PENTICTON, B.C. — Patience. In life, it is a sought after quality.
Same thing in sports — unless you become too patient. Then it appears that an organization might not be doing enough to get better. That it has fallen in love with a bad hand, or the wrong people.
Both sides of that theory are being discussed at length in Winnipeg today, where the National Hockey League’s Jets announced multi-year contract extensions for both general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff and head coach Paul Maurice.
The press release had been expected for months. It is how the Jets operate, so really, nobody will be surprised by the news.
And thus the discussion.
It is fair to question whether the Jets are that rare wise and patient organization in a world of teams that fire coaches and front office people after only a hint of failure. Or is owner Mark Chipman married to these men on a personal level, and allowing himself to overlook an overt lack of success since the Jets set up shop in Winnipeg after arriving from Atlanta six seasons ago?
Let’s face it, one playoff season in six years for the only GM these Winnipeg Jets have ever known is not the definition of success. And even though it is clear the Jets are trending in the right direction, are both men not in that territory that another blah season like the 2016-17 campaign should cost them their job?
This will be Maurice’s fourth full season behind the Jets bench. He’s got a playoff worthy team in front of him now, with (hopefully) enough goaltending that the Jets’ Achilles heel will not show itself again this season.
But what if the Jets miss again? Surely, one playoff year in four seasons, with two under-achieving seasons on the back end would be enough to cost almost any head coach in the NHL his gig. Would it not?
But in Winnipeg, Maurice will have just completed the first of a multi-year extension.
“I wasn’t really surprised (about the signings),” Jets centre Bryan Little told the Winnipeg Sun on Wednesday. “The organization feels they’re part of the future and everyone’s happy with the way things are going and the direction the team’s going.
“It’s one thing if you’re on a decline and things aren’t looking up and everyone’s struggling and it’s not a good situation to be in,” he added. “But that’s far from what’s going on here. Everyone’s looking towards the future and this team’s only going to get better and better.
“Those are guys you want to have behind your bench and in your office, working for you, when that’s going on.”
It cannot be denied that the Jets are on the come. But haven’t we been saying that for a few seasons now?
Well, that’s the other side of the coin, isn’t it?
After allowing Cheveldayoff and Maurice to brew this broth for a long as they have, would it be foolhardy to walk into the kitchen and replace the two chief cooks? It does seem so.
There isn’t a more homegrown, patient organization in the NHL than Winnipeg, a team that has drafted exceptionally well, kept the core of its front office together, and for a long while would not even pull off a trade of NHL players, so cautious was Cheveldayoff in the GM’s chair.
So let’s settle at this: Patience, thus far, has been a strong quality for the Jets. But they are ‘here’ now; a genuine contender in the Central Division, if only on paper. The time has arrived when Winnipeggers will see some payback for all of this careful and coddling development.
The success must materialize on the ice and in the standings, however, now. This season. Not next year, or the year after.
If the Jets don’t make the playoffs and compete in Round 1 — they were swept by Anaheim in their only playoff appearance in the spring of 2015 — then extensions be damned. It’s time for change in Winnipeg, regardless of who has how many years left on their contracts.
The Jets have potential, but you know what they say about potential. It means you haven’t done anything yet.
It’s time for the Winnipeg Jets — for Kevin Cheveldayoff and Paul Maurice — to do something.