Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 14/1/2016 (2151 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
The Andrew Ladd and Dustin Byfuglien situation is front of mind for almost every Winnipeg Jets fan — or at least it should be.
Unless of course you totally believe "Chevy has a plan" and nothing more needs to be said. Our soldiers fought for your right to think that, so good for you.
Jets general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff may have it nailed... but don’t you wonder? I do.
He didn’t help us out much during an interview Sunday between periods of a game against the Buffalo Sabres: "It’s a process..." and "… still working the process out."
The thing that lingers as I walk through this is the result of the Michael Frolik situation last off-season. Frolik, who eventually signed a free-agent deal with Calgary, was a big part of the Jets’ success in 2014-15. He may have helped change this year’s lineup dramatically. A multiuse player of Frolik’s calibre makes things go much further.
That brings us to Byfuglien and Ladd.
First, let’s look at the speculation as to whether the status of soon-to-be unrestricted free agency looming over the two stars is having an effect on the other players in the Jets dressing room.
I’ve been reluctant to embrace that excuse, but that is likely affected by my unwillingness to accept excuses in almost all situations regarding a hockey team. They turn into reasons too easily.
I remember many trade rumours around teams I was on, including the Jets. They were handled by joking about it, and then trying to go about the business of being a professional player.
It might seem a bit cruel from the outside, but a single guy offering to take care of the rumoured player’s house and his girlfriend while he was getting settled in hated Edmonton (said with a wicked smile or snicker) would start some good-natured banter. And then you move on. I think you get the idea.
But we need to remember NHL players aren’t robots either. What happens if their child comes home from school asking why classmates are saying they are moving to a new city? There is an impact.
But all teams deal with similar rumours — and that fact has me not putting too much stock in it as a reason the Jets have struggled. It happens across the league and evens itself out for the most part.
So what exactly should Cheveldayoff do with his two stars?
There isn’t an exact monetary reason I can see to not sign both. Of course, term, dollars and dealing with the upcoming restricted free agents all play into it.
So what if we can only keep one?
Andrew Ladd has been a warrior for the Jets since he signed a five-year deal in 2011 after the Atlanta Thrashers relocated to Manitoba. The team captain had spoken; Winnipeg could breathe easy.
He’s also performed admirably on the top line, a consistent contributor through the years playing against the top lines on other teams. I value loyalty, and we certainly know the folks at team owner True North Sports & Entertainment do, too.
His play this year has been less than stellar, but I don’t buy the theory he has "checked out" due to his contract situation not being resolved. I’m inclined to believe the experts who talk of how tough it is to come back from sports hernia surgery. To get that stride back to 100 per cent may take a while yet.
It would be uncomfortable to see him in another uniform. That’s a fact.
Next up is No. 33, Dustin Byfuglien, the immovable force and the Jets’ best defenceman for my money. While there was a spell where coaches weren’t sure whether he’d be better on the wing or defence, he certainly has shown me every reason why he made the all-star team as a blue-liner.
I think the important thing here is when he is playing 5-on-5 the Jets spend more time in the opposition end. That is today’s game, whether you like it or not. His sometimes-fearless passing leads to many offensive forays, along with his ability to either lug the puck up the ice or work give-and-goes to create many chances on the opposition net.
Byfuglien also is among a handful of defencemen vastly superior in their ability to keep the puck trapped in the opposing zone, especially along the boards. He’s able to trap an attempted opposition out and turn it back or zip a pass across the blue-line to his partner as well as any. Any time spent in the offensive zone is gold, and the best defence possible.
Byfuglien also makes it look easy at times when battling for a puck in any zone, giving an opponent a quick shove with one hand while tapping the puck to a teammate with the free stick. Not to mention the times when he places an opposing player on their backside.
Of course, his detractors point to some big gaffe or giveaways on a bad night. Players that have the puck a lot tend to lead the league in giveaways. It’s just simple math, folks.
With all respect to Ladd, if I only get to choose one, I’m keeping Byfuglien.
While I used the word "uncomfortable" in the idea of seeing Ladd in another uniform, it’s almost unfathomable to me to think of No. 33 in another uniform.
Chevy has many options it seems.
Should he trade both for prospects and picks if he can’t sign them by the trade deadline? Should he sign both and add players at the deadline to make another playoff push? Would there be a backlash from fans either way?
How would Jets forwards Blake Wheeler, Bryan Little and Mathieu Perreault react if the GM trades Byfuglien and Ladd for draft picks and prospects, but no immediate help? (Actually, it would likely be their agents that reacted in a manner we might hear about, but they’re one and the same. That’s as scary a thought as anything else here.)
The decisions that will be made may change this NHL club forever.
I believe this is Cheveldayoff’s defining moment.
We await the result.
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.
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.