Tag: Craig Heisinger

Kevin Cheveldayoff, Craig Heisinger

New name, new location, same game plan? Winnipeg Jets staying quiet in free agency

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Last season when then Thrashers GM Rick Dudley helped pick apart the Chicago Blackhawks in their great salary sell-off, the additions made to the team helped turn things around in Atlanta for at least a little while. Character additions and talent like Andrew Ladd, Brent Sopel, and Dustin Byfuglien proved to be great ones as Ladd eventually became team captain and Byfuglien was an All-Star while scoring 21 goals as a defenseman.

With the Thrashers being sold and moved to Winnipeg and a new staff in charge of things in Manitoba with GM Kevin Cheveldayoff and team VP Craig Heisinger, things are taking more of a quiet turn for the Jets. It’s the kind of turn that makes you think back on Thrashers offseasons of the past while Don Waddell was in charge of things.

Taking a look at who the Jets have signed this summer, there’s not a single name that jumps out at you for being a difference maker kind of player. Derek Meech, Tanner Glass, Rick Rypien, and Randy Jones highlight the Jets offseason. Meanwhile, they’re still trying to get a deal worked out with Ladd and have seen improving talent Anthony Stewart bolt to Carolina.

If that sounds unimpressive, it makes us think back to the summer of 2009 that saw the Thrashers sign luminaries like Stewart, Noah Welch, Josh Gratton, and Mike Vernace while retaining Colby Armstrong and Kari Lehtonen. For one of this year’s Jets signings, Randy Jones thinks that his new team is going to have to be more blue collar than anything to win as he told the Winnipeg Sun’s Paul Friesen.

“Last year for a good part of the season they were only a point or two behind us and Washington,” Jones said on a media conference call from his home in New Brunswick, Monday. “They work extremely hard, and that’s the main thing you need in this league, is hard work and determination. That’s one thing that stood out, they never give up, they always battled and were always in your face. We’re going to give a good push this season.”

All the hard work in the world can get you only so far though and the Jets are going to need goals. With Byfuglien, Tobias Enstrom, and Evander Kane already in the fold and young centerman Alexander Burmistrov growing up on the job, there’s a handful of point producers there. Overall, however, they’re going to need to find offense from somewhere. Ed Tait of the Winnipeg Free Press highlights a few free agent targets Cheveldayoff could and should be looking at to help the Jets get on the board.

Tait points out guys like Antti Miettinen, Jason Arnott, Alex Kovalev, and Cory Stillman could be sought out to help produce goals. There’s also some major nostalgia available in Teemu Selanne. Of course, Selanne leaving Anaheim for one last run in Winnipeg is more of a pipe dream than a possibility. Regardless, unless the Jets start getting active they’re going to be fighting for goals and hoping that new head coach Claude Noel has the strategies to help the Jets win with minimal offense. Sure Ondrej Pavelec is a very solid goalie, but asking him to be Vezina-level night in and night out is asking a lot of him.

The Jets have been all about surprises since True North bought the team, but they’re going to need to do things differently from how the Thrashers did them in the past if they hope to conquer the Southeast Division and make the playoffs next season.

Dan Snyder’s Thrashers legacy to continue being honored in Winnipeg


With the Thrashers on their way to Winnipeg there are some things from Atlanta that will be making their way to Canada. While many of the people who worked for the team in Atlanta won’t be returning, there’s one memory of the team that many hoped would carry over into their future in Winnipeg.

Dan Snyder was a hopeful up and coming rookie in the Thrashers system back in 2003. That September, Snyder was riding in a car with then Thrashers star Dany Heatley when their car crashed after Heatley was speeding and lost control of the car. Snyder died six days later after falling into a coma and dying from septic shock thanks to the accident.

Ever since then, the Thrashers honored Snyder by not giving out his number 37 to another player and giving out the Dan Snyder Memorial Award to the player that best embodies perseverance, dedication and hard work without reward or recognition, so that his team and teammates might succeed. Winnipeg’s director of hockey operations and communications Scott Brown says that Snyder’s memory will continue to be honored when the team moves. Ed Tait of the Winnipeg Free Press finds out that the ties to Snyder from within Winnipeg’s organization run deep as well.

Worth noting is a connection of sorts with the Manitoba Moose: former Moose Dallas Eakins, a good friend of current Winnipeg assistant GM/director of hockey operations Craig Heisinger, was very close to Snyder.

“Craig was in Atlanta and saw all the things they did for Dan Snyder and we are fully prepared and will be honouring everything to do with him,” said director of hockey operations/communications Scott Brown. “Dan Synder’s friends and family should not worry at all about that.”

As far as retiring his number goes or keeping up with the retired numbers of former Winnipeg greats like Bobby Hull and Dale Hawerchuk, Brown says the issue of retiring numbers may not come up in Winnipeg.

“Those are questions we have to ask ourselves. Retired numbers become very tricky going forward. For example, Evander Kane is No. 9. I don’t know this, but I imagine Evander Kane would like to continue wearing No. 9 and we would hope that if we decided to let him continue wearing that number Winnipeg hockey fans would be accepting of that and the step forward in the franchise history rather than focussing on keeping Bobby Hull’s No. 9 retired.

“These are all issues we’ve been discussing, believe me.”

The Maple Leafs are a team that honors numbers but doesn’t retire them. For a team like Winnipeg that has a past fresh in the memory and a legacy of the Thrashers coming north to greet them, honoring the past is the best plan of action for them. The old Jets past belongs to the Phoenix Coyotes and with things like Dan Snyder’s memory joining them in Manitoba courtesy of Atlanta it’s the right move to be able to pay respect to all aspects of the past and present in a new-old locale.

Carrying on Snyder’s memory is a wonderful thing for Winnipeg to do, however, and it helps keep awareness up about how precious life is and how it can be taken at a moment’s notice.

True North confirms Rick Dudley will not be retained as GM of Winnipeg team

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True North’s eventual purchase of the Atlanta Thrashers is set to come with big changes to the front office staff and the first step in that process is reportedly set to happen.

ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun reported that general manager Rick Dudley will not be kept on in that position when the team moves to Winnipeg. The Star Tribune’s Michael Russo followed that up finding out that Dudley’s contract, which runs for the next four years, will be bought out and paid over the next eight years and puts Dudley back on the market as a free agent of sorts for other organizations.

On Sunday morning, True North confirmed these reports and did not say who would be representing the team at the GM meetings on Wednesday in Boston at the Stanley Cup finals.

The decision by True North to go away from Dudley isn’t too shocking as this is customary for owners to want their own people on the job, but considering Dudley’s track record in the NHL and his ability in helping get the Thrashers on the road to recovery this past season it’s a curious choice nonetheless for the new owners. Of course, they may already have a guy they’re counting on to step in and are familiar with in the form of Blackhawks assistant GM Kevin Cheveldayoff.

We speculated here the other day about True North’s interest in Cheveldayoff and according to Ken Wiebe of the Winnipeg Sun, he very well could be the man they’re after as both True North’s Mark Chipman and Craig Heisinger have ties to him already.

Both Chipman and Heisinger have a relationship with Cheveldayoff that dates back to the International Hockey League and Heisinger was actually the equipment manager for the Brandon Wheat Kings of the Western Hockey League when Cheveldayoff was playing junior hockey.

Cheveldayoff’s record with the Chicago Wolves in the AHL is outstanding and the added bonus of that being the Thrashers minor league team helps add to the allure as he’d have a great idea already of what he’s working with. The catch here with figuring out who the GM is in Winnipeg ties into what happens with other members of the organization from the front office to the scouts to the coaches and on down to the players. These are key choices for the fledgling ownership group and they have to do what’s right right off the bat. Making bad decisions now means the team gets off on the wrong foot and then things can get ugly moving into the future.

While losing Dudley can be seen as questionable, as long as they’re bringing in other good, smart people they’ll be all right. Of course, if and when Dudley moves on to another position and if he has great success there people will be keeping close tabs on how Winnipeg does with the brain trust they’ve chosen.