Every NHL offseason brings change. Hockey fans don’t need Winnipeg Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff to say that to understand the roster will look different come next October than it does right now.
But as the Jets boss spoke to the media in his end-of-the-season address today, he did make one thing perfectly clear: the organization’s young prospects – players like Mark Scheifele and Jacob Trouba – will get every opportunity to stick with the big club come training camp next fall.
"As an organization, I want every player to have the opportunity and feel that they have the opportunity to play at the level that they deserve to play," said Cheveldayoff. "With respect to those two individuals (Scheifele and Trouba) the opportunity is there in front of them. There is some projection on our part as to what extent do you create opportunities for them. We’re going to have to spend some time making those kind of judgments.
"If we feel that creating spacing is what will help them get in and they deserve that, then that’s what we’re going to do. But that creating space could happen now, it could happen at training camp, it could happen a month into the season.
"As far as giving them ample opportunity to be a part of the Winnipeg Jets, they are on the same equal playing field as every player and are going to have that same scrutiny as well."
Cheveldayoff is leaving on Thursday for Europe and the IIHF World Championships in Finland and Sweden where he will closely monitor Trouba, who is with the American team, as well as Andrew Ladd and Ondrej Pavelec. He also recently watched Scheifele help lead the Barrie Colts into the Ontario Hockey League final, where they’ll meet the London Knights.
Cheveldayoff spent most of today’s session analyzing what went wrong in 2013, a condensed season in which the Jets finished out of the playoffs for the second straight year.
"We got off to a reasonably good start and then the inconsistency crept in and we started to go in a different direction," Cheveldayoff said. "We needed to put the stop-gaps in there to stop going in that direction. Eventually we did.
"At one point in time we were going to win the division, at one point in time we were going to draft first overall. At another point in time we were going to win the division again and then we were only a couple of losses away from being in last place.
"We needed to find a way to be more consistent."
Other items of note from Cheveldayoff’s 31-minute address to the media:
- Evander Kane finished the season with a bad wrist and foot. He will see a specialist about the wrist before a determination is made on whether he would need surgery.
- Mark Stuart played most of the year with an abdominal injury that will also be evaluated.
- On Dustin Byfuglien’s play: "When it comes to Buff, I don’t think we can be totally satisfied with anybody’s play this year because we didn’t make the playoffs, we didn’t get to the next step. Everyone’s got to be pushed, him included."
- On Claude Noel’s status, as the head coach has one more year remaining on his contract: "Claude Noel is the head coach of the Winnipeg Jets. He’s under contract. I know you’re going to ask me about an extension. There’s processes that have to go through, there’s different things you discuss, you talk about, you meet as a group, as a staff."
- The Jets’ nine restricted free agents – Zach Bogosian, Bryan Little, Blake Wheeler, Alex Burmistrov, Eric Tangradi, Anthony Peluso, Zach Redmond, Paul Postma and Arturs Kulda – remain "very much priorities" although no formal contract discussions have startet as of yet.