Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Can't let sentiment trump team's goals

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In some ways the romantic notion of keeping these Winnipeg Jets together because of where they've come from and what they've become is understandable. But this business is about results and if Kevin Cheveldayoff can make his team better today, he should and he will.

They skated off the ice Saturday afternoon in solidarity as the group that has come to be known as the first edition of the new Winnipeg Jets. But will they still be together as one come this afternoon?

Cheveldayoff has needs and desires. A forward or two to round out his four lines and more draft picks are always nice. The Jets GM has been firm in the message that he won't be sending any of his prospects or picks for a rent-a-player. If anything, look for the Jets to move one or two of their impending unrestricted free agents for a piece they think can help now or down the road.

The Jets enter the final hours of the trading season sitting in eighth spot in the Eastern Conference and currently playing some of their best hockey. They've found an elite power forward in Blake Wheeler and developed some scoring punch in the toughest stretch of the season.

Goalies Ondrej Pavelec and Chris Mason continue to be a better-than-most duo and the blue-line is hanging in despite having key performer Zach Bogosian out of the lineup.

The Jets are in a nice place and were Cheveldayoff to stand pat it would be understandable. The Jets are not going to make a blockbuster and move any of their young pieces like Evander Kane or Bogosian or Wheeler, leaving Cheveldayoff to mostly tinker.

It'll be fun to watch unfold and sitting down for the James Duthie Show today will be more riveting than it ever has for Winnipeggers. Don't get me wrong, Duthie is far and away the best in the business at what he does but this year it's both sizzle and steak for Winnipeggers. We're emotionally invested once again.

It's been one thing in the past to watch the deadline day shows but this year, well, that official Jets jersey you're wearing with your favourite player's name on the back could become a collector's item a little faster than you had planned. As in, oops, that guy no longer plays for the Jets.

Mothers and fathers around this city could be explaining to young children the cruelty of professional sports for the first time. Little Suzie may have to learn first-hand what it's like to have the player she loves get shipped to another team.

The long and short of it is we now care more than we have in a very long time. Like many of the nuances of having an NHL team that we've experienced as a community this season, today will bring a whole new set of emotions.

Hope, frustration, heartbreak, joy and disappointment are all on the table today as Cheveldayoff and his group of personnel people spin the NHL's version of Wheel of Fortune.

A key factor today for the Jets is their stability as an organization. Cheveldayoff is in a position of security and doesn't need to make a desperation move to impress ownership and extend his tenure.

Ownership has revenue insurance in the form of a sold-out building for a number of years to come. There will be no panic in the war room when Cheveldayoff and 10 other Jets personnel types settle in. They'll make calls but more likely they'll wait for the phone to ring and hear that fear and desperation on the other end of the line and try to take advantage and press someone else into a mistake.

Cheveldayoff has a couple of assets he believes won't harm his team's chemistry or competiveness and he'll be willing to deal if the return is juicy enough.

So sit back and let the nail biting begin. And if the excitement gets to be a little too much, just harken back to last year when it didn't really matter at all.

This is way better.

gary.lawless@freepress.mb.ca Twitter: @garylawless

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 27, 2012 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 www.winnipegfreepress.com
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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