The ongoing struggles of the Winnipeg Jets could result in a roster shakeup. Entering this week the Jets were 10 points out of a wild card berth, losers of six consecutive home games. Following Saturday’s 6-4 loss to the Dallas Stars, right winger Blake Wheeler blamed himself and his teammates for their inability to improve over the past three years.
Jets fans are growing impatient over the club’s lack of progress since its arrival from Atlanta in 2011. There have been calls for coach Claude Noel to be fired. General manager Kevin Cheveldayoff has yet to be rewarded for his patience with his roster.
With his club in danger of once again missing the playoffs, Cheveldayoff could make some changes. Winnipeg Free Press columnist Tim Campbell listed Cheveldayoff’s options, including a trade or a coaching change.
Campbell’s colleague Gary Lawless recently pointed the finger at Wheeler, Andrew Ladd, Dustin Byfuglien, Bryan Little and Tobias Enstrom. Calling them the “Atlanta Association,” Lawless accused the five of a lack of accountability, suggesting they were putting their friendships (which they established during their years in Atlanta) above the good of the team.
Of that group, only Byfuglien was mentioned in trade rumors this year. Last June Cheveldayoff denied seriously exploring a Byfuglien trade, but that didn’t prevent some rumor bloggers from linking the big blueliner earlier this season to the Philadelphia Flyers.
Trade speculation continues to dog left winger Evander Kane, who’s currently sidelined with a lower-body injury. His on-ice struggles amid reports of tension with Noel have a growing number of pundits uncertain over his future in Winnipeg.
CSNNE.com’s Joe Haggerty suggested Kane’s strained relationship with Noel and surly attitude with reporters could be his way of trying to force a trade to a more desirable NHL city. Haggerty noted the 22-year-old’s combination of “size, strength, toughness and offensive skill” would make him a good fit with the Bruins, suggesting a package offer of Brad Marchand, Jordan Caron, Malcolm Subban and a first-round pick.
The Boston Globe’s Fluto Shinzawa touched on Kane’s future with the Jets, but also suggested other changes, like a goaltending upgrade and shopping defenseman Mark Stuart to a Cup contender for a pick or prospect.
It’s interesting how pundits who point out Kane’s supposed shortcomings are willing to overlook them if the club they cover might have an opportunity to acquire him. The very talents which make Kane desirable to other clubs are why the Jets are reluctant to move him.
BURKE BEGINS CALGARY OVERHAUL ALREADY
In the aftermath of Calgary Flames firing GM Jay Feaster, some wonder how long it will take for president of hockey operations Brian Burke to shake up the Flames roster.
The Calgary Sun’s Randy Sportak reminded us not to expect any moves prior to the upcoming NHL Christmas trade freeze (Dec. 19-27), as the club’s been under Burke’s self-imposed freeze since Dec. 9.
That didn’t prevent Burke, the interim GM until a permanent replacement is hired, from demoting struggling left winger Sven Baertschi to their American League affiliate in Abbotsford, B.C. Before the season began, Burke was publicly critical of Baertschi’s pre-season performance. The 21-year-old’s demotion casts doubt over his future with the Flames.
Center Mikael Backlund, the subject of late-November trade chatter, could also be moved once the freeze is lifted. Burke’s desire to build the Flames into a bigger, more physical club means forwards Mike Cammalleri, Matt Stajan and Lee Stempniak (all free agents at season’s end) could be shopped before the March 5 trade deadline.
Rumor Roundup appears weekdays only on thehockeynews.com. Lyle Richardson has been an NHL commentator since 1998 on his website, spectorshockey.net, and is a contributing writer for Eishockey News and The Guardian (P.E.I.).
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