Byfuglien, Wheeler focused on winning, not Kane
Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 5/2/2015 (2666 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
First, let’s get to the blame because there’s so much of it to spread around.
Line them up. Andrew Ladd, Dustin Byfuglien, Evander Kane, Paul Maurice and Kevin Cheveldayoff for starters. Throw in anyone else associated with the Jets and they can get a piece of the action, too. No one, and I mean no one, has covered themselves with glory on this file. The result today, is a Winnipeg Jets team fractured with a star player desperately wanting to be anywhere but the thick of a playoff fight with his teammates.
Some have suggested this week’s doings will result in galvanizing this team and they’ll surge on to the post-season. Maybe. Or maybe it breaks them. Either way, this was a gamble that could and should have been avoided.
Evander Kane may have kickstarted this little drama but it has been made worse by Byfuglien and Ladd. Head coach Maurice and GM Cheveldayoff, should not have let it come to this.
Let’s review: Kane shows up for a team meeting in sweats. Byfuglien determines this isn’t good enough and tosses his teammates gear into a shower or a cold tub. Kane’s belongings are soaked and his pride and very likely his heart are damaged. He’s been humiliated by one of his big brothers. By one of the men he’s lived and worked with going on six years. Maybe there was a time when this manner of sending a message was accepted and worked, but no longer. It just made a mess.
Ladd is the captain of this room and anything that happens behind those closed doors is his responsibility. He needs to have his finger on the pulse of things. If he stood by and let Byfuglien commit this act — it’s on him. If he missed and then couldn’t or wouldn’t solve the issue before it blew up as it has — again it’s on him.
Same goes for Maurice. This coach likes to say he lets the players run the room. Fine. But at some point in time Tuesday when this was playing out, Maurice had to determine his influence was needed. He’s lost a player. A skilled and productive forward on a team that just can’t afford to move on without a suitable replacement.
If Kane is indeed done with the Jets and Cheveldayoff can’t put together a deal to replace him, it’s hard to imagine this ending well for Winnipeg.
Playoffs? Without Kane or a reasonable facsimile? Good luck. And if these childish dressing room antics result in the Jets watching a once promising season swirl down the toilet — good grief.
Finally, some of this falls on Cheveldayoff’s desk. There have been numerous warning signs where Kane was concerned. This was a marriage destined to end. It could have ended amicably with both sides walking away with their dignity. Not now. This is a full-blown divorce, where most often only the lawyers win.
Cheveldayoff now must endeavour to swing a deal to replace Kane with very little leverage. He’s now trying to move an injured player who has been ostracized by his teammates.
Maybe the GM makes a deal that strengthens the Jets, but it will be akin to falling into a pile of crap and still coming out smelling like a rose. It will be unplanned and it will be rushed. In a word, it will be entirely un-Cheveldayoff.
Kane is in the vanguard of the new NHL player. Trying to shame or bully Kane into conforming has been a complete failure and the Jets now have an untenable situation.
Kane has an injured shoulder and has now been insulted by his very teammates. If he didn’t want out before, with the way he’s been treated by the organization that has been his home for his entire career, he most certainly does now.
Byfuglien did what veterans have done to teammates for a long time — he tried to mock Kane into submission.
Forget that this type of behavior is no longer accepted and focus on the fact it didn’t work. Byfuglien, who by all accounts isn’t a bully, tried to send a message but his tactics were clumsy and poorly executed.
Having operated in and around dressing rooms for over 20 years, I’m not naive enough to think the atmosphere pro athletes work in is like any other. It’s different. The language, the expectations, the pay grade and the demands are all foreign to outsiders.
Try as we might, unless we’re in a dressing room as part of the family on a day-in and day-out basis — we’re nothing more than outsiders.
We’ll never know all the details of what led to this ridiculous set of circumstances. But the results have now been laid bare for all to see and assess.
This season is now in peril. Maybe the Jets pull out of it but they’ve taken an unnecessary gamble. They’ve let pride and ego and a lack of accountability take root in their midst and what happens from here is anybody’s guess.
If this is indeed the turning point that sees the Jets kick into a higher gear, then maybe Byfuglien is truly a master manipulator and a leader to be lauded.
If this, however, turns out to be the beginning of the end the Jets will have exposed themselves in the worst of ways. They will have shot themselves in the foot and it will have been all so unnecessary. And they’ll have themselves to blame. From top to bottom.