WINNIPEG — The Art of Deflection has been on display on more than one occasion and while Kevin Cheveldayoff hasn’t made bold proclamations about sweeping changes throughout the organization, he fully realizes that reviving the band for a tour reunion isn’t going to cut it.
Despite being armed with a three-year contract extension, Cheveldayoff has a clear idea of his priorities for the offseason – and that was long before center Mark Scheifele made his eyebrow-raising comments on Sunday after -noon.
Those words may have just expedited the process for his potential departure, even though Scheifele had yet to submit a formal trade request as of Monday afternoon, according to Cheveldayoff.
Even if the Jets reach the point where they would seriously accept offers for Scheifele, who should generate a lot of interest given his offensive output and $6.125 million AAV for two more seasons, Cheveldayoff was quick to try to defuse the situation.
“I heard a lot of passion. I heard a lot of passion from a lot of different guys in a lot of different situations,” said Cheveldayoff, who spoke for about 30 minutes. “As far as Mark is concerned, he’s a talented player. He’s at the peak of his career, he’s everything he said he was. He’s a Winnipeg Jet and he wants to win. As a organization, we’re going to have to do a little reassessment to see where certain things are.
“We’ve been a cap team, we’ve committed to it, we’ve signed guys for the long haul. This vision has not changed, from the point of view of wanting to win a Stanley Cup. We’re just going to have to come back and look at it from a little different perspective after a year of setbacks like this.
The setback saw the Jets miss the playoffs by eight points after posting a 39-32-11 record and provides the backdrop for what should be a very entertaining offseason.
Understanding what’s going on with the Jets’ top two centers is paramount for Cheveldayoff after receiving a vote of confidence from co-owner and governor Mark Chipman.
In addition to Scheifele potentially being on the trade block, the other agenda is trying to get pending restricted free agent Pierre-Luc Dubois to commit to a long-term deal.
Cheveldayoff met Dubois on Monday morning and came away encouraged by what he heard, although he made a point of mentioning that the negotiation would not necessarily be over soon – since the player is eligible for arbitration and the two parties are dealing with a fixed salary cap, which could present some challenges in the event of a long-term contract extension.
“We had a good, frank conversation,” Cheveldayoff said. “Last year was such a weird year for him. We didn’t even really get to sit down with each other until the exit (meetings) last year, so it’s was interesting and refreshing to get his perspective on things this year after spending a full year with the organization in a more normal setting.
“Again, he knows perfectly well where we are in terms of what we think of him and what we would like to achieve. The business side of the game will have to take care of itself.
How Cheveldayoff proceeds with Dubois and Scheifele will be critical in trying to move the Jets beyond the bubble team status they currently hold.
Since racing to the Western Conference Finals in 2018, the Jets have won just one playoff series and that one came last spring in a four-game sweep against the Oilers in ‘Edmonton.
Given the high expectations placed on the Jets both internally and externally this season, Cheveldayoff wasn’t about to apologize for sharing some of the blame.
“Certainly again, when you’re building the roster and you’re the person in the organization that makes a lot of the decisions, it weighs on you tremendously,” Cheveldayoff said, noting that the Jets plan to be a spending up team. on the ceiling. ceiling again next season. “I think exit meetings are extremely important in this environment, in this situation, to ask these questions. As disappointed as everyone at the moment, the euphoria at the start of the season was very strong.
“This group had a lot of expectations in itself and with some of the moves we made over the summer I think there was a huge amount of excitement. That level of high, definitely when you’re at that point here right now not making the playoffs hitting an even low But this group here really felt there needed to be more I think that’s why you get the valley of the valleys of the depressions that we have here right now.
Over the past few weeks, many Jets players have expressed frustration and disappointment with how things have unfolded during this underperforming season.
Cheveldayoff saw player comments as support, although he was unwilling to join the chorus when it came to harsh assessments like defender Neal Pionk saying it was “embarrassing”.
“Having the players say that shows that they care, that they had a level of expectation. I think that’s the first point you have to…if you’re going to be afraid to say that, that isn’t going to help trying to change that,” Cheveldayoff said. “If that’s what they really believe, that’s on them as well if they’re back. But the fact that guys are open to that kind of conversations, it’s refreshing.
Jets forward Paul Stastny is a pending unrestricted free agent who left the door open to return on Sunday, though he also shared some pointed thoughts on players needing to hold themselves to a higher standard.
“We need to be held accountable – be it player versus player – and we need to have more respect for each other,” Stastny said. “When you don’t have that, when you don’t care about the teammate next to you – potentially – and you just care about what you’re doing or some individual thing, it starts to bleed into the game.”
This need for greater accountability brings us back to the subject of building a winning culture and is another area where the Jets are looking to improve.
“Again, culture is a very broad word that gets used a lot,” Cheveldayoff said. “A culture isn’t something you just say ‘Aha! that’s what I want.” A culture comes from having a core set of beliefs and then believing in those beliefs and then seeing the results you feel you want by doing those little things. culture is a series of fundamental elements that everyone uniformly believes in and from which we can grow and see tangible results, so that is what we must achieve.
“We have to find, get back to that fundamental root and then we as an organization I think we have a lot of those in place and we just have to keep finding a way to do them and find those results so that they ‘re reinforced.
One of the most disconcerting things for Cheveldayoff this season has been seeing a diverse group of players on the team succeed with career highs in certain offensive categories, while seeing the team struggle to find consistency.
Rather than being a group that was greater than the sum of its parts, the Jets just weren’t up to the job and part of that equation has to do with not being committed enough on defense – which is the area of team play that needs the most attention.
Some of that is systems and structure, but it’s also a mindset. The best teams in the NHL don’t think about whether or not they’re going to commit to team defense. They demand each other.
“This team has to understand that it has to play a certain way,” Cheveldayoff said, noting that the full-scale coaching search is about to begin and that interim head coach Dave Lowry has earned it. the right to an interview. “It’s not just this team, I think every team, you need talent to win in this league and you need that talent to be elite, whether it’s net, defense, attack, that must be elite.
“But you also need that talent and that group of guys to understand that you have to play a certain way and sometimes it’s not fun and some nights it’s more fun than others. But more often than not, you will be on the side of success.
Pinpointing the problem was the easy part, but now the challenge for Cheveldayoff is to ensure the necessary adjustments to the roster are made that could ultimately turn this area of weakness into a strength.