Friday, February 24, 2012

Trade Bait 3: The Trade Winds Are Blowing

By: Tim "Bones" Bonnar

The trade winds are blowing. We have already seen a few moves, the most recent of which makes Jeff Carter a King. The Jets have been quiet so far, but that doesn’t mean any of our pending UFAs are out of the woods. Let’s continue our look at players who may or may not move at the deadline. This time we will look at defense and goaltending.

Pending UFAs:

Johnny Oduya – Oduya is probably the Jets’ most moveable player at the deadline. He has had some major highs and lows this season, but he’s settled in as a very solid bottom pairing defenseman.  Oduya is a very smooth skater and while he doesn’t score at an elite level, he is a solid puck mover. He has also been arguably the Jets most effective penalty killer.

Defensemen have been a hot commodity at the deadline and Oduya could spark the interest of a couple teams. That said, Johnny isn’t the typical deadline D man. Most teams look to add either an offensive defenseman or a large physical presence the will help them grind in the playoffs. Oduya doesn’t quite fit either of those descriptions, which will limit the market and thus limit his value.

Will the Jets resign Johnny Oduya? Realistically, I can’t see it happening. I have nothing against Johnny Oduya, I like his game, but he’s overpaid and the Jets have a number of prospects that they would like to give a shot in the bigs. Short term, Mark Flood or Randy Jones would be the most likely to fill in, but next season is anybody’s guess. Paul Postma and Zach Redmond were both AHL All Stars this season. Additionally Arturs Kulda and Brett Festerling have spent time playing for the Jets and done an admirable job.

Moving Oduya might represent a small let down for the Jets on ice product, but it wouldn’t be a major drop off. The Jets have shown the ability to weather losses of their big three defensemen, they surely could survive the loss of a bottom pairing player. The Jets have proven they have multiple players capable of stepping up and doing a good job.  If a team is willing to send the Jets a 2nd round pick in exchange for Oduya’s services, I think they have to take it.

Randy Jones - Jones is firmly entrenched as the Jets 7th defenseman, but he is also a pending UFA. Jones is a serviceable and versatile player. He has good size and he can play in all situations. That said Jones isn’t the kind of player that a playoff team would add to bolster their top six. If a team made a move to add Jones it would be all about depth.

Will the Jets resign Randy Jones? Jones is in a similar situation to Johnny Oduya. He has played well, but he won’t likely be back with the Jets. The Jets simply have too many players in the pipeline that can fill the 7th defenseman role. If they Jets can land anything in exchange for Jones they will definitely have to consider the possibility.
Mark Flood – Mark Flood is another interesting deadline piece. He has played 29 games for the Jets this season and he has played well in those games. He has also been trusted with a decent amount of playoff time in those games (more that Hainsey or Oduya). I like Flood and I am truthfully not sure what Jones has done to usurp him. Combine that with his tiny tiny contract and he could be a commodity.
Will the Jets resign Mark Flood? Mark has reportedly been told that he should look for a permanent home in Winnipeg, so chances are he won’t be moved at the deadline. You also have to think this means he is part of the Jets long term plans.  I am really curious to see how things play out with Flood, the Jets do have a number of players who will be pushing him for his roster spot. I like his game, but am surprised they aren’t looking at Flood as a movable asset.

Chris Mason – Chris Mason has been an ideal backup goaltender this season. He has been solid if not spectacular in most of his showings and is numbers / win percentage are one par with what Pavi has done. Additionally, Mason really enjoys being a Jet. He was one of the first Thrasher players to vocally support the idea and he is a good locker room guy.  There are a few teams on the playoff bubble that are looking to strengthen their goal tending, could one of them look to the Jets and Mason as their cure? 

Will the Jets resign Chris Mason? I think there is a very good chance that the Jets bring back Mason for the next couple of seasons. Most teams that are looking for goalies are looking for starters. I am not sure anybody will want Mason for that role. Additionally, the Jets don’t have a ready replacement if they move Mason. 

Peter Mannino was called up for one game earlier this season, but he was sent down form the Ice Caps to the ECHL. He is also a pending UFA, he isn’t the answer either short term or long term. Aside from Mannino the Jets have Eddie Pasquale and David Aebischer. Aebesher is an NHL flame out and he is not putting up great AHL numbers. Pasquale is a promising prospect who is probably a year or two away from assuming an NHL backup role. He may eventually replace Chris Mason, but he isn’t ready to do so right now. I am not sure trading Mason would be a wise move.

Non UFAs:

Ron Hainsey – Jets fans are taken aback by Hainsey’s contract and have been holding him to unfair and standard. Yes he is over paid, but he is a solid two way defender. His contract also makes him really hard to move. A playoff team that is looking for a short term rental won’t look at Hainsey. He could however be a prime candidate for a deadline move next season.

Derrick Meech – Meech is a pending UFA, but I didn’t include him in the first grouping because he isn’t a candidate for trade. Injuries have derailed his season and potentially his career. I would like to wish upon him a quick recovery.

Paul Postma/ Brett Festerling / Arturs Kulda / John Negrin – These are all prospects that have been or are considered NHL caliber prospects. Negrin was a recent addition via trade, but the other three have all been called up to the big team this season. They are also pending RFAs. To be clear I don’t believe the Jets will be looking to trade any of these players, they will probably resign them all. That said, if the Jets do make a move to buy a player… one of these three will likely be part of the deal.

What do I think the Jets will do?

I don’t see the Jets being too active in the coming days. If they make any trades, they will likely be for picks or prospects. The most likely player to move is probably Oduya. If they could move him for a second round draft pick, that would be a win for the team. If they could move Oduya and Fehr for a young player that is close to NHL ready, that would be a big win.  Doing nothing wouldn’t be a loss. 

Are you guys ready to hurry up and wait?

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Jacobs Ladder

By: Mike "BCMike" Fraser
Edited By: Mike "The Deuce" Bailey

As old Jack Burton says: “When some eight foot tall monster backs you up against a wall and asks you if you’ve paid your dues, look that guy straight in the eye and say, ‘ya the cheque is the mail’”. That’s about how I’m feeling lately as the new look February Jets roll through their home stand looking for redemption and that playoff light at the end of the tunnel.

The Jets in January were backed up against that wall and have been grinding their way back out of the hole they dug for themselves ever since. With all of their weapons returning to the ice they have gone from being a struggling club trying to arrest a slide to an up and coming club once again challenging for eighth in the conference and first in the division. They’re climbing the proverbial ladder, in what seems to be a ‘two rungs up, one rung down’ style, proving that when it comes to being a Winnipeg Jet sometimes guts and hard work need to be a substitute for talent.

It also helps that the stars have aligned, cursing our closest competitors with losing streaks of their own that have helped the Jets close the gap. Toronto has fallen ungracefully from sole possession of eighth place and is trying desperately to recover from what seems to be their annual mid season tailspin out of the playoffs. Washington has also has had to contend with a massive implosion that seems to go right to the heart of the team. This leaves us with the improbable Florida Panthers as division leaders in a division that is underwhelming at best.

Due to a sort of play-off wormhole effect, if the Jets where to take the division lead from the Panthers this would vault them into third seed overall in the eastern conference. Many see this shortcut as being the best avenue for the Jets to make the playoffs, and with the Panthers starting to come back down to earth they are probably right. The Jets are currently tied with Florida at 65 points, but the Panthers have three games in hand, which keeps them in top spot. However the Panthers have lost their last three games and are playing sub 500 hockey in February, which makes them potential low hanging fruit if the Jets can keep winning.

Winning of course fixes everything. If the Jets can string together another few wins and their competitors continue to slide, our playoff chances can increase exponentially. So the question now becomes ‘can the Jets continue to win’? The promising news is that a few key players are starting to find their game in Winnipeg. Blake Wheeler looks like a guy who can carry this team on his back, while Evander Kane is starting to look like the pure goal scorer we were all hoping he could be. Of course after Pavelec’s performance against Philadelphia and Mason’s solid performances in backup, goaltending appears to be a foundation from which this team will make its playoff push.

The Achilles heel of the Jets going forward will definitely be defensive zone responsibility. The goaltenders can’t do it all and night after night the Jets end up chasing the opposition around in their own zone. The Jets blue line was constructed to be up in the play and contributing to the offense on a run and gun team, unfortunately defense wins championships and defensemen caught up ice don’t contribute to defense. If the Jets were to do anything at the trade deadline to help push them forward it would be acquiring either A) A first line centre (not going to happen) or B) A journeyman stay-at-home defender. A stay-at-home defender could be a calming influence on the blue line and a valuable quarterback on the power play.

The Jets also desperately need to find a winning formula on the road. The road record is so abysmally bad that I’m not sure that if they made it into the play offs that they would have any chance of winning without finding a way to fix their problems on the road and fix them fast. Again winning goes a long way, as locking down a division title would give the Jets home ice for the first round and likely the second.

So as we come close to the end of January the Jets are once again knocking on the door, just as they were at the end of December. It seems like all is forgiven across Jets nation and the calls to become sellers have diminished. The stretch is officially upon us and the ladder up into post season contention is still fraught with peril, but even though I never officially gave up hope, I definitely have more faith in a playoff appearance than I did 30 days ago.

Remember, for the Jets this year there is no easy stairway to heaven, just a hard climb up Jacobs ladder.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Trade Bait 2: Who will stay and who will go?

By: Tim "Bones" Bonnar

The trade deadline is fast approaching and the Jets have put together a nice little run of wins. This run has them on the cusp of the playoffs many people believe that this has changed their plan for the trade deadline, I ‘m not so sure. GM Kevin Cheveldayoff has said all along that this team is building for the long term. I don’t think three wins has changed significantly changed his thought process.

Regardless of the Jets current playoff push (and potential run) Chevy already has a good idea who he will and won’t be looking to resign this offseason. As fans we have to remember there are many factors involved in these decisions and on ice performance isn’t the only one. The Jets management team must also consider who’s in the system and how close these players are to NHL ready.

I am of the opinion that the Jets should be sellers at the trade deadline and regardless of any playoff run, I truly believe Chevy is thinking the same way. Don Waddell did a number on this team and the Jets’ prospect pool is terribly shallow at just about every position. The lack of system depth makes me believe that the Jets will and should look at moving a few of their pending UFAs, regardless of any playoff push.

I do believe that Jets will be sellers at the deadline, but I do want to make one thing clear:

Being “sellers” does not mean the Jets are giving up hope on this season.

The Jets won’t be moving the core of the team at the deadline. The Jets will also not be moving players who are part of their long term plans. Let’s take a look at who the Jets may or may not sell at the deadline. First we’ll take a look at the offence.

Pending UFAs:

Jim Slater – Jets fans have fallen in love with Slater. He’s a gritty hard working player and the main cog in the GST line that has become a big time fan favourite. He’s a heart and soul guy, our best faceoff man, an effective penalty killer and has done an excellent job matching up against the opposition’s top players. Nobody wants to see him traded away at the deadline, but it is a possibility.
The same factors that have endeared Jim Slater to Jets fans make him a valuable commodity this time of year. A team looking to add grit, to help their penalty kill or to improve in the faceoff circle could find Slater very appealing. The Tampa Bay lightning recently sent Dominic Moore to the San Jose Sharks in exchange for 2nd and 7th round picks. Jim Slater is a very similar player (albeit with less playoff experience and a little less scoring) and would likely net a similar return.
Will the Jets resign Jim Slater? As much as fans would like to see him stay, Slater may not be part of the Jets long term plan. He’s a pending UFA and unfortunately for him the Jets do have a few players in the system that could step into a similar role. Patrice Cormier projects as a similar player, he’s physical, he plays a two way game, he wins faceoffs and he is close to NHL ready. Aaron Gagnon and Ben Maxwell are other players who could be in play if Slater is moved.  I don’t believe Slater will be traded, but I wouldn’t be surprised or heartbroken if he is.

Tanner Glass -Tanner Glass in another key piece in the Jets very popular GST line. Like Jim Slater he’s a gritty hard working player who plays a shutdown role both at even strength and on the penalty kill. He’s the Jet’s leading hitter and he has chipped in a few points offensively.  Ideally you want Tanner Glass on your team’s 4th line, but the Jets haven’t had that luxury. The GST line has been playing a 3rd line role and whatever 3 forwards get placed below them instantly turn into a Bermuda Triangle of goals.
Glass gained some solid playoff experience during the Canucks cup run last season. His playoff experience could add some appeal at the deadline, but the reality is that Glass is a 4th line player on just about any playoff team. Teams won’t be fighting for him and they definitely wouldn’t give up much to do so. If he is traded I can’t see the Jets getting much more than a 4th round pick in return and that might not be enough for the team to let him go.
Will the Jets resign Tanner Glass? I think there’s a very good chance that Glass is back with the Jets next year. Kendal McArdel is probably the most similar player in the system and he doesn’t offer a defensive game near the level of Glass. Down the road it is possible the Jets look at giving a young centre like the aforementioned Cormier or Gagnon a spot on the 4th line wing, so it isn’t a lock, but I expect to see Glass back with the team next year.

Kyle Wellwood – Wellwood is possibly the most interesting Jet this season. He was a last minute pickup who has had a hard time finding a permanent job. The Jets signed him to a meager (by NHL standards) $700,000 contract for the season and he has produced at far higher than expected rates. Wellwood’s 36 points are good for third on the team. If you compare him to other right wingers around the league, Wellwood’s 36 points would rank him 29th in the league. In other words he has produced at a 1st line rate for $700,000. That is exceptional value!
I’m sure Wellwood’s production hasn’t gone unnoticed by other GMs. Teams that are looking to add some offensive punch to any of their top 3 lines or to their power play have to be looking at Kyle Wellwood. The fact that Wellwood can play any of the 3 forward positions undoubtedly adds to his value. If the Jets were to move Wellwood, he should net the team at least a 2nd round pick. That kind of return would have to be considered a win for management as they invested next to nothing in him. I’m not sure they should move him though.
Will the Jets resign Kyle Wellwood? I am leaning towards “Yes.”  The reality is that the Jets have nobody in the system that can match Wellwood’s production and the team is starved for offence.  Antropov, Mittens and Fehr are already on the roster and they have not been able to earn a permanent role in the top 6.  Outside of the current roster, Scheifele might be the Jets’ only prospect who will ever become a top 6 forward and we can’t assume he will be ready next season.

Free agency isn’t a great option either.
Food for thought:

The Buffalo Sabers signed 27 year old centre Ville Leino to a 6 year $27 million dollar deal.  Coming into this season Leino had recorded 30 goals and 43 assists in 149 games (.49 pts/game).

The Winnipeg Jets signed 28 year old centre Kyle Wellwood to a $700,000 dollar deal.  Coming into this season Wellwood had recorded 68 goals and 105 assists in 373 games (.46 pts/game).

Wellwood has more than doubled Leino’s production this year.

If Wellwood is interested in remaining with the Jets the team would be wise to resign him. A three or four year term would be perfect as he is only 28 years old and his versatility allows him to play pretty much anywhere in the top nine.

Tim Stapleton – Tim Stapleton has been a pleasant surprise and a great story this season.  Timmy is a 29 year old career AHLer who came into the season with 55 NHL games on his resume and 10 career points. He has almost doubled that production this season. He has shown definitively that he can play in this league and that he can help a team on the powerplay.  Stapleton’s 11 powerplay points are good for 3rd on the team and he has actually produced more powerplay points / minute than any player on the team. All that said I’m not sure there is a market for Stapleton at the deadline.
Will the Jets resign Tim Stapleton? I think there is a very good chance Stapleton rejoins the Jets next season. Noel is clearly a fan and he Stapleton’s versatility makes him pretty well and ideal 13h forward. Stapleton has played in 4 different positions and he has played on all 4 lines. There is a chance he doesn’t return in free agency, but I don’t think a trade is in play. Even if the Jets were to trade him there wouldn’t be much of a return.

Non UFAs
There are a few Jets players outside of the pending UFAs that could be in play at the deadline.

Nik Antropov – Nik is the target of all sorts of criticism. I am not as anti-Antro as most, but the reality is that he has been demoted to a 4th line role and thus he must be deemed expendable. He is the kind of veteran that could possibly help a contender, but I don’t think he will be going anywhere.  His $4+ million cap hit and near $5 million salary for next season will make him hard to move at the deadline.

Eric Fehr – Fehr has had an awful season and he has all but played himself out of a roster spot. I am not sure that the Jets or other GMs have completely written him off though. Bad luck has hit him as hard as bad play. Nobody has produced on the Jets 4th line and that is where he has spent most of the season.
 When Fehr is on the ice the team has scored on 2.24% of their shots. That isn’t all on him. I wouldn’t mind the Jets keeping him and giving him another season to prove himself, the bad luck cannot continue forever. Even Scott Gomez got rolling again.  I am not sure any team will make a play specifically for Fehr, but I could see a team asking for him as part of a deal.  He is still an asset.

Antti Miettinen – Mittens is not a regular on the Jets roster, but he is a smart two way player who can play on the powerplay or on the penalty kill. He isn’t likely to demand a big return, but he could be moved. Any team that wants to add veteran depth or needs a serviceable player to fill in for an injured regular could look at Mittens. He is signed through next season, but his $1.5 million salary likely isn’t enough to impact a trade.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Trade Bait: Buyers or Sellers?

By: Tim "Bones" Bonnar

As the NHL trade deadline approaches I'm hearing all sorts of talk about trades that the Jets could, should, or according to some cases, MUST make. I understand why, Winnipeg hockey fans are a passionate bunch. We want a winner and we want it right now, plus the play of our 2011-2012 Winnipeg Jets has had added fuel to the fire.  

An incredible month of December inspired playoff dreams, even among some of the biggest doubters.  A terrible January brought us back to earth and created a new kind of doubt, doubt about heart, doubt about effort and doubt about talent. Now fans are sure that the team must be underachieving. This simply isn`t the case, what we saw in December was a glimpse of what the future holds. The team simply isn’t there yet.

If you are one of the people who is clamouring for wholesale changes, ask yourself this;

What is likely the more accurate reflection of the team ?
a)      A very good December?
b)      Or a bad 2010-11 campaign and a very mediocre October, November, January and February?

We can blame the schedule. We can blame injuries, but the reality is that this team has been bad more than they have been good. This is the same team finished last season ranked 25th in the NHL with a -46 goal differential. This year the Jets Rank 22nd and they are on pace to finish with a -33 goal differential.
All that said, the playoffs are still in reach. This isn’t because of how good the Jets have been, this is more a reflection of just how bad the bottom half of the Eastern Conference is. We aren’t watching the Jets win games to stay in the hunt, we are watching other teams lose to keep us in the hunt.  Does that mean we should we give up hope? Of course not. We do have a chance. Toronto and Washington are extremely inconsistent and the Jets will play Washington head to head. We can still make the playoffs.

To me, the big questions are: “Would making the playoffs be a good thing?” and “What would making the playoffs be worth?” I will approach this subject from a few different angles over the coming weeks. What do we have? What do we need? Who would and wouldn’t fit at the trade deadline and why?

Saturday, February 11, 2012

My Kingdom for a Centre

By: Mike "BCMike" Fraser
Edited By: Mike "The Deuce" Bailey

As the trade deadline approaches, I, along with many other Jets fans can’t help but take an imaginary spin in the General Managers chair. I’ve already said my peace on the philosophy that I believe this club should take when making personnel decisions but now let’s get down to the nuts and bolts. Where is this club at, and what does it need? A question that no doubt has a lot of different answers, and just as many differing opinions. Being a certified non-expert, I’ll fearlessly take a crack at it.

First some housekeeping. In my humble opinion this club has been woefully mismanaged for the ten years it resided in Hotlanta. I have zero sympathy for Craig Ramsey, Don Waddell or even Rick Dudley, and in my opinion ejecting that group from the organization as the first order of business was a vital and necessary step in changing the fortunes of the new Winnipeg Jets. If you look at how this team functioned as a unit to begin the season and the (lack of) prospects pool you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about.  The very fact that the former management group seemed to make player personnel decisions based on the demographic of its market place is enough of a damning indictment, but add to that the lack of development time for prospects and the apparent disregard for the future of the club, it leaves us with a lot to clean up going forward.

It is however not all bad. Mistakes aside, this club does have some tremendous upside, right now. There is a young corps of players that have not yet begun to hit their stride. The defense is deep (although offensively minded), the goal tending is solid in both the backup and starter positions, and we have some great wingers who can attack with speed. Our fourth line can grind with the best of them, and toughness is rarely an issue. So what’s missing?

A first line centre.

Dear reader, I know what you’re thinking; Thanks Captain Obvious, everyone’s been saying that from day one. The thing that strikes me though is that when you look at the depth chart and slot in a bona-fide first line centre, this team starts to look like a real contender. Now I know first line centres are harder to come by than honest politicians but everything literally falls into place when you add that piece. Let’s do an imaginary experiment and slot Grabovski (who coincidentally is a UFA next year) into the first line. Suddenly you have two scoring lines, a good third line and a fourth line that has never been in question. Couple that with a blue line that can also score, the rock solid goal tending of the Pavelac/Mason duo and you have a team that is ready to make a run into the playoffs. I’m really not sure if there’s another team in the NHL where an opening in one spot is such a lynchpin to greatness.

Now I know that we have about as much chance of acquiring Grabovski  in the off season as we do at acquiring Teemu Selanne for a playoff run, but you get the picture of just how important it could be to this team to fill that spot. This of course is not lost on the hockey minds at True North who I am told have been focusing most of their scouting efforts on the centre ice position. The drafting of Mark Scheifele is case in point (although some are questioning why we didn’t take Sean Couturier).  So the question now is how do we go about obtaining this elusive piece to the puzzle? Trading away other pieces seems counterproductive, and waiting for a draft pick to mature into what we need could take far too long. The only option left seems to be free agency.

Here is a list of 2102 unrestricted free agents in the centre ice position: . I’ll let my betters decide which would be the best candidate for the Winnipeg Jets, but the numbers at least still seem to make sense. The Winnipeg Jets in the 2012-13 campaign will not be struggling to meet the cap floor, but will definitely have space and someone at the top of the previously mentioned list could be the missing link we have been looking for.

This article has been centred (bad pun alert) on finding a first line guy up front, but I would be remiss in my observations if I didn’t mention that the blue line, although deep could also benefit from a stay at home shut down guy. Identifying and acquiring this type of player is sometimes harder than obtaining a great goal scoring machine. Stats don’t necessarily tell the tale and a scout’s intuition plays a major role. One prospect in our pool, Zach Yuen fits this description to the letter; he’s a shutdown guy with a crazy plus minus that occasionally chips in a goal. Unfortunately he is far from NHL ready and still a few years out. Even when he makes it to the bigs the art of being an NHL shutdown guy takes years to learn and perfect.  So again free agency may be the answer – or maybe a smart trade for an underrated d-man on a struggling team.  Either way it’s something to keep in mind.

As you all know I am merely a humble fan trying to make my way through the minefield of player personnel talk, but in my opinion this team is only one key piece away from greatness. Until then the seventh man will have to step in and fill the role. Making it to the playoffs at this point will take an all hands on deck effort and I don’t think, this year at least that a trade is the answer.

Monday, February 6, 2012

2 Out of 3 Ain’t Bad - Headline Round Up

By: Derek "Brooksey" Brookes


Back in 1979 when Winnipeg punched its ticket into the NHL the city was on a euphoric high.  While celebrating the Avco cup the crowd started chanting N-H-L, N-H-L!  The Jet's coach Tommy McVie shouted back “They’re going to take all our players.’ And the crowd said, ‘We don’t care! We don’t care!’ McVie said, ‘You don’t understand. The prices of tickets are probably going to triple.’ And the crowd said, ‘We don’t care! We don’t care!’ And McVie said, ‘It’s going to be a long time before we can win games and get in the playoffs.’ And they were still saying, ‘We don’t care! We don’t care!’

If you asked anyone if it mattered what team Winnipeg should buy last spring, most of us would have said ‘We don’t care! We don’t care!’  Funny how history seems to repeat itself.  Now Winnipeg has reentered the NHL with “new” players, ticket prices have roughly tripled (since 1996) and it could be a long time before we win enough games to get into the playoffs. 

“I’ll never be able to give you something I just haven’t got” – Jim Steinman

As a self-proclaimed homer it hurts to say this, but the Jets aren’t going to step it up anytime soon.  If you look at the roster’s career years and compare it to this year’s point projections you will find that the top 6 forwards are status quo or a little worse.  Add to that the 3rd and 4th lines are overachieving.  Wellwood, Burmistrov, Glass, and Stapleton will likely have their best NHL seasons.  Fehr, Miettinen and Thorburn will post horrible numbers.  Fehr was a healthy scratch for the first time this season as Machacek got the start against Montreal.  The important conclusion is that the team’s roster has no untapped breakout stars.  This crew is performing at or near its potential.

The organization has been quietly sticking to the plan to obtain depth through the draft and free agency.  That is to say they have made no significant trades so far this year.  With the trade deadline looming, talk is heating up that a move is coming.  Whatever moves they make, it must bring the Jets more depth.  The team needs scoring talent desperately, but it can’t be at the cost of our future.

Back when the Jets were out winning Avco Cups, songwriter Jim Steinman was struggling.  He complained to a friend that no one liked his stuff.  He was told to just write something simple.  So he went off and wrote “2 Out of 3 Ain’t bad”.  The advice was very helpful, as Meatloaf made it one of his most popular songs.  Maybe the Jets could learn from that advice and start getting some people to the net and pick up some simple “greasy goals”. Winnipeg will need to win 2 out of 3 the rest of the way in to have a chance at a playoff spot so in this case 2 out of 3 ain’t bad after all.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Buying, Selling and Horse Trading

By: Mike "BCMike" Fraser
Edited By: Mike "The Deuce" Bailey

Deuce has officially banned me from making any comment about player personnel. After being sold on a Parise for Kane trade by a friend of mine, I betrayed my non expert status by going on line with it.  I was promptly handed my hat with the news that Parise was about to become a UFA next year and therefore the idea was beyond ridiculous.  The muzzle was slapped on and I was told to stick with opinion pieces and leave the fantasy GMing to my betters.

So how does one write anything about the Jets in the time running up to the trade deadline without pontificating about a trade? I wasn’t sure, so I mulled it over. While mulling, I of course monitored Twitter and read the various postings on the message boards. Trade debate flew through the ether and I sat on the sidelines humbly observing the faithful. It was during this time that I noticed something peculiar; the debate was polarizing into two camps.

The ‘tank the season’ crowd is looking hungrily at next year’s crop of draft picks. Their line of thinking is that if we throw in the towel right now and sell off some spare parts we can get some high picks and build from a promising crop of prospects. Admittedly the Jets current prospect cupboard aside from Scheifele is looking a little bare. Common wisdom would suggest that long term winning is a product of building through the draft. A few strategic high round picks could stock this club with talent for years going forward. This crowd dreams of long term dynasties. A little short term pain for some long term gain.

This brings us to the ‘make the play-offs at all costs’ crowd. These fans are in favour of bold moves which could add that infamous missing piece that would help us break through the glass ceiling and into eighth place. They argue that this team has a great young core and that the addition of a proven goal scorer can take us to the Promised Land right now. They suggest dangling draft picks and personnel in front of the leagues sellers in preparation for a playoff push that could lead to who knows where! Their mantra is ‘the time is now!’, and they dream of an inaugural season Stanley Cup. They say bet it all and roll the dice.

I of course I say there must be a third way. Mr. Chipman has often said that he would like to model this club after the storied Detroit Red Wings. If you look at the Red Wings they manage to do something that very few other clubs can: They win and always bring awesome players up through their system.  There is no reason why Winnipeg can’t follow this model, although executing this philosophy is easier said than done. I believe that throwing in the towel and simply rolling over half way into the season would be a huge mistake. This club needs to start out with a philosophy of achievement, and a determination to set up a culture of winning. Making the playoffs should be expected and it should always be the minimum goal of any Winnipeg Jets team no matter how hard they’re struggling to get there. While the play-offs are still attainable, that should be the focus.

Now the question is, do we give anything up to get there? If we’re talking high round draft picks or promising prospects, I say no. Making the playoffs is important, but so too is holding on to our future. Trading parts may be acceptable, if it makes sense, but trading the future is just a little too risky for a club that desperately needs to get some kids into the system.

So what do we do as we approach the deadline? We use common sense. The faithful need to believe that this young corps of players can get them to the playoffs and management needs to identify the baggage. Swapping out the under performers is what the powers that be should be focussed on as we move into the stretch. Add character veterans, or if you can launch a few plumbers in favour of some offense up front.   We all know the Jets have their share of plumbers. But then again trading out parts that don't work for ones that do is the real trick isn’t it?

When looking at the future there should be an extraordinary emphasis on scouting . We need not only to draft high but draft smart. Some of the biggest and brightest stars of the game where drafted late or not drafted at all. Dynasties are built on smart hockey people identifying talent, not just securing high picks. Smart hockey people are the key and I believe True North fully appreciates that.

So there you have it. I’ve managed to get through the Blog without moving any players out of town in favour of end of the season UFA’s .  I believe in this young team and I believe in the organization. Do they need another piece to be great? Yes. Should they trade away the future in search of that piece? Probably not.  At the same time the Jets should still put a winning product on the ice without fearing the loss of a draft pick.

The Jets can have their cake and eat it too. Why not? Detroit manages to.