I was talking with friends the other night about the Winnipeg Jets and they asked me, “What if the Jets don’t play well and finish in the bottom-10 of the league standings this upcoming season?” My original response was, “Not much would probably change… in fact, this team would likely stay on the current course they’re on.”
Since then, I’ve mulled over my answer and I’ve changed my tune. I think the 2021-22 season could be do-or-die for this current core and management group. Kevin Cheveldayoff has been the general manager since the Jets returned to the “True North” in 2011, but has only won three playoff rounds (two in 2018 and one in 2021) – that’s not acceptable over an 11-season span.
If the Jets have an unsuccessful performance, potentially leading to another first-round defeat, I could see ownership blowing up the front office and the coaching staff. The slow and steady, draft and develop approach has been the path this club has followed over the last 10 years, and since then, they’ve only had seven late-round picks playing 10 games or more in the NHL.
Those skaters include Adam Lowry, a third-round pick, who’s played 460 career games. Connor Hellebuyck, a fifth-round pick, who’s played 315 career games. Andrew Copp a fourth-round pick, who’s played 411 career games. Tucker Poolman, a fifth-round pick, who’s played 120 career games. Nelson Nogier, a fourth-round pick, who’s played 11 career games. Mason Appleton, a sixth-round pick, who’s played 138 career games. Lastly, Sami Niku, a seventh-round pick, who’s played 54 career games.
I don’t think it’s time to hit any panic buttons yet, but we can’t forget the Jets lost seven games in a row at the end of last season and have done very little in the playoffs up to this point. In saying that, we probably need to start warming up the hot seats for coach Paul Maurice and Cheveldayoff as this core is starting to age and the window to compete might be starting to close on this team.
I have nothing against the plan that Cheveldayoff and Maurice have gone with but the Jets need to win, that’s simply it. The loudest fans in the NHL deserve a Stanley Cup and we’ve been patient, but it’s time for this club to surpass this mediocrity and start winning when it matters most.
The Jets are starting to watch good young players demand to be moved out of the organization like Jack Roslovic and Niku because they can’t make the NHL roster in the prime of their careers, which isn’t ideal. So if the 2021-22 campaign features another heartbreaking ending, then perhaps it’ll be time to make some changes behind the bench and in the front office.
What do you think, should the Jets shake up things up if they don’t perform well? Or should they just stay the course and let Cheveldayoff carry on? Let me know in the comments below.