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Makings of a mutant team

July 16, 2011

The new Winnipeg Jets were the darlings of the NHL for all of about a week this summer. Really, they should have finagled their rebirth into a summer-long love affair. But they didn’t. It seems the new Jets have done everything in their power to squander whatever goodwill they could have gained.

The hockey world is excited for them. The grand announcement over a month ago, in which True North and Bettman confirmed what we had perhaps expected, was a thrilling moment. The selling of 13,000 season tickets in 16 minutes was record-setting. But ever since then, the Jets have failed to do anything right, or so it seems.

Let’s take this in chronological order.

Start with the draft. I recognize there are delays in the creation of jerseys, in designs. But jeez, you’d have thought True North would have spent years behind-the-scenes creating a new look and logo. None of it. While the mere fact they’d be called the “Jets” was made public that night, there was little else done. Oh, and selecting Mark Schiefele. What?!? I think he could work out to be a solid NHL player, from all I’ve read. But why didn’t they did Sean Couturier? He could have stepped in during the next season or two. And he would have been a steal at the seventh pick. All around, poor choices.

Then the coaching fiascoes. If I were a Winnipeg fan, I’d be frustrated and perplexed at this stage. They threw out a perfectly good Craig Ramsay, but also limited his ability to find new work but telling him for a month not to pursue other offers. I have a soft-spot for Ramsay, as the former Bruins assistant coach and architect of their defensive regime. But still, what were they thinking? They’ve plugged in serviceable Claude Noel from the Manitoba Moose. It’s clear the management’s allegiance is to their AHL roots, not the hardworking folks of the Thrashers or anyone with requisite experience to make an NHL team successful.

Or maybe they want to wash their hands clean? This total de-Thrasherization process seems needless on so many levels. The players are undergoing enough of a major change. Why throw the baby out with the bath-water?

But then what they’ve done with their AHL-affiliate situation is most strange. And also most dangerous, for what happens on the farm could have ramifications for a long time. Since their switcheroo, in which the Jets decided to move their affiliate to St John’s, they named a former Moose assistant as head coach. Remember, the team he’s coaching is NOT the Moose, but the former Chicago Wolves. Those Wolves are now the Vancouver Canucks’ affiliate. But the players are switched around. So, a new coach, with a new team, in a new location, all at once! Just like the NHL, but on the farm. What a world.

I know it’s hockey. I know it’s a business. I know there are personnel changes to be made. But so many of the moves made by the Jets thus far create unnecessary turbulence. It’s too much upheaval, and moreover, it doesn’t seem like it’s actually improved the team at all.

Also, in closing, why not come out with a splash in free agency? Are the coffers that bare? But is Eric Fehr the best they’ll do? Or will they proceed to pick off whatever Manitoba-born players they can the rest of the summer?

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