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Staying the course, of course

Jets GM won't deviate from plan despite missing playoffs again

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Winnipeg Jets general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff offers his thoughts on the season that was during his year-end press conference at the MTS Centre Wednesday.

MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Enlarge Image

Winnipeg Jets general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff offers his thoughts on the season that was during his year-end press conference at the MTS Centre Wednesday. Photo Store

After three seasons and three missed attempts at the Stanley Cup playoffs, Winnipeg Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff addressed reporters and fans on Wednesday with an unwavering philosophy that's not going to change midstream.

"We're not going to deviate from the plan to draft, develop and build," Cheveldayoff said. "There is a fan in you that wants to get there quicker but you keep on working at it and keep on building.

"You can really lose sight of the long-range plans if you fall prey to the short-term disappointments."

Cheveldayoff didn't avoid the team's 37-35-10 record, good for 11th in the Western Conference at 84 points. It's the same record the team posted in 2011-12, its first year in Winnipeg after the relocation.

He said there were ups and downs -- "left for dead" is how he characterized the team when he opted to fire Claude Noel on Jan. 12 and replace him with Paul Maurice, who was extended for four years on Wednesday.

And he cited critical injuries late in the season that put the Jets among the most unfortunate three or four teams in terms of man-games lost, saying some organizations were able to handle that because of a depth the Jets do not currently possess.

'We're not going to deviate from the plan to draft, develop and build. There is a fan in you that wants to get there quicker but you keep on working at it and keep on building. You can really lose sight of the long-range plans if you fall prey to the short-term disappointments'

-- Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff

"That's what the draft and development plan tries to incorporate," he said. "If you try to push them when they're not ready, you'll get results that are going to disappoint you."

Cheveldayoff, who received his own five-year contract extension near the start of the season, spent nearly an hour on numerous subjects on Wednesday, including:

 

No going back on Noel's firing or its timing.

"Hindsight is 20-20 and it's really not fair to go back at that. I think you always can look back and be perfect in your analysis. The decision we made to make a change is something that hurts deep down to my core because Claude Noel is a tremendous coach and an even better person."

 

The Jets have many needs, including at forward.

"We like what we have in a lot of different areas," he said. "We're looking for more depth within the organization. Some if it might have to come from a trade. These are things that we'll have to evaluate and look at.

"We like the group of people we've assembled here. We have some holes in this organization here that if we can fill them in with other players that maybe fit into the core, we'll try and do that."

 

No surprise, the Western Conference and Central Division are going to be tough nuts to crack.

"If you look at the Western Conference, you need strength down the middle," Cheveldayoff said. "Every team can say that. It's not a bold statement by the Winnipeg Jets general manager.

"But you need that right mix. You need those guys that can create some chemistry together, who can fit the style of game that the coach wants to play. We need to get better within our own division. No question about that. Certainly the Western Conference is a beast all its own, but look at the division we're in, there are certainly things that need to be slayed."

 

Jets assistant coaches Charlie Huddy, Pascal Vincent and Wade Flaherty will return next season.

 

Cheveldayoff boldly declared Ondrej Pavelec remains the team's No. 1 goalie for next season, despite his struggles in 2013-14.

"No one person on this team is greater than sum of its parts," he said. "We certainly recognize that there's lots of areas for improvement. He's relatively a young goaltender when it comes to being a starting goaltender. You give those young players those opportunities to excel and there's going to be some bumps along the way.

"Like any professional athlete, the onus is on them to take care of the things they need to do. The onus is on the coach and the organization to put a plan in place to have players being able to succeed.

"At the end of the day, everyone gets judged on the results. I think you have to look also what's going on with the team."

tim.campbell@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 17, 2014 D3

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