Kukla's Korner Hockey
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.
from Ed Tait of the Winnipeg Free Press,
Evander Kane hasn’t exactly snuffed out the trade rumours swirling around him.
In fact, based on an interview he conducted with The Team 1040 radio station in Vancouver, it could be said he doused them with gasoline instead.
The subject of speculation for most of his days as a Winnipeg Jet, and especially leading up to last month’s draft, Kane was asked by the radio station today if he wanted to remain with the team. And his response was very vague.
Here’s the exchange:
Host: Evander do you want to play for the Winnipeg Jets anymore?
Kane: Well, I think I'm a Winnipeg Jet right now, and, you know, there's been speculation and rumors the three years since I got there. So, you know, we'll see what happens and we'll carry on as if I'm a Winnipeg Jet.
from Ken Wiebe of the Winnipeg Sun,
The Jets showed improvement under the guidance of Paul Maurice and having a full training camp under the head coach should help with the further implementation of the core principals and values required to help try to snap the string of consecutive seasons without a playoff berth.
However, another critical element for the Jets finally reaching that goal will include an upgrade of the current roster.
With that in mind, here are five storylines to watch:
1) Has Evander Kane played his last game with the Jets?
It’s a question that has been asked numerous times and it’s one that seems to be picking up steam once again. Can Kane be had for the right price? Perhaps, but the price tag is going to be steep, as it should be. Thirty goal scorers that can kill penalties, skate like the wind and play a physical game don’t exactly grow on trees. No, Kane hasn’t reached his potential in three seasons with the Jets, but he hasn’t had the benefit of regular linemates or been given much first-unit power-play time either. I remain of the belief that Kane could become a more consistent game-breaker if used frequently on a line with Mark Scheifele and Blake Wheeler. However, if Cheveldayoff is blown away by an offer, I could see him pulling the trigger. But Kane — who is under contract for a cap-friendly deal of $5.25 million through 2017-18 — won’t be moved for shock value alone.
from Gary Lawless of the Winnipeg Free Press,
The bottom line on trading Kane, or any member of Cheveldayoff's team, has to be about benefitting the organization. Cheveldayoff isn't going to be offered a roster player of equal value. Teams are going to try to pry Kane away from Winnipeg with packages of picks and prospects.
For a fan base already screaming about the here and now, making a deal for tomorrow would be untenable.
The other side of the equation is maybe we've seen the best of Kane and he's never going to be a consistent 30-goal guy. Under that premise, trading Kane now would seem to be the right move if the return is strong. There's little evidence, however, to suggest Kane won't continue to improve and become a better and more valuable player.
Kane is flawed in that he doesn't see the ice very well and his goal production to date has been inconsistent. He might argue the same can be said of his linemates, and it's true Kane has been forced to play with a bit of a dog's breakfast during his three seasons in Winnipeg. He's also been an infrequent member of the No. 1 power-play unit. If Kane is to grow he needs both more opportunity and higher-quality opportunity.
Moving Kane would be premature. It's time to find out precisely what he is as a player and how far he can grow. Install him as the left wing on the top line.
Cheveldayoff will want to see if Kane can soar with these Jets before booking him on another out of town.
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.
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