As reported earlier this afternoon, Mark Scheifele is headed back to Barrie after his brief turn in the NHL. The Kitchener native had an impressive pre-season before scuffling against the grown-ups, potting one goal during his seven game vignette with declining ice time as the games progressed.
In my view, there really wasn’t much of a decision to make. Scheifele isn’t remotely ready to be a serious contributor at the NHL level, and given the potential contract ramifications of starting his UFA clock this year, Cheveldayoff had to go this route if he was actually interested in furthering his number one pick’s long-term development while protecting the interests of the club.
The young man clearly wasn’t a legit NHLer at 18, and that ended up being the primary factor in determining his fate for the season, which is a nice change from the manner business was conducted before the team moved north. Atlanta had kept their last three first rounders on the NHL roster, irrespective of their maturity level, and to no good end. It almost certainly has set Zach Bogosian back, and the evidence is fairly slight that Kane or Burmistrov benefited from the rushed start to their NHL careers.
Atlanta was in the business of using hope to try to sell tickets in an unfriendly market place, of course, so there was always the sense that considerations beyond the purely developmental appeared to trump doing the best thing for the players. The Thrashers also might have needed bonuses to keep the team over the salary floor, so they did have plenty of extenuating circumstances that appeared to skew their decision making process. Still, the net effect is that the club was trading control over players’ 25-26 seasons for their 18-19 years. That’s no way to run a franchise.
Winnipeg is exempt from having to waste the teenage years of their draftees in the quest to sell tickets, obviously, so they’ve taken advantage of their currently comfortable situation to do the right thing for the development of a player that the franchise needs to do well over the long term. There were no losers here, to my mind. Scheifele got a few hundred grand in bonus cash to take back to Barrie, and the club got a chance to assess their top forward prospect under the gun for a few weeks.
In the end, whether Mark Scheifele was the right pick this summer will play out as it does, but there shouldn’t be any argument that this afternoon, at least, the right move was made.