WINNIPEG — Kevin Cheveldayoff couldn’t help but smile Friday night as he walked around the bowels of MTS Place, the building with the greatest home ice advantage in the league.
The club he’d constructed with his oft-criticized patience had just doubled its franchise postseason victory total and become the first of these playoffs to seize a 2-0 series lead.
A master of the long game, and probably not the type of man you’d like to meet in a staring contest, Cheveldayoff waited three years and seven months on the job before pulling the trigger on his first player-for-player trade of consequence.
That 2015 blockbuster puts the lie to the theory that whoever lands the best player wins the deal, and with the benefit of hindsight, is embarrassing in its lopsidedness.
The other willing participant in the pillage, Tim Murray, was the quickest Sabres GM to be fired. Kane—viewed in these parts as cultural addition by subtraction—scored two playoff goals Thursday, but for San Jose. Bogosian would be a great buyout candidate were he not stuck on the injured reserve. And goalie prospect Kasdorf had a respectable .903 save percentage this season… in the ECHL.
Cheveldayoff’s haul that day? Well, three of them contributed to Friday’s 4-1 stomping of the Wild. Stafford gave Winnipeg two good years before becoming a sixth-rounder in the upcoming draft, and 22-year-old Lemieux was nearly a point per game for the mighty Manitoba Moose this season.
It’s a trade tree keeps bearing sweet, delicious fruit and may well define the GM’s legacy.
When Myers, hockey’s lankiest man not named Zdeno Chara, controlled the puck at the point in the second period of a scoreless Game 2 and decided to take a risk, Jets coach Paul Maurice held his breath so long, he’d later quip, “I’m pretty sure I can’t be drowned.”
From a standstill and with no safety net behind him, Myers dangled a defending Jason Zucker, held off an ineffective Eric Staal and sniped a gorgeous opening goal far side on a dialed-in Devan Dubnyk.
“Tyler played really well away from the puck and then he has that ability,” Maurice said. “He’s such a big man that when you’re checking him, you think you can shut him down. There’s too much of him to have him get it all by you. He’s pretty gifted.”
Also gifted: speedy Jack Roslovic, whose control on the cycle led to him assisting on the Myers strike as well as orchestrating Andrew Copp’s goal the following period. Two assists—not bad for a rookie’s emergency NHL playoff debut.
Roslovic, drawing in seamlessly for the injured Mathieu Perreault (upper body), was selected by Cheveldayoff with that first-round pick the Sabres surrendered in their package for Kane.
“When Jack had played well for us, it said that [Moose coach] Pascal Vincent earned his award [as the AHL’s most outstanding coach] this year. He does a marvelous job taking those young players so when they come to play for us there isn’t a lot that’s said about where he needs to be on the ice, positionally,” said Maurice, adding that Roslovic has rapidly earned the respect of veteran linemates Bryan Little and Copp.
So much praise has been showered on the reborn Jets for their draft-and-develop approach, and justly so.
But with Myers and Roslovic both hanging multi-point games Friday, it sure felt like a night to celebrate Cheveldayoff’s success rate on those rare occasions where he does dabble in the market.
The narrative that Cheveldayoff doesn’t make trades is dead. He just doesn’t make bad ones.