Looking deep for answers

Jets GM Cheveldayoff gets extension, coaching, player issues the concern

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The Winnipeg Jets will enter the off-season in search of answers following a disappointing season that saw the team fall well short of heady expectations. But while drastic change is certainly on the horizon, what – or, rather, who – will remain is the man currently positioned at the top.

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The Winnipeg Jets will enter the off-season in search of answers following a disappointing season that saw the team fall well short of heady expectations. But while drastic change is certainly on the horizon, what – or, rather, who – will remain is the man currently positioned at the top.

Jets general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff confirmed in his season-ending press conference Monday he has signed a three-year extension. If all goes to plan, Cheveldayoff will continue to run the team the way he sees fit through at least the 2024-25 NHL season.

“Over the course of time here we’ve built an organization that has tried to compete for the Stanley cup over the last couple of years,” Cheveldayoff said. “There’s obviously lots of work to do here to continue to move forward and try to push this forward. I’m just very fortunate that I have the opportunity and the confidence from ownership to move that forward.”

Winnipeg Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff was given another three-year contract. (Mike Deal / Winnipeg Free Press)

The Jets GM noted the extension had been agreed on for some time, likely before the Jets were officially eliminated from the postseason last month and prior to them finishing eight points shy of a playoff berth with a 39-32-11 record. Cheveldayoff said the delay in announcing his extension was also owing to “some business we had to take care of with some of my staff.”

Whether that business had to do with an early report Monday indicating a majority of the Jets’ assistant coaches would not have their contracts extended is unclear. Cheveldayoff did confirm that he met with his coaching staff after Sunday’s win over the Seattle Kraken, where he let them know he would be conducting a full-scale interview process for a new head coach and that their futures remained up in the air.

Dave Lowry took over for head coach Paul Maurice in mid-December on an interim basis after joining the club in 2020, while assistant coach Jamie Kompon joined the team in 2016, with assistant coach Charlie Huddy part of the Jets 2.0 inaugural season back in 2011-12. Only goalie coach Wade Flaherty is currently in negotiations for a new contract.

Interim head coach Dave Lowry has been told he can apply for his job next year. (Mikaela MacKenzie / Winnipeg Free Press files)

“I met with Dave and told him that…if he wanted to be part of that formal search that he had earned that opportunity,” Cheveldayoff said. “I met with all the assistant coaches as well and told them that we’re going to go through this process and that there’s a chance that they’re part of that process moving forward when we finally select a head coach, but there’s also a chance that they might not be there.”

He added: “But I haven’t fired anyone. They’re at the ends of their deals. We’ve had conversations with them, they know we’re going to go through the full search and they understand what that could mean either way.”

Asked about what type of head coach he might be looking for, Cheveldayoff was short on details. He hoped to get a better idea of what the team might need once he finished exit meetings with players; at the time, Cheveldayoff said the meetings were more than an hour behind schedule, with about half the players still to go.

“We will be opened minded but we will also have different conversations with the players,” he said “As far as standing up here today and proclaiming what type of coach or anything like that, I want the guys to speak to me, I want my staff to speak to me and I want to take some time to reflect and take a look at who is out there.”

A timeline to hire a new coach has not been set. While Cheveldayoff is the only GM the Jets have known, the new hire will be his fourth head coach in 12 seasons. Lowry finished the year with a 26-22-6 record.

“It’s hard sometimes to put a timeframe on it because some guys you might want to interview might be in the assistant coaches side in organizations that run deep in the playoffs,” Cheveldayoff said. “We’ll turn our attention to that in short order. I’m not sure exactly when we’ll begin that process, but start compiling names and situations to deal with.”

The Jets spent to the salary cap ceiling, acquiring players through free agency and trades in what was quickly dubbed “the summer of Chevy.” Considered Stanley Cup contenders at the start of the season, the Jets hardly pushed for a playoff spot, finishing sixth in the Central Division and had two other non-playoff teams – Vegas and Vancouver – ahead of them in the Western Conference standings.

Cheveldayoff was asked how much of the current state of the Jets landed on his own shoulders. In 11 seasons, the Jets have made the playoffs just five times and have won only three series.

“Certainly when you put the roster together and you’re the person in the organization that make a great deal of decisions, it weighs on you immensely. We’re going through a process right now in the dressing room there, with the players. The exit meetings I think are extremely important in this environment, in this situation, to ask those questions,” Cheveldayoff said.

“I think as equally disappointed as everyone is right now, I think the euphoria at the start of the season was very high. This group had a lot of expectations in itself and with some of the moves that we made over the summer I think there was a tremendous amount of excitement. That level of high, certainly when you’re at this point here right now, not competing in the playoffs, is met with an equal level of low.”

 

Jeff.Hamilton@freepress.mb.ca

 

Twitter: @jeffkhamilton

Jeff Hamilton

Jeff Hamilton
Multimedia producer

After a slew of injuries playing hockey that included breaks to the wrist, arm, and collar bone; a tear of the medial collateral ligament in both knees; as well as a collapsed lung, Jeff figured it was a good idea to take his interest in sports off the ice and in to the classroom.

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