NEWARK - Strange things happen in some NHL cities where GMs are pressured by ownership, media or even fans to go down certain paths.
Not in Winnipeg, however, where Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff has his own map, keeps it to himself and then follows it almost religiously.
In Vancouver the owners and fans didn’t like Alain Vigneault anymore. Out. Philadelphia owner Ed Snyder pushed GM Paul Holmgren into a $23-million mistake named Ilya Bryzgalof. It happens all the time when unqualified people get their hands on the wheel.
Unfettered control of a franchise does not guarantee a GM success but it does afford him the opportunity to do the job he was hired to do and follow his vision.
Sooner or later, all GMs are judged by their records; and in the case of Cheveldayoff, when that day of reckoning arrives it will be based on the merit of his work. No interference also means no excuses.
After two seasons and three drafts the one thing we can say for sure about the Cheveldayoff regime is it’s his plan and he’s doing things his way.
Will it ever pan into playoff gold and the long-term success he says his blueprint is engineered to provide? We don’t know the answer to that just yet.
Cheveldayoff strode to the podium on Sunday afternoon and calmly selected Joshua Morrissey with the 13th pick in the first round despite the player being ranked later in the first round by most forecasters.
Cheveldayoff took Mark Scheifele earlier than most draft experts predicted back in 2011 and was immediately rapped in some corners for the choice.
Now the Morrissey selection also comes as a bit of a surprise. But it shouldn’t.
Cheveldayoff isn’t transparent about much as he likes to keep his business and thoughts on hockey matters to himself but one thing he is happy to expand on is the Jets' need for organizational depth.
The Morrissey pick has to be viewed as a long-term project. It’s unlikely he’ll be a regular in a Jets uniform for a number of years. Despite having a rep for being competitive and possessing superior hockey smarts, he’s undersized and will need some physical growth before he’s NHL ready. Morrissey won’t help the Jets next season and probably not the year after. He needs time.
Cheveldayoff, undoubtedly, is in a position to take a long view of things. Factor in the Jets financial comfort level with sellouts guaranteed for a number of years and corporate support locked in for a decade. Winning might be a priority but not in an "at all costs and right now," fashion.
The Jets can do what they think is right for the organization. That sentence might seem self-evident but it’s not the case with every NHL franchise where a variety of pressures can influence decisions. If the Jets want to select a player they think will be better than his peers in three or four years regardless of the immediate perception, that’s what they can do.
Fans might grate a bit but in reality it’s the position they’ve put the organization in by committing their dollars for years and not on a year-by-year basis as some franchises are forced to live.
Cheveldayoff will never come out and say, "We’re going to do what we think is right and the fans can bide their time." But it’s what his actions say at every turn.
Getting into the playoffs may be the goal of some teams. It’s not Cheveldayoff’s. Winning the playoffs, as in the Stanley Cup, is what his process is based on.
Short-term success is fine but it’s not really on his radar. Turn the clock back to this year’s trade deadline when the Jets were on the bubble to be a playoff team. Cheveldayoff had prospects and picks to peddle in order to strengthen his team. He resisted and the Jets eventually faded and missed out.
Many griped, but watching the playoffs and quality of play it was clear Cheveldayoff would have been burning good wood and getting little heat in return.
Winnipeg just wasn’t ready, and a couple of deadline loaners wouldn’t have dramatically changed that fact.
Sunday he added a roster player in a trade of picks for Michael Frolik and then continually called names, making 10 selections.
Immediately better? A little. Frolik has skill and will improve the Jets. But it would be a stretch to suggest he makes them a playoff team.
Long-term better? Without a doubt. More prospects, more options and more depth. All part of the Cheveldayoff plan.
If you wanted a quick fix, Cheveldayoff clearly was not your man. Jets fans have no other choice but to be patient and hope his process one day delivers a winner.
When? That’s the question many have been asking for some time and will continue to ask.
Cheveldayoff will give us the answer. When the plan says so.