© Chuck Duboff
I have bought into the stated goal of the Winnipeg Jets organization; that is, to draft and develop its own players. Given that this is a small market team, being able to sign free agents to come to Winnipeg, is at best, a long shot. There is much wisdom in drafting a player at a young age, nurturing his talent and having him take pride in wearing the logo of the Winnipeg Jets. This plan has born fruit in the successful development of Mark Scheifele. The Jets surprised many by drafting him 8th overall; they then took their time, letting him finish out his junior career and then slowly worked his way into the Jets lineup. This past season was a prime example of what the Jets want to do with young talent; Scheifele blossomed and set the example for how this organization is going to grow their lineup. Many would point to Jacob Trouba, however, there is much agreement that Trouba is a once in a lifetime kind of player who was ready to step into the lineup right out of college. There is obviously much merit to the plan which the Jets have on the table.
However (there’s always a however, isn’t there?), this Jets team seems stuck in quick sand. There is a lot of talent on this team: Blake Wheeler, Andrew Ladd, Evander Kane, Jacob Trouba, Bryan Little, Mark Scheifele, Zach Bogosian, Dustin Byfuglien, etc. I dare say, more talent than some playoff teams have. The sad fact is that this team keeps missing the playoffs; when crunch time comes and wins are needed, this team is missing that piece, that mindset, that something to get them to the next level. Are Byfuglien and Ladd content having won Stanley Cups already, is Kane mature enough, can Pavelec be considered a number one goalie, is Little too soft, is Bogosian too happy go lucky, are the Jets players too pampered or under too much scrutiny in hockey mad Winnipeg?
I would suggest something major must be done this week, this summer, to send a message to the team that the continued missing of the playoffs will not be tolerated!! In reality, the three seasons in Winnipeg have followed the path which the Atlanta Thrashers were on. Be pretty good, but not good enough to make the playoffs…yes I know, and my pal Geoff will point this out, the cupboard was empty when we got the Thrashers and we had to rebuild the whole organization. I will agree with that, however, our farm team is now producing players, our drafts have been solid and i say, emphatically, now is the time to make a BOLD move. It’s time to send that message to the team that getting in the playoffs is the only acceptable option next season. If it means trading up in the draft, if it means trading one of our core players, if it means overspending to get a free agent here…something significant must be done this summer. Tolerating complacency can’t continue; in my eyes there are only three untouchables on this team: Trouba, Scheifele and Wheeler…the rest of the lineup should be made available to the other 29 teams in an attempt to bolster this teams lineup and attitude. I believe we have a great coach in Paul Maurice…give him some new pieces to work with and he will get us into the playoffs.