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Jets coach practises patience

Making rash decisions is not the sign of success

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Winnipeg Jets head coach Claude Noel

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Winnipeg Jets head coach Claude Noel

And here in Winnipeg the debate rages: Is it the system, the players, the coach or maybe even all three that is holding the mighty Jets to the ground.

It seems the chance to simply have the argument is not enough. Winnipeg hockey fans want the answer, correct that, they want the right answer. Some want an answer now. Even if it remains unclear what are the pertinent questions.

Not long ago this city dreamed of having an NHL team to call its own. But like anything in life, once you get a taste of something good, there is an insatiable demand for more.

Playing to play, as Claude Noel disdainfully puts it, is no longer good enough. Winnipeggers want their team to play to win.

The call-in shows are filled with fury and self-annointed expertise. The exit aisles have been clogged long before the final buzzer on more nights than the marketing department cares to see.

This summer, the first of True North's three-year ticket contracts will come up for renewal and we'll get a second look at how this market feels about NHL hockey at NHL prices.

My guess is the pull will still be strong and the few that elect not to renew will have their seats gobbled up by those on the waiting list. There's no crisis in Winnipeg. But there is reality.

The reality is no franchise sells the playoffs. They sell the regular season and if there is a post-season that gets tacked on, it's a bonus. A bonus some markets get more often than others but it's not a guarantee. Not here. Not anywhere.

The angst this city is experiencing right now can be viewed in a number of ways. Some will say the expectations are hurried and unreal. Some will fear the mood in the stands.

Hopefully, management will understand they can't control the temperature of the marketplace. Just like fans can't stipulate the direction and blueprint of the franchise.

But a desire for more success is healthy in an organization. It can drive it to new heights.

Surely this is just the first stretch of bad water the organization has seen. It will see more, of that you can be certain. Jets management can't and shouldn't flinch in the face of a few tough nights.

Mark Chipman, Kevin Cheveldayoff, Claude Noel and Andrew Ladd all want to win. Badly. Is there room for change with the Jets? Certainly. But jumping to rash decisions less than 10 games into a season is not the hallmark of a franchise built for success.

Some want Cheveldayoff to start making blockbuster trades. Some want Noel fired. Some want Ladd stripped of his captaincy. Really? After nine games? Is it not just a tad early for there to be blood running in the streets?

Maybe the day will come when it's clear someone needs to be fired or traded. But Cheveldayoff hasn't reached that point. That's a good thing. Oh, sure, the GM could swing a deal sending off one of his bit players for someone else's extras, but to what end?

If it's real change you want, a core player with a long-term contract, I say it's too soon.

Cheveldayoff has close to five years left on his contract. He's in charge and will be for a while. His actions are the most important.

Do Winnipeg hockey fans really want a man with an impatient finger on the trigger running their hockey team? Or a leader who exercises patience and due diligence?

It's time for a deep breath. We don't have to like what we're seeing on the ice right now. But it's a fairly small sample size.

Cheveldayoff is thinking big picture. Maybe we all should. Twitter: @garylawless

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition October 22, 2013 C2


Updated on Tuesday, October 22, 2013 at 6:55 AM CDT: Adds photo, changes headline

8:12 AM: adds sidebars

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About Gary Lawless

Gary Lawless is the Free Press sports columnist and co-host of the Hustler and Lawless show on TSN 1290 Winnipeg and
Lawless began covering sports as a rookie reporter at The Chronicle-Journal in Thunder Bay after graduating from journalism school at Durham College in Ontario.
After a Grey Cup winning stint with the Toronto Argonauts in the communications department, Lawless returned to Thunder Bay as sports editor.
In 1999 he joined the Free Press and after working on the night sports desk moved back into the field where he covered pro hockey, baseball and football beats prior to being named columnist.


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