Winnipeg Jets Exodus: “It’s Not You, It’s Me”

Pierre-Luc Dubois is now part of an ever-expanding list of NHL players. That list? Players that want out of Winnipeg. Let’s be clear, unhappy professional athletes are as ubiquitous as Kevin Weekes, but the Winnipeg Jets are experiencing discord at unprecedented levels.

Patrick Laine, Jack Roslovic and Jacob Trouba all had their bags packed early, and were waiting by our theoretical airport. Dustin Byfuglien just decided to quit rather than return to the Jets. Mark Scheifele and Blake Wheeler have expressed their amenability to being traded. I’d add Evander Kane to this list, but you can’t miss what you don’t covet. Doing the math, that is a disproportionally high number of ‘stars’ that are unhappy, or have been unhappy with the Jets.

Winnipeg Jets 2.0 have always operated abstemiously. As the smallest market in the NHL, that is prudent and necessary. We are not a high-profile free-agent destination, nor will we ever be. I agree with the organization that the Winnipeg Jets’ best path to success is to draft well, and to foster and nurture that talent. The latter is where trouble in Slurpeeville exists.   

Rumours surfaced recently that Cody Eakin and Kevin Hayes (former Winnipeg Jets) called the Jets locker room “the worst they have ever been in”. Further ‘reporting’ has suggested that Laine wanted out because he wasn’t happy with Scheifele and Wheeler. All the while, you can hear a pin drop in the cacophony created by Jets management. “Where there is smoke there is fire” is lazy analysis, but we have heard from enough credible sources to understand that there is a significant problem here.

I’ve had the opportunity to talk with another former Jet, Tanner Glass. He is always very diplomatic, but eluded to the fact that the ancillary ‘perks’ of being a Winnipeg Jet are perhaps not as enticing as compared to most of league. Heck, recent signing David Rittich just flat out said that the Canadian market is difficult, given the fact that most Canadian markets operate in a fishbowl.  

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It’s hard not to take all of this a little personally. Winnipegers already suffer from an inferiority complex. Between the winters, and the stabbings, Winnipeg is a bit of a bizzarro paradise, and its residents are a toughened but sensitive group. Is it us? Children of divorce often ask this question, and we’ve been dumped more than garbage. Jets attendance has been slipping, and you’d be hard pressed to find many fans that are confident in our direction moving forward.

How do we cope? Is there a silver lining in these blue and red clouds? Maybe, but it going to require a complete redirection from the organization.

PLD is assuredly gone. The longer we wait, the less value we will receive in return for his services. If I’m General Manager Kevin Chevaldayoff, I am going tabula rasa. We can’t duct tape this back together. It appears though that Chevy has put all of his chips into new head coach, Rick Bowness. The belief is that Winnipeg still has a competitive roster, and that the culture and poor play were a coaching problem – now resolved. I disagree.

I liken the problem this way. Every year, the winter leaves Winnipeg roads busted up and worse for wear. The City tries, as much as possible, to patchwork the streets and plug the holes. Eventually however the inevitable happens, and the roads need to be torn down and rebuilt from scratch. It is inconvenient and frustrating as hell, but in the end, the driving experience is improved and less fraught with peril. Winnipeg Jets, please put on your hardhats and get busy rebuilding these roads.

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