Yes, this is the best Winnipeg Jets image available...

While we’re not in Winnipeg, we can probably guess that there’s still a lot of excitement surrounding the new Jets. That’s admirable, especially when you consider that the team doesn’t have a logo. Or a jersey. Or team colours. And especially considering that the team did essentially nothing in free agency.

As Kent Wilson pointed out in his free agency grades post:

Kevin Chevaldayoff’s best signing so far has been middle-tier defender Randy Jones at $1.15 million for next year. Otherwise the organization has busied itself collecting marginal players and goons in tweener Derek Meech, tough guy Tanner Glass and pugilist Rick Rypien.

The Jets have a decent enough nucleus to build around, but the team still finished 10th in the Eastern conference last year. They’re going to need a lot more than tough guys and depth defenders if they want to take a step forward this coming season.

The Atlanta Thrashers weren’t a good hockey team. They had potential and looked promising at times, but will that promise show up in Winnipeg or should the Jets have done more?

The Jets are just over the $43.4 million cap floor, so they may not want to spend any more money. As a team playing in a small market, the Jets may not be able to afford to spend more than the minimum… or they may not want to.

That could be a problem. It could be that we’re not faced with the predictable “no one wants to play in Winnipeg” excuse, but that we’re instead looking at a “Winnipeg doesn’t have money to spend” or “Winnipeg doesn’t want to spend more” excuses.

Winnipeg made a smart move when the team re-signed captain Andrew Ladd to a five year contract. Ladd is a team leader and, despite being only 25 years old, he has two Stanley Cups to his name. Ladd has the potential to become the face of the Winnipeg franchise for years to come and re-signing him for five years gives the team some excellent stability as it moves from Atlanta to Winnipeg.

Apparently the team is working on a deal with Blake Wheeler as well and it looks like things are going well on that front. That’s the good news.

However, as mentioned earlier, the Thrashers were not a successful team. Their struggles over the years are well-documented, as the team still hasn’t won a playoff game.

The fans in Winnipeg did their part and sold out the MTS Centre for the next five years, but at some point the team will need to have success on the ice. It can only survive on enthusiasm and “new car smell” for so long. Leafs general manager Brian Burke had a point when he said “it’s harder if the team hasn’t won a championship in five years and you’re renewing all those things. That’s the test.”

Hockey teams struggle to draw fans when the team is losing. Look at Pittsburgh, Chicago and Washington before they started winning. Look at Dallas and Colorado now. Sure, those are all American teams and of course we all know how much better Canadian fans are but the point remains. It’s much easier to sell tickets when your team is winning.

Don’t the owners in Winnipeg owe it to those fans who snatched up season tickets at a torrid pace to ice a competitive team? Or is just having a hockey team in the city good enough? Is the team trying to make signings but failing?

That doesn’t mean that the team should have thrown its money around at free agents, especially not in this inflated market. We’ve seen time and time again that tossing cash at big name players doesn’t necessarily lead to glory. Perhaps the Jets were smart to avoid the temptation of a quick fit in favour of growing the team organically. This could be exactly what the Jets need to become a perennial competitor.

Rather than throwing cash around and trying to quickly turn things around, Winnipeg’s management could be attempting to grow this team from within which is certainly admirable and it could turn out to be a very smart strategy.

The Jets certainly have several talented players in their line-up as well as a new ownership team, general manager and coaching staff. A change of venue and some time to grow may be exactly what this team needs. However, filling in a few holes and adding players to a team that shows a lot of potential would have gone a long way to showing the fans and the rest of the league that Winnipeg is serious. They didn’t need to make a huge, ridiculous splash in free agency, but some strong depth signings would have helped. Randy Jones isn’t going to make this team a competitor, but he likely won’t be expected to.

This team will likely be much more successful than the Thrashers ever were, but that’s not exactly a high standard to beat. That said, perhaps the Jets are being smart with how they’re building the team. Only time will tell.

Now… about those jerseys…

Comments (5)

  1. I disagree. The Jets answered questions that needed to be answered. They added much needed grit on both Offense and Defense. They also brought in defensemen from Canada, which is a hole they needed to fill. And they did all of this without giving up any major pieces of the puzzle. They’re midway through a rebuild and I like what they have brought to the team, and more importantly I like what they didn’t give up to get it. All of this being said, the Jets aren’t done making moves; it’s too early to judge what they have done this off-season. Get back to us in late September. If they’re still where they are now, then we’ll talk.

  2. They need to blow this team up and take advantage of the honeymoon period to rebuild.

    And they needed to fill a hole they had in “defencemen from Canada”? How about the hole they still have about “defencemen with talent”?

  3. I thought a guy like Michael Ryder might’ve been a good fit for Winnipeg with like a 2 or 3 yr deal. Provides some experience, a proven playoff guy (if they get there eventually) and while he’s frustratingly inconsistent, you can still count on him to provide decent depth scoring from either a 2nd or 3rd line slot. It will be interesting to see if Cheveldayoff has something up his sleeve to surprise us, like a trade for an established Top 6 forward or Top 4 D-man.

  4. The Jets have $4.6M to go before they reach the salary cap floor of $48.3M. It’s on the same site linked to in this article.

    So, they do have more spending to do yet and it’s actually prudent of them to sign their core RFAs (Wheeler, Bogosian) to see what they’ve got before considering overpaying for UFAs on the open market.

  5. I am extremely happy to see Winnipeg get their Jets back. I know that they have some of the best NHL Fans behind them.

    When it comes to sports, I’ve always felt that a “team” represents its city and its fans. The notion that they can simply up-root and move elsewhere is absolutely wrong. The Jets, Nordiques, and even the Thrashers are teams that should represent a city, not the interests of shareholders or the whim of some NHL commissioner.

    Since 1996 when the Jets left Winnipeg, I stopped watching hockey all together. Before then I used to look forward to watching NHL games and cheering for my home team.

    Winnipeg may be a small city, and compared to Atlanta it is really small. However, Atlanta didn’t have enough interest in hockey this time round. I hope that the NHL learns a lesson from this move, and that the Jets prove to the rest of the league that teams shouldn’t be moved.

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