By Sean McCafferty aka 30ranfordfan

nepotism (ˈnɛpəˌtɪzəm)
— n
favouritism shown to relatives or close friends by those with power or influence

Someone needs to call Winnipeg and remind them that they’re back in the big leagues. Only a month into the life of True North Sports Entertainment’s reborn Jets franchise, owners Mark Chipman and David Thomson are already making me wonder if they’ll ever have a team better than the one they just plucked from Atlanta.

I would certainly never question the business savvy of a man like Thomson. One of the richest men in the world, the man certainly knows how to run a business and make money. Weather he got into hockey because he thinks he can make a buck, or because he’s a fan and he thinks it’d be fun, those are his own motives.

Same goes for TNSE founder Chipman. The man knows how to make money, and better than a lot of other people out there too. While Thomson may be the big bucks behind the team, it seems Chipman is the front facing “owner” and the one we’ll likely see most often publicly. As founder of the company, and the man who kept pro hockey in Winnipeg after the NHL’s departure in 1996, I would expect he’d be the guy who acts as governor. It makes the most sense.

TNSE Founder Mark Chipman

Where does the criticism come from? Well, it appears the Jets are more concerned about taking care of the Winnipeg faithful, than they are making sound hockey moves.

Almost as soon as it was announced that TNSE had bought the Thrashers and were moving them to Winnipeg, it was made known that current Manitoba Moose General Manager Craig Heisinger would be leaving the AHL and working for the yet unnamed Winnipeg franchise in some capacity. This could be considered a reasonable move by the organization, rewarding a loyal GM who had been with the team since 2002.

Not long after, it was announced that former Thrashers GM Rick Dudley, and Coach Craig Ramsay, would not be brought back. While Atlanta has been largely a disappointment for the entire history of the team, it would be grossly unfair to pin any of that on Dudley or Ramsay. Both were just in their first years in those positions, and had received decent reviews from most hockey people for the rebuilding effort they’d undertaken. The team missed the playoffs, but very few pundits expected otherwise.

Their dismissal likely came as a shock to nobody. In business, or in sports, when a new boss comes to town he usually brings in his own people. Sometimes that boss may wait a year or two, but seeing the Jets move in a new direction should have been expected.

What should not have been expected was an AHL GM (Heisinger)being anointed as an assistant GM, without having hired a GM to make that call.
Of course, the eventual General Manager didn’t have a problem with Heisinger taking that position. It was likely Heisinger that was doing the strongest pushing to hire his friend, and former team mate, Kevin Cheveldayoff.

GM Kevin Cheveldayoff

It’s not like Cheveldayoff doesn’t come with any credentials. He’s been a successful GM at the minor pro level, and has spent the last two years working under Stan Bowman as an assistant GM with the Chicago Blackhawks. It just seems really strange the TNSE found that the best candidate for the job is rookie in the position, and happens to be friends with the man who was likely closest to ownership during the hiring processes.

If the old boys club Winnipeg appears to be building stopped there, it would be easy to shrug one’s shoulders at it, and chalk it up circumstance. The thing is, that’s not where it stopped.

Next up was a head coach, and once again the Jets went with a friend. Instead of having a true search for the most qualified man to lead their team, they opted to “reinterview” Ramsay, then opt for Manitoba Moose Head Coach Claude Noel. The only possible hire they could have made, that would leave a bigger stench on it, would have been deciding that Dale Hawerchuk’s 15 win season in Barrie (or the OHL) made him qualified for the job. Should we expect him to be hired as an assistant, then eventual head coach, within the next few of years?

Is Hawerchuk Still Influencing Jets?

The face of Winnipeg’s former franchise brings up the final point of contention (is four questionable moves in the first month of existence a new record?).

The first hockey move the Jets had to make was selecting a player with their first round draft pick in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft. With the 7th overall pick, the thought is that the team selecting should be able to get a player that will eventually turn into an impact player for them: The 7th overall pick has yielded players like Jeff Skinner, Kyle Okposo, Ryan Suter, and even a familiar name to long timeJets fans: Shane Doan.

What conventional wisdom dictates, is you don’t use the 7th overall pick on a player who is considered a mid-late first rounder. Despite a ranking by NHL Central Scouting of 16th among North American Skaters (with a bare minimum of 3 European skaters also considered “higher” prospects), and a ranking of 17th overall by ISS (International Scouting Services), Mark Scheifele became the new Jet’s first draft pick.

Seeing a player jump several spots on draft day isn’t anything new, and neither is seeing a player fall. What is unique about this case is that Scheifele is coached by the aforementioned Hawerchuk, in Barrie.

The owner’s friend gets hired as an assistant General Manager, and then the assistant GM’s friend is hired as the General Manager. Former Winnipeg AHL coach is now the current Winnipeg NHL coach, and prized prospect of face of the former franchise jumps 10-15 spots to become team’s first draft pick.
Careful Jets. The fans in Winnipeg won’t tolerate 12 years of losing anymore than they did in Atlanta.