5 interesting thoughts from Kevin Cheveldayoff’s interview with Bob McKenzie

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Screen cap courtesy: TSN.ca

Bob McKenzie, being the elite hockey reporter he is, conducted an interview with the General Manager for each of Western Canada’s four NHL hockey teams.

One of these four of course is the Winnipeg Jets. McKenzie produced some interesting quotes from Jets’ Kevin Cheveldayoff.

The full 30-minute interview can be seen here on TSN, but here are what we think is the five most interest topics McKenzie and Cheveldayoff discussed.

The Evander Kane, Zach Bogosian, and Jason Kasdorf trade was about the future just as much as the present

Cheveldayoff placed Winnipeg in the centre of media attention with last year’s biggest blockbuster trade.

The Winnipeg Jets sent Evander Kane, Zach Bogosian, and NCAA goaltender prospect Jason Kasdorf to the Buffalo Sabres for Tyler Myers, a pending free-agent Drew Stafford, two prospects in Brendan Lemieux and Joel Armia, and a first round pick, which turned into Jack Roslovic.

At the time, the Jets locker room had some distractions with controversy surrounding Kane being brought being the centre of media’s spotlight.

Cheveldayoff discussed how it was making the move at the time when the Jets were in the middle of a playoff push:

Certainly it was a big move. The timing of it, obviously in the middle of the season, it was something that was a very important step for us. I think that the pieces that we acquired really helped us in the short term. Certainly getting Myers and Stafford to come into our line up at that point in time, it was a real big step for us. It really helped us to make our push down the stretch.

At the time Bogosian was a struggling commodity that looked as though he would never meet the lofty expectations many had on him since the NHL Entry Draft. Kane was a shadow of himself due to a shoulder injury that eventually led him to shutting himself down for the remainder of the season.

The Jets received an injection of offense from Myers and Stafford, in return for a struggling player and an injured player.

Myers went on to score at a 51 point per 82 game pace as a Jet, while Stafford scored at a 60 point pace. The underlying numbers did suggest that those numbers were inflated, that one should more reasonably expect a 35 point pace from Myers and a 40 point pace from Stafford. Still, that offense coupled, with the additions of Jiri Tlusty and Lee Stempiak and Ondrej Pavelec’s hot streak, pushed the Jets 2.0 into their very first playoff berth.

But Cheveldayoff doesn’t see the trade just as a short-term patch. Chevy iterated often about the longterm benefice: “in the short term (the trade) helped, but in
the long term there is going to be some good benefits with that as
well.”

The Jets acquired three prospects as part of the deal for Kane, Bogosian, and Kasdorf, with Lemieux, Armia, and Roslovic. All three prospects that made Jets Nation’s Top 20 Prospects list.

Winnipeg fans were able to get a first-hand glimpse of the gritty goalscorer Lemieux at the YoungStars tournament in Penticton. They will also be seeing the quick and skilled winger Joel Armia plenty in Winnipeg, whether it be the Moose or Jets. Jack Roslovic is a bit further away with playing in the NCAA but has a tonne of upside to him.

Not only are the prospects a move to the future, but the NHL level trade helps as well.

While the book is not closed yet between whether Myers serves as an upgrade or not on Bogosian, there is some benefit in their contracts. The Jets as a budget team worry more about salary than a player’s hit on the Salary Cap. Myers carries a contract with descending salary, while Bogosian moves upwards.

The swap between Myers and Bogosian means the Jets save dollars while carrying a similar cap hit.

Jets Nations Top 20 Prospects Profiles:

The Jets earned their playoff berth last season

Last season the Jets were part of a very tight race for the playoffs, and did not mathematically cement their position until the second last game of the season.

When asked about what the Jets need to take into this season from last, Cheveldayoff spoke on the Jets needing to stay humble and look at to what made them who they were:

The biggest thing for us is to remember how we got there. We got there by earning the opportunity to get there. It wasn’t coming through the back door. It wasn’t getting lucky. It was the fact that we banded together as a team and right from the beginning, from the drop of the puck at training camp, we understood that we had to earn the right to get into the playoffs. I think we have to do the same thing there.

The numbers agree that the Jets were not lucky to make it into the post-season.

The Jets sat at 15th in all-minutes goal differential. Their PDO number of 100.2 meant the Jets percentage of goals scored per shot was only 0.2 points above their oppositions.

At 5-on-5, the Jets carried the 5th highest score-adjusted Corsi percentage and had the 7th highest shot attempt differential. Looking as far back as the 2007-2008 season, teams that out attempt their opposition tend to outscore as well. The Jets out-scored their opposition at 5-on-5 by 18 goals and their performance in Corsi suggests the number was sustainable.

One of the reasons though the Jets did struggle was with their penalty differential. The Jets at times were further from the league’s second most penalized team than that team was from the league average in penalty minutes.

This had a negative impact in their overall shot differentials, shooting percentage, save percentage, and goal differentials.

Part of the Jets high penalty minutes came from the highly aggressive style-of-play that Paul Maurice built into the Winnipeg Jets, although this was also a part of their success in being able to out perform their opposition.

If the Jets want to repeat their success though, they will need to improve this area, especially in non-aggressive penalties such as errant high-sticks and obstruction penalties. The race will be tough once again in a stacked Central Division.

Chevy notes this and says “in our conference, in our division, we have to be cognitive of the fact that we have to earn our opportunity each and every night.”

What to expect from Alexander Burmistrov

After two-years of rumours on how relationships were and whether or not Burmistrov would ever return to the NHL, the young Russian forward will be once again playing for the Winnipeg Jets.

Where he fits though remains to be seen per Cheveldayoff:

There is going to be a little bit of a feeling out period. Training camp will be a unique situation in a lot of respects to see where he’ll fit in position wise. He has the ability to play centre. He has the ability to play wing.

Burmistrov spent his 19 and 20-year-old seasons playing both positions as a Jet. Any survey of his performance at that time would come with highly varying results.

The numbers show why there was such a dichotomy in opinion over Burmistrov:

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Burmistrov has been an exceptional defensive player. “People do not really understand how good defensively (Burmistrov) is,” Cheveldayoff notes of Burmistrov. “He is a very good penalty killer. Very good first man on the puck type forechecker.”

The numbers above display how Burmistrov has been one of the NHL’s elite in terms of reducing chances against. Because of this, Burmistrov has had one of the Jets best impacts on shot differentials.

In many ways this sounds much like the Michael Frolik, who walked from the Jets to free agency this summer.

Many have suggested that the Jets are likely to deploy Burmistrov in a similar manner. Frolik bounced between lines as needed, played top penalty kill minutes, and was rarely on the power play.

The difference between the players though is in the scoring. Burmistrov has yet to display any scoring prowess at the NHL level. However, his numbers in the KHL and also the typical aging curve suggests he will be much better though.

Cheveldayoff then reminds Jets fans that Burmistrov still has untapped potential:

He was an extremely skilled junior hockey player when he was drafted. I think those talents are still being scratched as far as the surface goes.
We’re hoping that those things can flourish… 
He is two years more mature as a hockey player. You see players come in
at 18-years-old in the national hockey league and sometimes you have to take that step back. We really think that having him back in our fold as a young player that is still developing and growing is a really good thing.

There is an open top-nine roster spot for one of Nic Petan, Nikolaj Ehlers, and Joel Armia

McKenzie, like us at Jets Nation, noticed that the Jets are currently carrying eight experienced and capable top-nine NHL forwards.

This means that there is still one spot up for grabs.

When asked about this, Kevin Cheveldayoff highlighted three prospects for the open position.

A player like Joel Armia, who was acquired in the Kane trade, is someone that for us is a player that has pro experience at the European level and has now had several years of pro experience at the American league level. We think he is a guy that is a prime candidate to take the next step and has the skills to play in a top nine role as he finds his way in the national hockey league. Obviously we have some younger players that have the opportunity to turn pro. A player like Nic Petan who had a tremendous training camp last year and really turned some heads in the coach’s eyes. Obviously a player like Nik Ehlers who had a tremendous junior year last year. An exciting player. A dynamic player. Again, there is going to be some opportunities.

Cheveldayoff emphasizes Armia’s experience, which may suggest that Armia is coming into camp at a slight advantage over the alternatives. Armia was an exceptional player in the Finish Liiga and one of the best young goal scorers ever seen at that level. Since moving to North America, there has been criticism on Armia’s consistency, or lack thereof, but Armia remains an exceptionally skilled player. He has both size and speed, while carrying a wicked shot.

There were many fans that thought Petan was one of the highlights of last season’s training camp, and it appears many in the Jets’ organization agree. While a natural centre, Petan is not limited to that position. Petan spent time last season on the wing for the World Juniors, and performed exceptionally well.

“When you play in the World Juniors and play
out of position a little bit, sometimes you open some eyes up and
say: maybe he can play wing,” Cheveldayoff said of Petan. “That’s an opportunity for him to have a
chance at a second spot in the line up. Doesn’t just have to play
centre. Players with hockey sense like his, and dynamic play and
playmaking ability, just seemingly find a way to make things happen.”

The final player Cheveldayoff mentions as a possible player for the final top-nine role is Ehlers. While Ehlers struggled in the first two games of the YoungStars tournament, he dominated the third, scoring three assists and controlling the puck and the play.

There were rumours that Ehlers wishes to play in Europe if he cannot make it into the NHL, but Cheveldayoff stated that they will look at the options if and only when they have to make the decision.

None of the players will be gifted a spot. In the end, it comes down to opportunity and earning the position, notes Cheveldayoff:

That is what training camp is for. Siting here last year at this point in time, it seemed like we had a glaring hole at centre. Lo-and-behold the captain of our Penticton team, Adam Lowry, found his way into the line up and made an impact. That is what the process is for the Jets. For us is giving those young kids an opportunity to spred their wings and grow. For us that is how we are going to have to grow as a franchise.

Prepare for Andrew Copp to be the Jets 4th line centre eventually, if not soon

When the Winnipeg Jets signed Andrew Copp to an entry level contract last year, it was a big investment.

The timing and content on the signing caused the Jets to essentially “burn” the first of three years of his ELC cost controlled term for one single NHL game.

The Jets were showing that they had faith in Copp and hoped for Copp to prove them right.

While Copp never scored like an exceptional difference maker in the NCAA, he did well enough that when you add his qualitative factors Copp earned his way into the #10 position in Jets Nations’ Top 20 Prospects.

In the interview Cheveldayoff gives a glowing scouting report on the young, two-way centre:

When we watched him play in the world juniors two years ago, he had a realy mature game when it came to playing against his peers. You could really see that he had strength; he had man strength. He was a player that was really dominant in the faceoff circle. He really played a pro game two years ago. He was captain at Michigan which was a tremendous honour in a tremendous program. We don’t take those things lightly, and certainly he didn’t.

Copp both quantitatively and qualitatively exudes many of the factors one would hope to have on their fourth line. The Jets even gave Copp a single game of NHL experience last year to get his feet wet.

This puts Copp as a leading candidate for their vacated fourth-line, centre position with the absence of Jim Slater. The only questions is: now or later?

“He has a real legitimate chance at
sticking with the big club this year,” Cheveldayoff says when asked about Copp on the fourth line. “If not, he’s extremely close to
a player that can bring a big-body, strong, physical, two-way
presence to our lineup, whatever level of the lineup he plays in.”

The only real competition though for the role seems to come from Patrice Cormier, who failed to take that position away from Jim Slater or Eric O`Dell historically.