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General Manager Spotlight – Kevin Cheveldayoff

Considering the type of season the Jets are having and that there are only five general managers with a longer tenure than Kevin Cheveldayoff, it felt fitting to shine a little light on the man at the Jets’ helm. The Saskatoon native played his junior hockey with the Brandon Wheat Kings and, while he was drafted in the first round of the 1988 NHL Entry Draft, due to a career-ending knee injury, he never played a game in the NHL. It should be noted that Cheveldayoff was drafted amongst the likes of Mike Modano, Trevor Linden, Jeremy Roenick, Rod Brind’Amour and Teemu Selänne, so you know the man could play. This impressive hockey IQ is likely why he was able to seamlessly transition to coaching and later to the front office.

 

Before making the jump to the NHL, Cheveldayoff served as an assistant coach for the Denver/Utah Grizzlies in the IHL for three seasons and helped the team win two Turner Cups. After his brief stint behind the bench, Cheveldayoff transitioned to the front office with the Chicago Wolves and won two Turner Cups. Once the IHL was absorbed into the AHL, he proceeded to lead the Wolves to the Calder Cup in their inaugural season in the league. After spending over a decade with the Wolves, Cheveldayoff seized his opportunity to become the assistant general manager to the legendary Stan Bowman in Chicago. True to form, in his inaugural season with the club, the ‘Hawks won their first Stanley Cup in 49-years. This immediate success caught the eye of True North Sports & Entertainment and Cheveldayoff was named the replacement for Rick Dudley as the Jets manager for their comeback tour to Winnipeg.

It’s hard to believe that it was a decade ago when NHL hockey came back to the ‘Peg. We should all be thankful that when it did, Cheveldayoff was the man leading the charge. The new GM clearly has a knack for identifying talent because draft picks Mark Scheifele, Kyle Connor, Nikolaj Ehlers, Josh Morrissey and Connor Hellebuyck have all shown themselves to be stars in the NHL. Cheveldayoff’s shrewd moves paved the way for the Jets to make their first Western Conference Finals appearance ever and, although they fell short to the red-hot Las Vegas Golden Knights, Cheveldayoff finished as a finalist for the General Manager of the Year award. But like all of us, he’s not without his faults. Inking Olli Jokinen for two-years at $9 million to bring veteran leadership to the team didn’t pan out as planned, and he likely regrets letting Michael Frolik walk away in free agency. Having said that, shipping out a disgruntled Evander Kane and Patrik Laine proves that Cheveldayoff knows the dangers of having a negative cloud hanging over a team’s dressing room.

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Cheveldayoff has never shied away from making a big move at the trade deadline, so as Apr. 12 inches closer there’s no doubt that the Jets’ GM is making calls 24/7. Considering the Jets currently sit two points behind the North Division leaders with three games in hand on the Oilers, if the opportunity arises to make a move, he’ll do it. There’s no denying that the Jets’ blue-line needs a boost, but whether it comes from a rental or a player with a year-or-two left on their deal remains to be seen. The looming Expansion Draft will force Cheveldayoff to be calculated with his moves, and maybe it’s because he’s from Saskatchewan, but he’s never been one to sell-the-farm. But if there was ever a year to do it, this is the one. The Jets look good and if the defense gets a boost, the forwards keep lighting-the-lamp and Hellebuyck gets hot, the North Division will be theirs for the taking. Cheveldayoff may have only been a finalist for the General Manager of the Year award in 2018, but if he can pull off some slick moves at the deadline, he could win the GM of the Year trophy and the Stanley Cup in the same year.

I’m pretty sure he only cares about the latter… and frankly, so do we.

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