Attitude adjustment needed to keep Jets aloft


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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 04/02/2016 (2670 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.


oyalty is bandied about in sports circles as a valued commodity, but it doesn’t necessarily guarantee success. It might even hurt you — and the Winnipeg Jets can speak to this.

Defenceman Mark Stuart is a poster boy for True North loyalty — and when I suggested last week he should be taken off the Jets penalty-killing unit, a number of questions were directed my way.

Winnipeg Jets' Ben Chiarot (7), Nikolaj Ehlers (27) and Mark Stuart (5) celebrate Ehlers' goal against the Nashville Predators during third period NHL action in Winnipeg on Thursday, January 14, 2016. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/John Woods)

One group wondered how good NHL players deal with a teammate who is a below-average player, and whether good players realize bad players hurt the team.

Players may love their teammates, and desperately want to remain loyal to them, but they need to take care of their family first.

Keeping that in mind, good players understand poor players hurt their performance.

You don’t tell a teammate face to face he’s bad (some know they’re not good); he’s most likely a friend, so you hear him out and nod at his warped version of his talent. This causes awkward moments, of course.

Some good players go to the coaches and ask to not be put on the ice with their friend, as they want to succeed out there.

Most won’t say, ‘Because he’s bad’; it’s more like, ‘I don’t think we play well together.’

Players know they can only control what happens on the ice, so they want to play with the best available on the roster. Some agents of good players repeat this message to the general manager.

Of course, there are the “best” soldiers who never say a peep, but many do. Loyalty can be fleeting.

It’s a different animal when dealing with a good player who has turned rotten in the dressing room. I suppose you might end up throwing his track suit into a shower (the Evander Kane incident).

However, there are multiple steps before it gets to that point, depending on the personality and the degree the player is affecting the room.

Just as important are the leaders in the room and their personalities and willingness to engage a teammate. Every dressing room is different in that sense.

I was a Kane supporter because I never saw him take a shift off with the Jets crest on his chest, but if players were covering up Kane’s problems in the dressing room, this was the final straw. Loyalty has a breaking point.

But since Kane (who was subsequently dealt to the Buffalo Sabres) had made a trade request long before the track-suit incident, it brings to mind something else: it seems the Jets often make major moves when someone or something pushes them to do it.

Is it out of loyalty or direction from the top?

Mark Chipman is firmly at the controls as co-owner and the face of the franchise. He’s trusted by most fans and holds loyalty as a part of what you need to possess if you want to work for him.

But what does loyalty get you in the NHL? It trickles down the organization through management to the coaches, but Chipman has found pending unrestricted free agents Dustin Byfuglien and Andrew Ladd want money to be loyal.

Paul Wiecek’s Free Press column last week mentioned Chipman’s dismay at dealing with this and questioning the negotiating process.

Chipman brought the Jets back to Winnipeg in 2011, and that was one bold stroke of business. But this isn’t a fun thing to play with once you own it, as Chipman is finding out. It’s a business first, being a fan second.

Chipman reportedly longs for the days of yore — before my time, I guess.

When I first came to Winnipeg, the World Hockey Association’s Jets had purchased me from the defunct Houston Aeros. My agent and the St. Louis Blues (I was their first-round pick the previous year) thought I could then move to the NHL because of a contract breach.

Then-Jets owner Michael Gobuty fired back, telling my agent he’d make sure I never played a game of hockey that year by tying the process up in court — a shrewd move.

I ended up with a new five-year contract, an Avco Cup ring and was in the NHL the following season, so it was all good — and Winnipeg won, too. Bold talk can be a good thing when one’s expertise is negotiation.

I learned Winnipeggers were hard as rocks to deal with in business, which brings me to the present-day Jets.

There seems to be a “walk softly” approach with this version of the Jets — until a move is forced upon them.

Head coach Paul Maurice might not be immune to the trickle-down effect of “walk softly.” Byfuglien might still be playing right wing if the top four defencemen hadn’t all been hurt at one time last season.

The Kane trade only happened after Kane’s track suit was thrown in the shower by disgruntled teammates, jolting Winnipeg general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff into action.

These are the guys Jets fans look to for hope.

I’d like to see some true Winnipeg bite from Chipman; a little more in-your-face attitude that would give fans hope as it trickles down, like loyalty does, to his managers and coaches.

Chosen ninth overall by the NHL’s St. Louis Blues and first overall by the WHA’s Houston Aeros in 1977, Scott Campbell has now been drafted by the Winnipeg Free Press to play a new style of game.

Twitter: @NHL_Campbell

Scott Campbell

Scott Campbell

Scott was a member of Winnipeg Jets 1.0 for a couple of seasons and also played for the WHA Jets team that won the last Avco Cup in 1978-79.

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