Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Jets play it smart and do nothing

In no rush to sign costly free agents

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Patience and prudence are going to be the hallmarks of this Winnipeg Jets management team and Friday's inactivity on the free agent market will be the trend and not the aberration.

Few expected the Jets to go out and get Brad Richards or Jaromir Jagr and if they did, they don't understand what this organization is going to be about.

The Jets are nowhere near being a contender. Maybe they're close to being a playoff team, but even that is in question. Foundation, as in young players that fit the organizational mould, is the object of the franchise's desire at this point.

Flash and expensive veteran scoring can come later, if and when required. Winning a few extra games today can't come at the cost of transforming into a contender down the line.

Winnipeg is drunk on the return of the Jets today but a time will come when a winning product is needed to keep the registers ringing. The path to becoming that kind of a team isn't a short one and for a small market team like the Jets it will require discipline.

Forget the fact the Jets are flush with cash today and have lots of cap room. Those are red herrings that distract from the big picture.

Winnipeg, regardless of our recent Drive to 13,000 success, is the NHL's smallest market with the league's smallest building. Yes, the ticket revenue ranks in the top third of the league but the rest of the revenue streams will grade lower in the 30-team league.

The Jets won't be a have-not organization but they need to step carefully and spend wisely. Despite the clamouring from fans and media -- the Jets have a plan and it's long range with the payoff, hopefully, coming down the line.

"Hey Cheveldayoff... 13,000 Winnipeggers opened their wallets within seconds. Time for you to open Mark Chipman's AGAIN," wrote @Dust_Rem on Twitter.

Sportsnet national columnist Mark Spector weighed in with this Twitter jab:

"Is Winnipeg still in the league? Where are the Jets today?"

Hopefully the Jets are biding their time. Just because they didn't sign any big names on Friday doesn't mean they're done in the free agent market. Pieces can be added in the coming days and not at the inflated price of opening day.

There's no panic or need to gamble. Winnipeg can build in a deliberate manner and doesn't need to react to the whims of observers and outsiders.

Will the plan work? Certainly there's no guarantee, but plotting one's course is always a better risk than throwing darts in the dark.

Jets management can watch all the film they want but until they've lived a season with their roster they really won't know what they have and what they need.

Sure, they can identify needs such as scoring and defence but those problems are rarely solved with the signing of one player.

Before we start rattling the cage demanding big moves shouldn't we know the score with this group?

Maybe Evander Kane is ready to push through as a 40-goal man. Maybe not. But Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff has only been in charge of this roster for a month. Can he realistically be expected to understand it for all its strengths and weaknesses?

The answer is no.

Better for Cheveldayoff to continue collecting youth and potential than to try and add finishing pieces.

Another comment from Twitter on Friday came from columnist Steve Simmons.

"Sometimes the smartest teams on July 1st are the ones who do nothing."

Hear, hear.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 2, 2011 C1

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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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