TSN Hockey Analyst Craig Button appeared on the Rona Roundtable with Brian Munz and Shane Hnidy this week on TSN 1290 Winnipeg.
Button, a former GM with the Calgary Flames had this to say about the Winnipeg Jets recent drafts:
I think they do an outstanding job. I think (GM) Kevin Chevldayoff and (Assistant GM) Craig Heisinger and (Director, Amateur Scouting) Marcel Comeau and the staff, I think they really do an outstanding job. We talk about (2014 first round pick) Nikolaj Ehlers, Nic Petan has (also) been an outstanding player for the Portland Winterhawks. He gets (drafted) to the second round (in 2013) because people look at his size and say he’s not big enough, well he’s a darn good player.
Andrew Copp was a 4th round pick (in 2013) from the University of Michigan, I think he is going to be a real important player for the Winnipeg Jets going forward.
There are three things that stand out for me when I look at the Jets. Number one, they have the courage of their convictions, they’re not worried about taking Scheifele (at number seven overall in 2011) or worried about what anyone else thinks, (they say) this is our beliefs and we’re going to follow them.
Number two, they draft some really highly talented and very skilled players, regardless of their size or where they’re at at (age) 17, they look at what their skills are and their abilities and that potential and draft for that.
And number three, I think this is really important, they draft competitive players. Not one of the guys mentioned are not big time competitors. I think when you add those things up; I think the future for the Winnipeg Jets is extremely bright. It’s not just about a first round pick in the top ten. In my view they’re getting players from different parts of the draft, and that’s how you build up a good organization.
The Western Conference and the Central Division are tougher than ever. While some fans might want the process to be sped up, Button says the Jets must stay the course and continue to be patient:
I know everybody wants to speed up the process. But let’s look back at the LA Kings who have won the Stanley Cup in two of the last three years. In 2012 they won their first Stanley Cup. Well they drafted Dustin Brown in ’03, they drafted Anze Kopitar in ’05 and they drafted Jon Quick in ’05. That’s seven years and nine years before they were able to see those players really come into their own, and they weren’t the only ones.
When you start to look at being able to be successful in the National Hockey League and ultimately compete for a Stanley Cup, you’re not doing it with twenty year old kids anyway. So why do you want to force them around?
Button on drafting and developing:
It’s hard, but it’s necessary. In the best organizations it’s a tried and true template, it works. But somehow in a lot of different places they all think it won’t apply to them, but guess what? It applies to everybody.
I talk about courage of convictions, I talk about organizational strength, and the Winnipeg Jets have it. Starting with Mark Chipman and carrying right through. If you don’t have it, you’re going to waver; you’re going to try to take a shortcut here and there. The shortcuts don’t work. And that to me is where you got to have the real strength to say this is what we believe in and we’re staying with it. That is what I think the Jets are doing.
To me it’s even more important when you look at the strength of the Western Conference to say that (the Winnipeg Jets are) really going to legitimately compete with the LA Kings this year, I don’t think so.
I think Chicago missed the playoffs eight of nine years, Duncan Keith drafted in ’02, Brent Seabrook in ’03, Corey Crawford in ’03, Niklas Hjalmarsson in ’05. You don’t just wake up one day and say we’ve got these good players and we’re going to win, it takes time.
You think about when (Boston) won the Stanley Cup in 2011. Patrice Bergeron was drafted in ’03, David Krejci was drafted in the second round (in 2004). You start to look at all the different players that were able to come into their own with respect to not just playing in the NHL but being able to help your team ultimately be successful. Those are two very different things.
To me, when you’re trying to take a 20 or 21 year old player and say listen, we think you can help us win right now. I think that’s where teams get confused, that’s where teams get off-track. Yes, there’s some players that are very good at 20 and 21 and be productive players in their own right. But in terms of competing for the big prize and being there year in and year out. There is no other way, there just isn’t. There’s so much evidence on both sides, the teams that haven’t done it and the teams that have.