Columnist image
Gary Lawless

TSN Senior Correspondent


Purgatory for Andrew Ladd has turned into hell for the Winnipeg Jets.

There needs to be resolution regarding Ladd and his future for the Jets to move forward.

Really, these flames are licking at everyone involved; Ladd, his teammates and Jets management.

The team is a mess on the ice, losers of three straight with just three wins in their last 10 games. Lifeless and listless are all too common descriptors for the Jets.

At the heart of this malaise is the uncertainty created by the contract status of Ladd. He’s in the last year of his deal and a pending unrestricted free agent. All signs once pointed to Ladd re-signing with the Jets and remaining a fixture within the organization.

No longer. Talks with Ladd’s agents have broken off. In the meantime, Jets’ GM Kevin Cheveldayoff was recently seen huddling with defenceman Dustin Byfuglien’s representative.

Winnipeg has chosen Buff ahead of Ladd. It’s a reversal in direction that must have surprised the captain and his teammates.

This dressing room responds to its leader. When Ladd is right and pushing, the team has pace and a pulse. Now that he’s left hanging, the situation has become intolerable and needs to be solved.

Keeping Ladd is an unlikely proposition unless the player’s demands change dramatically. Ladd is after a six-year contract with an average annual value north of $6 million. That’s not going to happen in Winnipeg.

So it’s time to trade Ladd and make the most of what has disintegrated into a mess.

The Jets haven’t spoken in meaningful terms with Ladd’s camp for some time, instead focusing on Byfuglien.

The most likely outcome now is the Jets signing Byfuglien and then making Ladd available on the trade market. Executives around the NHL have told their pro scouts to compile reports on Ladd and to back off on the Byfuglien book.

Lawless: A lot more wrong with Jets than just Andrew Ladd

TSN Senior Correspondent and Co-host of Hustler & Lawless on TSN 1290 Gary Lawless joins Petrillo, Siegel, and O'Dog on Leafs Lunch to chat about the recent falling apart between Andrew Ladd and Jets for a new contract, how Byfuglien and Trouba playing together has helped both players, and the youth movement with the franchise sort of plateauing.

Somewhere between the NHL draft last summer and now, the business relationship between Ladd and the Jets soured. Now it has infected the personal and the hockey relationship between a proud captain and his organization.

Ladd knows the reality of his situation and not too long ago told TSN he understands the business and the reality of the trade deadline. He’ll either be signed or moved. With no ongoing talks between the team and his reps, Ladd has to believe he’ll soon be traded. He’s been wounded by this knowledge.

The Jets are broken. They’ve totaled just four goals in their last four games and have scored just one goal in 10 of their last 16. They’ve allowed a power-play goal in seven of their last 10 games.

Re-establishing Ladd as a wanted and valued member of the firm could put them back together. Removing him could also clear the way to a new path.

The latter is the direction of today although until a deal with Byfuglien is secured, this bottle will continue spinning.

Embedded ImageCheveldayoff has work to do. Signing Byfuglien would now seem to be the first order of business. So for at least a little longer, Ladd remains on the spit.

Ladd has become the focal point of fan disgruntlement in Winnipeg. Increasingly, the narrative points to Ladd as the reason the Jets are failing. This isn’t an accurate depiction as there is a lot more wrong with this team right now than one left winger.

But it’s reality and it’s the mess that Cheveldayoff must now clean up.

Ladd’s production is off. He has 10 goals and 27 points through 48 games; well off the pace he’s set the past few seasons. Last year, playing through a sports hernia that was surgically corrected over the summer, Ladd scored 24 goals and had 62 points in a career year.

Last year, the Jets reached the postseason for their first time since returning to Winnipeg and the club was eager to re-sign their leader. Talks started strong but tailed off and eventually stalled.

Coupled with the club not being in a playoff position for some time now, Ladd’s past has been shelved. The little picture has swallowed the big picture and Ladd is the bad guy in Winnipeg.

He’s not viewed as the player who planted a flag in the NHL’s smallest market by signing a five-year extension in the summer of 2011 and told his teammates to follow. Not the player who has led the organization in just about every offensive category during the team’s four plus seasons in Winnipeg. Not the battler who took needle after needle last season to stay in the lineup.

He’s become yesterday’s man in a matter of months.

In today’s climate, where a clever tweet quickly morphs into an accepted perspective, Ladd is the fall guy in Winnipeg.

Maybe at 30 he’s beginning to fade. Or maybe he’s still healing. Circumstances don’t allow for the Jets to wait this out. They need to make a call on Ladd in the next five weeks.

There is all kinds of pressure in Winnipeg right now. The highest-priced seats in the arena are up for five-year renewals, the community is wondering when the draft-and-develop plan will bear more than seedlings and the dressing room is staggering under the weight of uncertainty.

To borrow from the departed Claude Noel, there is no joy in Joyland. The former head coach was the perceived problem a few seasons back and he lost his job.

The team originally surged under new bench boss Paul Maurice but has since sifted back and is a lottery team with 34 games remaining on their schedule.

Ladd, quite clearly, isn’t the only piece in the organization not living up to expectations. There’s enough blame to go around for everyone to take a sip.

But the captain is set to take a long haul off this half empty glass.