Like a rock: Chevy steadfast


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PENTICTON, B.C. -- Kevin Cheveldayoff has heard the grumbling he has not done much to change or improve the Winnipeg Jets this summer.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 14/09/2014 (3008 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

PENTICTON, B.C. — Kevin Cheveldayoff has heard the grumbling he has not done much to change or improve the Winnipeg Jets this summer.

He made it clear on Saturday, a tournament off-day for the Winnipeg Jets prospects he’s watching in the Okanagan, he holds a different opinion about the off-season.

“I think that the biggest thing that happened to us was the signing of Paul Maurice,” the Jets’ GM told the Free Press on Saturday. “Although that happened part-way through the season last year, when he committed to our organization and we committed to him on a long-term contract, there was a little bit of a difference than just making the change (in January).”

Mike Deal / Winnipeg Free press files GM Kevin Cheveldayoff

The Jets signed their new coach to a four-year contract just a few days after the completion of their 84-point season in 2013-14.

When Maurice took over from Claude Noel in mid-January, he and the Jets agreed on only the rest of the season and that each would figure out what to do at the end of the year.

“When we made the (coaching) change when we did, people tended to kind of gloss over (the new contract),” Cheveldayoff said. “But having him run his first training camp, the expectations that he set out at the end of the year and down the stretch, those things are important and that obviously is a big part of the off-season.”

The GM also pointed to a signing that came late in the season that he says has been forgotten by some, that he got Mark Stuart’s name on a four-year, $10.5-million extension.

“Those are things that people, who said we didn’t sign anybody, well, we did. We could have chosen to let Mark Stuart go or he could have chosen to walk away, but collectively he made the decision to stay.

“Plus we made a change at the centre position with Mathieu Perreault. And there’s going to be some real competition for some fourth-line spots. We have some people like T.J. Galiardi, who’s a veteran at the NHL level, and obviously Matt Halischuk was brought back.

“Regardless of whether they have one-way or two-way contracts, this camp is going to be a little bit different than the past. There are some young players here who will be given long looks. They’ll be given the opportunity to show they’ve earned the right to play at the NHL level.”

Cheveldayoff said he understands the impatience of some Jets fans.

“I think it’s human nature to be impatient,” he said. “We live in a society where everyone wants to know everything now. That’s the reality of the situation. Everyone tends to focus on their own situation, be it the community or the province, and we’re the Winnipeg Jets and everyone’s focused on that.

“If you look at the process of the way things have happened in different organizations throughout the NHL, there are a lot of parallels as to how things take time to grow and develop. You draft a player at the end of June, but those players don’t start coming into the NHL equation for several years.”

And Cheveldayoff pointed to his consistency of plan and action in his tenure in charge of the Jets.

“The fact that we’ve said from Day 1 we were going to have to employ a draft-and-develop model to continue to grow this franchise, that’s something that hasn’t changed,” he said. “It’s been a consistent message from the beginning and we’ve been fortunate to maybe have seen the acceleration of it in a couple of players like Mark Scheifele and Jacob Trouba and here again, the great part of training camp is now you get to see if some of these other players are ready to push themselves and make that step as well.

“But I can’t force them to be ready. They have to be ready. And if they are, we’ll find ways to integrate them. And if they’re not, we’ll continue to be patient with their growth and look at other ways to fill things out.”

On the subject of patience, Cheveldayoff was asked if his may be running short with the apparent controversies that seem to follow left-winger Evander Kane.

From trade speculation earlier this summer to last week’s alleged tempest after a comment on Kane’s role with the Jets by teammate Blake Wheeler, Kane certainly has found himself in the news.

Jeff Vinnick / Winnipeg Free Press Flames' prospect Michael Ferland (right) battles Winnipeg's Nikolas Brouillard during Young Stars Tournament action in Penticton, B.C.. Friday night.

The GM indicated it’s much ado about nothing.

“I think it’s the society we live in, and we live in a world of technology, a world where players are out in the open each and every day,” he said. “It’s kind of a double-edged sword. Athletes get criticized because they’re very cliché (when speaking), but the moment someone is open or talks, all of a sudden it gets blown out of proportion.

“At the end of the day, the game is played on the ice. For professional athletes, whether it’s Evander Kane or Adam Lowry, anyone really, they have a job to do and they go and do it.

“Again, it’s not something that is unique to the Winnipeg Jets. We’re a team with passionate fans, that has a media corps that hangs on every word that is said and isn’t said and ‘what does that mean or what doesn’t it mean’… you deal with it. That’s part of being a professional athlete.”

Cheveldayoff didn’t come out with the declaration, but this is clearly one of the best times of the season for him, in that he gets to watch the future foundation of the Jets franchise perform together at this tournament.

“It is a great time to get the group together,” he said. “The only downfall is that it starts during the college season so you don’t get a chance to see some of your prospects that are still in college.

“But certainly, for some of the kids turning pro, I think it’s a real important first step for getting ready for this season and learning the expectations.”

And he pointed once again to top prospect Adam Lowry, who has one pro year under his belt with the AHL’s St. John’s IceCaps, as an example of the Jets’ big-picture method at work.

“I think there’s no better measure of it than looking at a guy like Adam Lowry from the first Penticton camp to now,” Cheveldayoff said. “You can see the progression.

“Every player is different but he’s a big player who needs to grow into his body. He needed to gain strength, in his legs and different areas that help his game. When you see the progression from year to year, well, sometimes you miss that when you see game after game.”

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