ladd suggested Wednesday
"I think you learn that they are predications and until you start playing games and see where you're at from that standpoint, they don't really mean anything," Ladd said Wednesday, asked at the Stars FORE Special O golf tournament what he thinks of all the off-season banter about his team. "It's just a bunch of chatter that everybody likes to talk about in the summer when there's nothing else going on.
"I think as a group we can use it as motivation to tell each other that no one's really giving us a chance and there's nothing wrong with that."
Ladd's teammate Blake Wheeler, coming off a 69-point season that led the Jets in scoring, said he's not all that interested in reminders from the past.
from Ken Wiebe of the Winnipeg Sun,
Are the Winnipeg Jets better right now than they were at this time last year?
Although there’s still nearly a month to go before main training camp, it’s a question that is generating plenty of discussion these days, whether it be around water coolers or in dressing rooms all across Manitoba....
While realizing the game is played on the ice and not on paper, let’s take a closer look at how the Jets are shaping up right now, position by position.
Returnee: Ondrej Pavelec
Candidate for promotion: Michael Hutchinson
The wild card: Connor Hellebuyck
Who’s out: Al Montoya (Florida Panthers)
The verdict: Worse
Given how well Montoya played as the backup last season and the fact Hutchinson has only three NHL games on his resume, it’s tough to argue the Jets aren’t in a worse position between the pipes. Granted, they’re expecting improvement from Pavelec, believe that Hutchinson is ready to make the jump to the NHL after an excellent season in the minors and the future looks bright for Hellebuyck, who is turning pro after a brilliant college career but needs some seasoning. Pavelec understands the importance of the upcoming season and it’s time for him to take the next step in his progression.
from Ken Wiebe of the Winnipeg Sun,
During a summer of relative inactivity, the local populace has become edgy -- a natural emotion when you consider that moves by their rivals in the Central Division appear to strengthen each of the other six teams the Jets are competing with for a playoff spot.
With that in mind, writer Justin Bourne posted a piece over at thescore.com last week suggesting the Jets might actually be tanking the current season for the opportunity to pick first overall in a bid to secure the services of Connor McDavid.
Every team in the NHL would love the opportunity to add a potential franchise player like McDavid or Jack Eichel to their organization, but to suggest that Jets general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff is sitting on his hands and is comfortable with watching losses pile up this season for what could be a payoff down the road is simply ridiculous.
First of all, what franchise decides to push the reset button in Year 4 of the unofficial five-year plan?
Where's the fire sale that sees the Jets ship off veterans for draft picks, young players or prospects?
While the Jets appear to be in tough to break the streak of non-playoff seasons that stretches back to their days as the Atlanta Thrashers, they're not about to simply roll over and be a doormat.
from Patrick Williams at NHL.com,
Can the Jets avoid letdown games? -- Last season the Jets managed to defeat the Anaheim Ducks, Chicago Blackhawks and San Jose Sharks (twice) on the road. However, they managed to negate the effects of those big wins by losing several road games against non-playoff teams. In an 18-day span in December, the Jets lost road games against the Florida Panthers, Buffalo Sabres and Edmonton Oilers, all of whom missed the playoffs. The Jets must show a better ability to bear down and defeat teams below them in the NHL standings.
Can Ondrej Pavelec break his way out of the bottom echelon of NHL goaltenders? -- This one is simple. If Pavelec fails to establish himself in his sixth full NHL season, the Jets missing the playoffs this season might be the least of Cheveldayoff's headaches.
There is little evidence to suggest that anything other than a phenomenal performance from backup Michael Hutchinson would threaten Pavelec's starting job. Another sub-par season from Pavelec would only intensify the critics calling for the Jets to ship out their starting goaltender.
from Ed Tait of the Winnipeg Free Press,
Cheveldayoff was asked about his star winger’s vague answer today at the conclusion of the Jets’ Development Camp and - not surprisingly - would not fan any of the trade-rumour flames.
"It’s very difficult right now in hockey," began Cheveldayoff. "You’ve got the draft and all the different things like free agency that come up and as you guys all know, there’s rumours that abound each and every day that send everyone in different directions. I can only imagine as a player what goes through your mind when you hear, ‘So and so’s being traded and different things like that.’ It’s got to be difficult. They’re all professional hockey players and they’re all subject to those kind of things. Even when you have your general manager like I’ve been saying, I’m open to look to see if there’s ways to make improvements on this team. Without singling out any individual everyone starts to wonder what’s going on.
"With specific reference to Evander and the situation where he was asked those questions, I think he’s been asked those questions year after year after year since he’s been here and certainly since the time he’s signed the contract.
"So, Evander is a Winnipeg Jet. What I took from his comments, is he’s excited about being healthy and training this summer and really looking forward to having a solid summer of training. He had some minor surgery last year that derailed some of the training side of things."
from Paul Friesen of the Winnipeg Sun,
Dale Hawerchuk doesn’t understand why Evander Kane or any young players wouldn’t want to play for the Winnipeg Jets.
In Winnipeg as a guest coach at the Jets development camp, Hawerchuk, the former Jet and current head coach of the OHL's Barrie Colts says the place he made home for the first nine years of his NHL career remains an attractive destination, from what he can tell.
“As an organization you do your best to get your players to love it,” Hawerchuk said. “My short time being around here, they do everything first-class. So I do’t know why players wouldn’t love it.”
from Scott Cullen of TSN,
Many of Winnipeg's core players are in their twenties, in and around their prime years, so while that's reason for optimism, it's also reason for some urgency to take advantage of the kind of production being provided by the likes of Andew Ladd, Blake Wheeler and Dustin Byfuglien.
Byfuglien is an interesting case for the Jets, having shifted from defence to forward part way through last season. While Big Buff is an effective winger, his preference is to play defence, which might make him appealing as a trade candidate for other clubs that are willing to accomodate that desire.
But, if Byfuglien sticks around, the Jets have a quality group of forwards, with potential to be really good if Evander Kane and Mark Scheifele continue to develop. Their defence isn't as strong, overall, without Byfuglien, but Jacob Trouba's strong rookie season was encouraging. Basically, the Jets have a competitive group of skaters. Not great, necessarily, but competitive.
Then, it comes to goaltending, and that appears to be the area that needs fixing, only GM Kevin Cheveldayoff has backed Ondrej Pavelec as the team's starting goaltender going into next season. Maybe that's the stance that a GM has to take with a guy under contract for three more seasons, but his performance has been crippling to the Jets' playoff chances and if he starts 50-plus games again next season, that is a serious roll of the dice that the Jets are taking with a goaltender that has finished with a league average save percentage once in five NHL seasons.
About Kukla's Korner Hockey
Paul Kukla founded Kukla’s Korner in 2005 and the site has since become the must-read site on the ‘net for all the latest happenings around the NHL.
From breaking news to in-depth stories around the league, KK Hockey is updated with fresh stories all day long and will bring you the latest news as quickly as possible.
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