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This article was published 23/1/2019 (615 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
At first glance, Kevin Cheveldayoff and Peter Chiarelli appear to have plenty in common.
Both were hired to lead teams in lucrative Canadian markets after experiencing success with their previous employers. Cheveldayoff as the assistant general manager of the 2010 Stanley Cup-champion Chicago Blackhawks, and Chiarelli as the architect of the 2011 Stanley Cup-champion Boston Bruins.
Both were the beneficiaries of big-time luck when the draft lottery ping pong balls bounced the right way and gifted them franchise players in Connor McDavid (first overall in 2015) and Patrik Laine (second overall in 2016).
Both felt mounting pressure and even calls for their ouster from increasingly frustrated fan bases as years of disappointment piled up. #FireChiarelli hashtags on social media in Edmonton, #WhatHasChevyDone hashtags in Winnipeg.
But that's where the similarities end.
Because while Chiarelli was given the boot late Tuesday night by an Edmonton Oilers team once again near the basement in the NHL standings, Cheveldayoff is enjoying life from the penthouse as his Winnipeg Jets appear poised to make another deep playoff run in the spring.
How these two ended up on such different paths should serve as a cautionary tale for executives across the NHL.
Where Chiarelli hit a bump in the road, stepped on the gas and then plunged his team right off a cliff, Cheveldayoff took the Jets on a longer, safer route. Sure, there were some potholes along the way, but at least everyone arrived intact and there was no smouldering wreckage left behind.
The so-called draft-and-develop model may not always be the most exciting or produce instant results, but playing the long game has certainly paid off.
The Jets are now stacked with the type of talent and depth that most teams dream of. They are no one-hit wonder, instead built for sustained success. As one of the youngest teams in the league, there is still plenty of room for internal growth. The biggest concern right now is how to keep as much of the band together going forward while navigating the salary cap.
Just look at the roster as currently constructed. Aside from the obvious gift that was landing Laine — a no-brainer pick after Toronto selected Auston Matthews first overall — Cheveldayoff and his staff have done a terrific job at identifying potential talent and bringing them into the fold, slowly but surely.
Roster players in Connor Hellebuyck, Mark Scheifele, Jacob Trouba, Josh Morrissey, Nikolaj Ehlers, Kyle Connor, Adam Lowry, Andrew Copp, Jack Roslovic, Mason Appleton, Nic Petan and Sami Niku were all drafted by the organization. Very few, if any, were immediately viewed as "can't-miss" picks, either. All of them required some patience before they would make an impact.
Mathieu Perreault, Brandon Tanev and Laurent Brossoit were important free-agent signings. Tyler Myers and Brendan Lemieux were acquired in trades. Blake Wheeler, Bryan Little and Dustin Byfuglien were key parts of the inherited core from Atlanta, locked up with long-term extensions.
As for Chiarelli? He's repeatedly pushed the panic button in his attempt to get the Oilers back to their glory days. Instead, he accidentally hit "self-destruct" on numerous occasions while somehow making his team slower, less skilled and more expensive despite having the best player on the planet in McDavid fall into his lap.
Trading Taylor Hall for pennies on the dollar. Trading Jordan Eberle for pennies on the dollar. Trading the draft pick that turned into Mathew Barzal for a bust of a defenceman. Signing the sloth-like Milan Lucic to an absolute boat anchor of a contract. Repeatedly failing to address needs on the blue line by signing pylons instead of puck-movers. Cycling through head coaches. Repeatedly failing to address needs in goal. The list goes on. The level of incompetence and mismanagement is staggering, really.
And despite cutting ties with Chiarelli, the damage is already done. There's no quick fix in store for the Oilers. Not even Houdini could help them escape the mess they're currently in.
That's not to say Cheveldayoff has been perfect. There have been missteps along the way — the Steve Mason signing and subsequent trade along with Joel Armia to free up cap space being the most recent example — but none have been of the devastating, long-lasting variety.
Yes, he got lucky when former captain Andrew Ladd turned down a lucrative contract extension to remain in Winnipeg during the 2015-16 season — rumoured to be six years for $36 million. Given Ladd's rapid decline in play since signing with the New York Islanders, that's a move that, in hindsight, could have been Lucic-like for the Jets.
Proving once again that sometimes the deals you don't make are better than the ones you do. A sentiment Chiarelli likely wishes he'd adopted.
It's fun to wonder what the Jets and Oilers might look like had Cheveldayoff and Chiarelli switched places.
Given his track record, there's a good chance Chiarelli would have shipped the likes of Scheifele and Hellebuyck and Morrissey out of town when they didn't immediately make an impact after turning pro.
As for the Oilers, it's now clear that some Cheveldayoff-style patience could have gone a long way for this once-proud franchise.
It's hard to believe that Chiarelli seemed to have his team on the right track after the Oilers snapped a 10-year playoff drought in 2016-17, beating San Jose in the first round before losing in seven games to Anaheim. That run now appears to be a blip on the radar following a 25-point setback last year, followed by more disappointment this season.
Meanwhile, rumblings about Cheveldayoff's job security were getting louder around these parts following that same season, in which Winnipeg failed to qualify for the post-season for the fifth time in six seasons under his watch.
But the seeds planted Cheveldayoff finally took root last year as the Jets went on to finish second overall in the NHL with a franchise-record 52 wins and 114 points, then went three rounds into the playoffs before losing to the Vegas Golden Knights in the Western Conference final.
Cheveldayoff was a finalist for GM of the year, and there's a good chance he could be nominated again this season with the Jets currently leading the Central Division and near the top of the overall standings.
Yes, the #FireChiarelli movement finally got its wish this week. And although it took a lot longer than many would have liked, the #WhatHasChevyDone question is finally being answered loudly and clearly.
Mike McIntyre grew up wanting to be a professional wrestler. But when that dream fizzled, he put all his brawn into becoming a professional writer.
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