Kevin Cheveldayoff 2021-22 End-of-Season Media Availability: Highlights and Impressions

One day after his team finished up a disappointing season sixth in the Central Division and well out of the playoff picture, Jets’ General Manager Kevin Cheveldayoff spoke to scribes to close out the campaign.

Holding court for 35 minutes, Cheveldayoff gave detailed answers on a number of topics. Here are some of the highlights.

On the Coaching Staff and a Likely Revamp

Before Cheveldayoff’s availability, hockey insider Frank Seravalli said on Twitter that the Jets “are planning a complete overhaul of their coaching staff” with interim head coach Dave Lowry and assistants Jamie Kompon and Charlie Huddy not returning for 2022-2023 but goaltending coach Wade Flaherty to remain on staff.

Cheveldayoff didn’t go as far in his comments to confirm the trio’s ouster, but the winds of change were blowing strongly nonetheless.

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“We are going to be conducting a full-scale interview process for a new head coach,” Cheveldayoff said. He spoke to Lowry and said Lowry would be given the opportunity to apply for the job.

As for Flaherty, Huddy, and Kompon, he said “there’s a chance they’re part of that process of moving forward when we finally select a head coach but there’s also a chance they might not be there.”

Dave Lowry Winnipeg Jets
Now-former interim head coach Dave Lowry is not likely to return for the 2022-23 season, nor are his two assistants. A full-scale search for a new coach will get underway. (Photo by Jonathan Kozub/NHLI via Getty Images)

Lowry joined the Jets as an assistant coach prior to the shortened 2020-21 season and last December, was promoted to interim head coach after Paul Maurice resigned. Lowry proved himself no more capable than Maurice of getting the Jets to perform to the level they should; his 26-22-6 record should not be good enough to land him the job permanently.

Huddy has been with the Jets since day 1 of the 2.0 era, being hired as part of Claude Noel’s staff upon relocation from Atlanta in 2011. His primary responsibility has been working with the defence, which has been the worst facet of the team’s game for a number of seasons.

Kompon joined the staff prior to the 2016-17 season. Flaherty, who has a close relationship with both Connor Hellebuyck and Eric Comrie, has also been with the Jets since 2011.

After a year in which the Jets dramatically underperformed and did not live up to the expectations most pundits had of them as a Stanley Cup contender, it is obvious a new staff with new ideas is needed. A sizeable portion of the Jets’ fan base has already becoming apathetic and sticking with the coaching status quo would alienate even more of the already-frustrated fan base and all but ensure the same problems persist.

On what type of coach would be the best fit, Cheveldayoff said that would be determined based on what players say at exit meetings, on his own reflections, and on who is available.

On Mark Scheifele’s Bombshell Comments

Just after after the Jets wrapped up the season Sunday with a 4-3 win over the Seattle Kraken, a clearly disgruntled Mark Scheifele dropped some post-game bombshells, sounding like someone with one foot out the door and not much interest in still being a Jet.

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“I have to think about my career and what’s going to be best for me,” Scheifele said Sunday afternoon. “Those are going to be…talks with my agents and everyone in my family and stuff like that and figure out what I really want. So, it will be a tough talk (Monday with Cheveldayoff at the exit meeting).”

“I obviously think there’s a lot of big questions to be asked this off-season about where the team’s going and what’s all going to happen. I just have to know, I just have to understand where this team is going,” said the centre, who missed the last nine games of the season with injury but had 70 points in 67 games.

Mark Scheifele Winnipeg Jets
Mark Scheifele, Winnipeg Jets (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Cheveldayoff confirmed Scheifele, under contract for two more seasons, had not asked for a trade as of Monday afternoon. Scheifele, while strong offensively with his sixth-straight point-per-game season, was the rightful target of a lot of criticism for his defensive deficiencies and lack of effort without the puck.

“I’ll have a conversation with him during the exit meeting here and find some clarity,” Cheveldayoff said.

On Negotiations with Pierre-Luc Dubois on a Contract Extension

Cheveldayoff has already spoken with centre Pierre-Luc Dubois, and said inking the power forward — who is an RFA this offseason — to a contract extension is high on his priority list.

“Last year was such a weird year for him… it was interesting and refreshing to get his perspective on things this after having a full year with the organization in a more normal setting,” Cheveldayoff said.

“The business side of hockey is in a different state right now in respect to the flat cap… so trying to have negotiations with players over short term versus long term and those types of things, there’s lots of things that come into play,” he said. “We got a lot of work to do.”

The big-bodied Dubois was a man reborn in 2021-22 after a disappointing first season with the Jets. He played like the dominant two-way player the Jets hoped they were getting from the Columbus Blue Jackets in exchange for Patrik Laine in the blockbuster trade between the two teams last January.

Pierre-Luc Dubois, Winnipeg Jets
Pierre-Luc Dubois had an excellent season and is an RFA in need of a contract. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

He set a new career-high in goals with 28 and added 31 assists for 59 points and could never be accused of coasting. His “give-a-crap” meter was always cranked to 100 and he exhibited leadership qualities on and off the ice that make him a compelling choice for future captain, should he re-sign.

On Spending Up to the Cap Ceiling Again

The Jets spent right up to the $81.5 million salary cap ceiling this season, and will spend up to the ceiling again next season as they try to recapture “contender” status.

“You look at the guys we have signed… ownership is fully committed from that standpoint,” Cheveldayoff said.

Winnipeg Jets Celebrate Kyle Connor, Pierre-Luc Dubois, Brenden Dillon
Kyle Connor, Pierre-Luc Dubois, and Brenden Dillon celebrate a goal for the Winnipeg Jets (Photo by Darcy Finley/NHLI via Getty Images)

Not having any players on long-term injured reserve will make the summer “a much easier type of situation from a planning perspective,” he continued.

On Paul Maurice’s Departure

Cheveldayoff was asked if he would have fired Paul Maurice if Maurice didn’t agree to leave.

“He resigned at the time for his personal reasons,” Cheveldayoff said, adding he was not in the process of looking for a replacement at the time, despite how badly the team was struggling. “It was a personal thing with him.”

Related: Jets’ Full Potential Won’t Be Reached With Maurice Behind the Bench

On how the coaching change played out and how it impacted the dressing room, Cheveldayoff said “I don’t know if you can measure it because it’s hard to measure those kind of things when they happen so sudden, but I do think it had an effect, and it had an effect on some players more than others.”

Winnipeg Jets head coach Paul Maurice
Cheveldayoff confirmed he was not going to fire former head coach Paul Maurice Maurice if he hadn’t resigned. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/John Woods)

He said he’s asked that question of players at exit meetings. While some said Maurice leaving didn’t matter to them at all, he expected he’d hear from some that it impacted them deeply.

On What the Jets Need to Do to Be a Championship Team

When asked how the Jets could get on a level similar to perennial contenders such as the Boston Bruins and Carolina Hurricanes, Cheveldayoff said the team needs to commit to playing better defensively and understand they need to play “the right way,” which isn’t always fun.

What a 6-1 drubbing at the hands of the Florida Panthers and an embarrassing collapse against the Tampa Bay Lightning near the end of the campaign proved beyond a shadow of a doubt is that the Jets can’t succeed when trying to play like truly elite teams do.

Related: 3 Takeaways from Jets’ Back-to-Back Losses to Panthers and Lightning

The Jets were often more focused on scoring pretty goals and making flashy plays — instead of playing direct, responsible, and frill-free hockey — but only found misery when trying to keep up with Stanley Cup contenders in track meet-style games.

Nate Schmidt Kyle Connor Josh Morrissey Winnipeg Jets
Cheveldayoff said the Jets need to play better defensively and focus on playing a harder-working game to be successful in the future. (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

“If you look at our most successful periods of time… the group of guys found a way to check properly… to play those tight games,” he said.

On a Team Culture That’s Become Toxic

Cheveldayoff was also asked why a once strong culture has decayed over the years, with many players openly airing their grievances about the lost season — Nikolaj Ehlers, Neal Pionk, Paul Stastny, and more — and strongly implying some guys are more focused on themselves than the team as a while.

“Culture just doesn’t happen overnight,” he said. “A culture is a series of foundational piece that everyone uniformly believes in and can grow from and see tangible results.”

That’s what we need to get to,” he continued. “We need to find and get back to that foundational root. We, as an organization, have lots of those in place and need to continue to find a way to do them and find those results to reinforce them.”

The True North organization needs to shed light in every dark corner of the organization to find out why it’s been on a downward trajectory since 2017018, when the Jets made the Western Conference Final. If they don’t discover how deep the rot runs, next season will end up just like this one.