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'Something needs to change'

Jets have options to improve team but no fix is quick

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Jets general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff (left) isn't going to rush into pushing a panic button.

JOHN WOODS / THE CANADIAN PRESS ARCHIVES Enlarge Image

Jets general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff (left) isn't going to rush into pushing a panic button.

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- It sure didn't sound like anybody was eager to keep going down the same road when two veteran members of the Winnipeg Jets spoke to reporters after Saturday's disheartening 6-4 loss to the Dallas Stars.

Both captain Andrew Ladd and right-winger Blake Wheeler, who had his second straight two-goal game, made it clear something's got to change.

Ladd, asked if something drastic needs to happen after the Jets lost all three games at the MTS Centre last week -- gaining only one point from a shootout loss to Colorado on Thursday -- said this: "I don't know. It's not my decision to make. But obviously something needs to change."

Wheeler didn't disagree and was more visibly frustrated.

"What I say doesn't matter," Wheeler said. "It's what you do out on the ice. You can blow smoke as much as you want in the media. We've been blowing smoke for three years, everyone, myself, everyone that's stood in front of a microphone in the last three years, we've said the same s . What do you want me to say. That's about it. I don't know what else to say."

Heading for tonight's game in Nationwide Arena against the Columbus Blue Jackets, the options for change aren't abundant. But the Jets could:

 

1. Make a trade

There are rumours out there; indeed, there are always rumours. The names Evander Kane and Dustin Byfuglien have been heard but nothing's been verified.

As pushy and punchy as fans and media can be about trades, they are not easily made, and trading during a time of team weakness is always a poor policy. In fact, some ill-advised trades from this franchise's past continue to haunt it and have played a big factor in general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff's adamant stand he will not sell the future for short-term fixes and the Jets must draft well and develop from within.

A case can be made Cheveldayoff needs to change something within the team's core to take it on a different path, but you can take it to the bank he'll be wary if -- and it's a big if -- he's considering trading away any of the team's big names. Rarely does the team giving up the best player in a deal win a transaction.

 

2. Dismiss the coach

It's almost always the easiest move and we'd suggest coaching changes that cause direct and dramatic turnarounds aren't that common. Recent moves bringing Darryl Sutter to L.A. and Ken Hitchcock to St. Louis are the exceptions, not the rule.

And if the Jets are to go down this road, who's next? Cheveldayoff would have to have a better option to turn to, and who's really out there right now? The names Paul Maurice and Peter Laviolette come up but there would seem to be more attractive options in the off-season.

If he was going to move now, could Cheveldayoff risk bringing in a coach without something of an NHL resumé, especially given the long list of men who have tried and more or less failed with the Thrashers/Jets?

And does the GM really just want to let his players off the hook?

 

3. Make a recall or two

It's probably the most doable of all the options, but impact would seem improbable.

The Jets do have some bona fide prospects developing with the AHL's St. John's IceCaps and two or three might even merit a chance. But are Eric O'Dell, Adam Lowry, Brendan Kichton, Patrice Cormier, J.C. Lipon, Zach Redmond or Carl Klingberg ready to move the needle in Winnipeg?

And how much risk is there to the development program if you promote a player into a situation where he won't or can't yet make an impact?

 

4. Change the culture

This is what Cheveldayoff says he's been trying to do since Day 1. And he's made no promises this could happen in a significant way in a year, or even two.

The theory goes that a new way of thinking, with a new attitude and new habits, will lead to a new and better way of playing.

This will surely be through a new wave of talent in the future. As much as they're progressing so far, it seems unlikely Jacob Trouba or Mark Scheifele can cause the team to do a 180-degree turn today.

Can the GM himself do anything? Would a simple speech, maybe some yelling and screaming, have any effect in this way at the present time? It's hard to tell, but seems a little superficial and old-school for a problem with multiple layers of causes.

tim.campbell@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition December 16, 2013 C3

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