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Chevy's dander up over baseless Scheifele chatter

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Cool. Focused. Confident.

This is Winnipeg Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff.

In his nearly two years on the job, he has rarely, if ever, been heard going off message. In fact, he's the man Mark Chipman (and David Thomson) hired to set the hockey message for their organization.

So when Cheveldayoff's blood starts to run a little, you notice.

Last weekend, at an intermission where he was watching 2011 first-round draft pick Mark Scheifele, Cheveldayoff obliged a conversation about the organization's top prospect.

He was asked to comment on chatter out there in some corners of the hockey world that he and the Jets might be disappointed, maybe impatient or worried that Scheifele did not stick with the NHL team after the lockout.

Cheveldayoff became angered without so much as raising his voice. But his eyes flared and his words were not tame.

"I'm worried? Me?" he said. "You know what, I can't even comment on stuff like that. It's not even dignified to comment on it. This player was in the top three for his team at the World Junior. You talk to his coaches about what he was like at the World Junior; this can't be farther from the truth.

"That's the hard part about the world we're living in. It takes one person to say, 'Chevy's thinking this,' and it can have no basis or merit to it whatsoever, so where's the accountability from the person starting this?

"If you hear it from my mouth, believe it. If you don't hear it from my mouth, don't believe it.

"That's, I think, the bottom line. He's got 39 goals. He's becoming a leader. He's doing all those things that need to be done. I don't even know how to respond to that."

Was he disappointed to have to make the send-down decision after four NHL games this season for Scheifele?

"You're using the term disappointed," the GM said. "Why should we be bringing that up? Why should a 19-year-old have to play in the National Hockey League? Why should an 18-year-old have to play in the National Hockey League? These are things that we as an impatient society, group, hockey industry want to happen now. I don't get it. There's not an ounce of disappointment about sending him back to junior.

"These are things that single words can misconstrue so much. Nineteen-year-olds should be at the junior level unless they are absolutely ready to play at the National Hockey League level. We've talked with Mark when sending him back, we think the skills are there. We thing the hockey sense is definitely there. We think the ability to play with NHL people, that's there. The thing we want to make sure we don't make a mistake on is strength. You can't push a kid to grow. You can't push him; those things just happen on their own. Again, I'm just citing a case in point, but today Buffalo just sent back Michael Grigorenko.

"It shouldn't be a knock against anyone. But it's the reality for 18- and 19-year-old kids, that we as an industry, it's like eating your own young. Why do we want to do that?"

The more calm elements of the conversation at that intermission were immensely supportive of the progress Scheifele continues to make, including comments the player made in an interview with the Free Press a week ago.

"When a young player still realizes there is still lots to learn, yeah, that is a sign that he is kind of maturing," Cheveldayoff said. "He's playing for a coach that really, the more you ask him and the more you tap into his experiences, are only going to help you down the line.

"In today's day and age, it's information now, it's technology now, it's everything now. It's young kids that want now. We all want it now. You've got hundreds of channels to watch on TV, the Internet, you name it and it's like if you're not going to get it here and now, then I'm going to go somewhere else and get it now.

"So it's refreshing to hear when a player knows that in due time, I'll get there and I'm going to continue to learn until I do."

There is no doubt Cheveldayoff has some level of frustration with the hurry many fans seem to have in all areas, underscored by the team's recent surge in the standings. The perfect multiple-meaning of the word "rush."

Of course he understands it.

But the way the GM also answered some recent questions about trade rumours confirm some frustration. It also leaves little doubt he's going to continue to be his analytical self. And patient as well, even if some element of Jets Nation is otherwise.


Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 19, 2013 D2

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