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Kevin Cheveldayoff Feeling “Refreshed” as Lost Season Trickles to a Close

Photo courtesy of Kevin Cheveldayoff

Kevin Cheveldayoff Feeling “Refreshed” as Lost Season Trickles to a Close

It’s not often that the general manager of a professional sporting team feels refreshed after a losing season.

The 2021-22 National Hockey League season was not only quantified as a losing season for the Winnipeg Jets, but also a year to which a highly-acclaimed roster heavily underachieved and missed the postseason for the first time in a long time.

Not only did the team’s coach walk out midway through the year, but various highly-ranking members of the club also spoke out on the team’s culture, its levels of commitment and effort, while leaving the fanbase in utter shambles following the final game of the season.

Yes, Winnipeg managed to put together a four-game winning streak to end the year, but its season-ending 89 points was seven behind the second Western Conference wild card team, fellow Central Division rival, the Nashville Predators which finished with 97 points.

After Kyle Connor and Paul Stastny took turns calling out teammates in the media the past couple weeks, injured forward Mark Scheifele spoke on Sunday afternoon, indicating he wasn’t sure of where he will be calling home next season.

“Obviously I love it here. It’s been the only place I know,” Scheifele said. “I obviously think there’s a lot of big questions to be asked this off-season about where the team’s going and and what’s all going to happen and that’ll happen tomorrow. I’d love to be in Winnipeg, but I also have to see where this is all going and what direction this team is going in and I guess we’ll see this summer.”

Despite the mixed messages, Scheifele does have two seasons left on his eight-year deal signed back in July of 2016.

His general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff had yet to meet with Scheifele before addressing the media in his year-end availability.

Chevy did, however, manage to land a three-year contract extension, while word that his entire coaching staff would be overhauled. He later denied the rumour, but did indicate that there would be a full-on exhaustive search for a new head coach and staff.

“I informed the coaches that we’re going to be conducting a full-scale interview process for a new head coach,” Cheveldayoff said. “So I met with each of them individually, I met with Dave (Lowry) and told him that as well, and said to him if he wanted to be part of that formal search that he had earned that opportunity. We will grant him a formal interview process in that regard. I met with all the assistant coaches as well and told them that we’re going to go through this process and that there’s a chance that they’re part of that process moving forward when we finally select a head coach, but there’s also a chance that they might not be there.”

Considering Charlie Huddy (2011) and Jamie Kompon (2016) have been with the team an extended period of time, it comes as no surprise that Cheveldayoff has finally seen enough from his current staff to make an aggressive move.

But then, there is the matter of his players calling one another out and dragging down the culture of his team.

To that, Chevy said it was ‘refreshing’ to hear the banter and conversation pieces from disgruntled players, citing it an emotional response to poor performances and missing the postseason.

“For one thing, I think it’s refreshing that players are saying things to you,” he said. “I think that’s something that, again, all too often in these exit meetings that we go through, it usually comes to what are your summer plans? Are you healthy? And those kinds of things. But the fact that players are saying that shows that they care, that they had a level of expectation… But the fact that guys are open to have those kinds of conversations, that’s refreshing.”

No, Mark Scheifele is not demanding a trade, or at least according to Cheveldayoff. But then again, he also has not sat down with his point-per-game player to discuss the landscape.

That will happen at a later date.

But for now, according to Chevy, it will be a time to watch more and more teams talk about their failed attempts at success this season.

“You know, two weeks from now there’s going to be eight more teams that are going to be standing here very, very disappointed because they felt they should go farther than the first round,” he laughed. “And then there’s going to be four more that are going to feel profoundly more because they got that close. And then there’s going to be one that’s going to be really, really, really upset because they got that close. That doesn’t mean that their culture is wrong. It doesn’t mean that all the work that they put in over the course of the year… It’s a tough game to win. And it’s a tough league to win in. Half the teams now don’t make the playoffs. Half the teams are standing here the day after the season ends and answering the tough questions.”

Despite providing words, Chevy may not have fully answered all the questions thrown his way on Monday. But he has cleared the air on a few subjects.

Next in line for Winnipeg will be the exhaustive head coach search, the NHL Draft Lottery, the 2022 NHL Draft and then a delayed free agency and preparations for next season. But for now, it’s playoff time, and this year’s festivities will not feature a single game at Canada Life Centre.

“It’s refreshing.”

Carter Brooks - Associate Editor of Game On Magazine - is a news writer and sports columnist situated in Winnipeg, MB. On top of reading and writing, his favourite pastimes include camping, car-modification projects and coaching hockey. Carter can be reached at carterbrooks1994@gmail.com or on Twitter at @GameOnHockey.

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