by Chris Mackie
April 5, 2013
Brian Munz was recounting a story last week of his conversation with legendary Penguins play-by-play man, Mike Lange. Munz was happy for him that the Pens were able to pick up a future Hall of Famer in Iginla that day the Jets were in the Steel City. While Lange was satisfied with the Pens deadline acquisitions, he stopped and gave insight that all Winnipeg Jets fans should here.
Lange explained that the embarrassment of riches now seen before you in Pittsburgh is tempered with the thought of those years before the Penguins were able to win the lottery and draft Sidney Crosby. Those were lean years. First overall selections of Marc-Andre Fleury, ‘Geno’ Malkin and Crosby were made after surrendering the worst NHL record for 3 out of 4 straight seasons.
Those that were hoping for the Jets’ general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff to bring in a player just to make the playoffs really don’t understand how an NHL team is built into a contender for hockey’s Holy Grail. Those fans, mainstream media and newstream media are OFFside if they think this is the road for Chevy to guide his Jets.
Making the playoffs as a middle of the road team is the easiest way to ensure that your team never wins the Cup.
There is a most definite evolution of a hockey team within the NHL. Each poor team sacrifices a few seasons to receive the highest quality prospects that eventually turn into superstars. Chicago and Pittsburgh both went through this phase, just as Edmonton is now. From there, they trade for the missing pieces to surround their home-grown core franchise players. Boston, St. Louis and Chicago are there once again. Once they achieve contender status, they then trade for pending UFAs to hopefully put them over the top. Pittsburgh is this season’s most obvious example.
And then you see the final phase of the evolution of a franchise: the “retooling” or “rebuilding” mode where teams unload their most sought-after parts for prospects to “reload” for the next round of an upswing. San Jose and Calgary are classic examples of this phase, although to be fair Calgary is doing theirs too late and San Jose may be doing theirs too early. Time will tell for both.
So where does this leave the Winnipeg Jets? Not bad enough to get the top pick or top three picks, they will never land enough top talent to build that extraordinary core. And yet not developing fast enough to ever become a contender as-is. Thus the team may be falling into that “middle-of-the-pack-trap” where teams around them oscillate from good to bad to great leaving the Jets somewhere always in the middle.
Thus there is strong reason, unless your team is Detroit or New Jersey where continual contenders are drafted from late round picks, for the Jets to take the guaranteed season ticket sales for the next few years and rebuild from the top down. This would allow the Jets better odds of extracting top talent to compliment those core players already developing.
Now there is one monkey wrench thrown into this evolution that teams go through. This year the NHL lottery picks allow for any non-playoff team to have a slight chance of receiving the top pick. Thus, by making the playoffs the Jets would lose out on the top picks of Nathan MacKinnon, Jonathan Drouin or Seth Jones. Let’s be realistic, even if the Jets make the 2013 playoffs, little would be gained for the development of the existing players. And yet look at how much may be lost. Losing out on a franchise player sets the team back another season to follow that evolution into a dominant team.
So while I cheer for the Jets as loudly as anyone, my hope is that they tank if they are going to lose out on the playoffs, because that is the road to hockey Holy Grail, unless you have the drafting genius that the Red Wings and New Jersey have demonstrated.
If you have a difference of opinion, we would love to hear it! Tweet me at @WhiteOutNation, or email me at Chris (at) WhiteOutNation.ca
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