With the NHL lockout in effect, members of the Winnipeg Jets (like all NHL players) continue to work out in different cities, while others have found work in Europe. All this as the two sides continue to try and hammer out a new CBA. More on that later.
The Jets and Evander Kane agreed on a new contract over the weekend, minutes before the lockout. Now it's in Kane's hands to answer the question, "how good can he be"?
So now the speculation can start as to what line combinations may look like when training camp starts. Whenever that may be?
Should they elect to leave the Andrew Ladd/Bryan Little/Blake Wheeler line intact, that would put Kane and Olli Jokinen together. Let the debate begin on who will play the right side. For now we will leave that spot open. Should they choose to have an all former Toronto Maple Leaf trio, that would put Alexei Ponikarovsky/Nik Antropov/Kyle Wellwood together, leaving Antti Miettinen/Jim Slater/Chris Thorburn.
Another option is to put Wellwood on the right side with Jokinen and Kane, and give Spencer Machacek a chance on the Antropov line. That leaves Alexander Burmistrov as a player that with a good training camp would make the combinations more interesting. Patrice Cormier wants a spot, and where does Mark Scheifele fit in? Or if the season is late starting do they just leave Scheifele in the OHL? And there are other names that can be thrown into the mix. But, if there is a delay, will teams be forced to have smaller camps, thus taking away the opportunity for those knocking on the Jets dressing room door?
On the back end, Toby Enstrom and Dustin Byfuglien will be relied on to carry a lot of the load. Especially with no Zach Bogosian until well after the turn of the calendar. Ron Hainsey, Mark Stuart and Grant Clitsome will also be counted on, with Paul Postma and Derek Meech assured a good look, barring the Jets bringing in another experienced defenceman.
In goal, it's time for Ondrej Pavelec to become an elite NHL goaltender. He's the man in nets.
Back to Burmistrov, he has agreed to report to St. John's should training camp be delayed, and good for him. After two years in the NHL, going to the AHL is not an easy pill to swallow. However, in the 2010-11 season he probably would have been better off in junior gaining confidence and becoming an all-round better player. The skill set is there and fair or not, it will be up to Burmistrov to show the Jets coaches they need him on the team. Should it play out that he gets 20 or 25 games in the AHL, it will be a great learning experience and in the long run make him a better player.
Eric Fehr is coming off an injury-filled season with the Jets that saw him play only 35 games, and as of now Fehr remains without a contract. His numbers in past years, plus his skill set, make you believe that when camps start, Fehr will get a deserved look somewhere.
Now just some CBA thoughts. All NHL teams, Jets included, have been in contact with season ticket holders and sponsors with the plan going forward should the season not start on time. For now the Jets have said there will be no layoffs or staff cutbacks. A number of teams have already informed staff they are without work until the stoppage is resolved.
And that leads me into my rant. Every day we hear both sides say how sorry they feel for the fans, trying to win the popularity vote. It is unfortunate fans that are so loyal to the game may be deprived of hockey over the next while. But the people to feel sorry for are those who have lost their jobs. People employed directly by the teams, those that work game night, those with establishments around NHL venues with extra staff on hand for the start of the season, people who had to put family vacations on hold this summer because of what might happen. In many cases people rely on this employment to pay the mortgage. So when you look at the big picture that all this is happening because two sides can't find a way to divide $3.3 billion, you can see why people are having trouble making sense of it.
So when you read and hear about how both the owners and players are committed to resolving the issues and getting the season started on time, you want to stand on a rooftop in New York and yell, don't tell me, SHOW ME.
End of rant.
It's not like the last lockout when the battle was cap/no cap. This time around the NHL wanted more input from the players before July 1 when unrestricted free agency kicked in, to give the teams some idea of what the cap may look like. That did not happen, probably knowing that if there is one day the owners love to spend money, it's July 1, and if that was their assumption, they were 100 per cent correct. A number of players hit the jackpot.
In the last lockout it was not until it was evident the entire season would be lost before some of the European players who were squeezed out of the top teams in their country because NHL players took their jobs, spoke out, questioning the rationale behind players who could afford to not play for a year, coming over and taking their jobs. So far that topic has not come up, but as the number of NHL players headed for Europe grows by the day, it may come up.
The other side of that coin is players want to play, that's what they do. And, better players have always earned roster spots. That's the way it's been since minor hockey. And the chance to add "star power" to you roster is no different for owners and coaches of European teams than it is for NHL owners and coaches.
So negotiations continue, on and off, some days more serious than others. Which brings it back to "don't tell me, show me."