Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Cheveldayoff correctly resisted temptation to mortgage Jets' future for immediate help

Sticking to his blueprint

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Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff would have been foolish to pay the price being asked for players on Wednesday.

And for what? To maybe get the Jets into the playoffs? To see them get bounced out of the first round? Cheveldayoff has preached patience and is less than two years into a long-term plan. Now is not the time for rash manoeuvres.

If the Jets, losers of six of their last eight and four in a row, were more than a .500 team (18-18-2) with real post-season potential, one could understand Cheveldayoff flipping some of his picks to bolster his roster. But the Jets are a bubble team at best, despite the mirage of being the Eastern Conference third seed as a result of their tenuous grip on the Southeast Division.

No, this group hasn't earned the right to have Cheveldayoff waver from his blueprint. They've earned the right to stick together and Cheveldayoff gave them their due by not packaging off impending free agents for draft picks.

If they get in, it will be on their own steam and not at the expense of the organization's future

This franchise has seen that movie and is still paying for it today.

"There is a vacuum in our organization that ties back to what transpired on a day just like this," said Cheveldayoff. "The Atlanta Thrashers organization made a conscious decision, they were leading their division (in 2007) and the lead was beginning to slip away, so they made a choice to acquire several players at the deadline. The end result was they won the division and got into the playoffs (they were swept in four straight by the New York Rangers).

"They traded for Keith Tkachuk giving up a first-, second- and third- round pick. They traded younger players (Braydon Coburn) for older players (Alexei Zhitnik). Those deals had an immediate impact. But the long-term and long lasting effect is what we are dealing with today."

The only way for Cheveldayoff to improve his team immediately was to trade draft picks and he simply wasn't willing to pay that price. Those picks may not seem very valuable today in the midst of a playoff race but in Cheveldayoff's plan they are the very lifeblood of the organization's future.

"The hardest thing for me is to try and accelerate a process that can't be accelerated," said Cheveldayoff. "It's a vicious circle. If you don't draft players and develop them into assets, then you can't do anything on a deadline day. If you choose to trade your draft picks for assets for the now, you forgo the opportunity to build a sustainable system with a sustainable flow of players."

Cheveldayoff did field offers on Alex Burmistrov but wasn't able to make a match. So now it's time for Claude Noel to coach him.

Noel and Burmistrov don't have to like one another but they must figure out a way to coexist. Burmistrov needs to bend a little and play the way Noel wants him to and the coach needs to promote him from the fourth line, giving him the ice time and linemates needed for production.

Burmistrov is a talented but mercurial youngster who fights with his coach.

"Noel yells and swears at Burmi and if you know Burmi, he can't be pushed around. He yells right back at him," said a source Wednesday.

Maybe this rift all fell on Burmistrov's shoulders at one time but the longer it goes, the more responsibility Noel must share. It's not like the Jets have an abundance of players with Burmistrov's skill set in the organization.

The player simply can't be wasted. The Jets need to get whatever they can from him and the current approach isn't working.

Burmistrov's style of play is frustrating. He gets the puck and holds it but little develops from his flash. He needs to play a simpler game within the structure of the system laid out by Noel.

It's Noel's job to make that happen. Parking him on the fourth line or in the press box isn't doing the player or the team any good.

Is the player stubborn? Sounds like it. But the prospect of bigger minutes and time with Evander Kane might be enough to move him off his stance.

The Jets have 10 games to go and still own a playoff spot. It's time to get wins and forget everything else. Deal with the big picture in the summer.

Burmistrov is one of Noel's very limited offensive options right now. Use him.

This is the team Noel has been left to coach and he has to get them turned around or this will be another long summer.

Cheveldayoff has the luxury of planning for the future. Noel does not. He must live in the here and now and Burmistrov is the present.

Twitter: @garylawless

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 4, 2013 D1

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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
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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