It’s time to cool the free-agency Jets

Fans revved now, but patience will pay in long run


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Back in the dark days of just a few months ago it was suggested to me by an NHL type that if Winnipeg ever got an NHL team it would be a loser and never contend for the Stanley Cup.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 29/06/2011 (4283 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Back in the dark days of just a few months ago it was suggested to me by an NHL type that if Winnipeg ever got an NHL team it would be a loser and never contend for the Stanley Cup.

The thinking, and this gentleman was not alone in his assessment, was that a Winnipeg franchise would never generate enough revenue to be able to afford a competitive roster.

While the mad success to date of the Winnipeg Jets 2.0 runs contrary to that opinion, now is the time for slow development and not chasing hollow dreams. Money made today should be tucked away to be slapped down on the table at a later date when a meaningful goal can be achieved.

When free agency opens on Friday, building the foundation and not hanging a fancy door should be the objective.

This isn’t Columbus or Toronto or New York where a racing heartbeat is what fans demand in a team. Winnipeg’s hockey brain trust has a honeymoon period by virtue of just returning to the NHL. There’s an opportunity to put a plan into effect and give it time to grow.

The decisions made in the coming days can set the franchise up for years to come. Jets management doesn’t need to pay lip service to development but can actually live it.

Signing free agent Brad Richards to an $8 million or more per season contract might produce some short-term gratification but would have devastating effects on any real and lasting success.

Watching one player turn in a couple of 100-point seasons while being paid enough money to buy up big chunks of Wellington Crescent will taste good for a moment but eventually leave a franchise with a terrible stomach ache.

Becoming a perennial playoff team first requires baby steps. Down the road there will come a time to gallop but trying to speed-wobble out of the gate is foolish.

The Jets can’t be capricious with their cash but must develop a plan and stick to it. Certainly the history of the people in charge would suggest I’m preaching to the choir.

Between Mark Chipman, Kevin Cheveldayoff and Craig Heisinger, planning has been elevated to an art form and is Rule No. 1 in the instructional guide.

Whimsical or spontaneous does not come to mind when ruminating on these personalities.

Much to the opposite. This management group will likely need a little prodding if and when the time comes for them to make their big strike.

Expectations from ticket buyers will become a constant buzz in the background nagging on management to make short-sighted moves (see Toronto Maple Leafs under subheading of Disastrous Franchise Histories). But there’s a grace period for the Jets right now and they should take full advantage.

We want this team to be really good some day, not just good.

That can’t happen right away and with season-ticket commitments for an average of four years it’s not required. The time to make a big push is three seasons down the road when folks are re-evaluating their ticket investments.

Sure, the franchise will ring in ticket receipts just north of $54 million this season, placing them in the top third in the league in that revenue category. But in most other profit streams, our market will settle in the league’s bottom half.

True North CEO Jim Ludlow says the success of Drive to 13,000 will make the franchise financially viable but added the caveat that judicious money management is a necessity.

The reality for this franchise is they will rarely have the cash to spend near the league’s salary cap but will most often hover near the middle.

That’s not to say there won’t be windows in the franchise’s history when cash reserves could be tapped to try and make a push for the Stanley Cup.

But now is not that time and only prudent drafting and development will get the franchise to that ledge from which they might jump some day.

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