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02-18-2013, 11:02 PM
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Jets scouts an issue.

It appears as though last yearís honeymoon season is over and reality has set in. Our ďWinnipeg JetsĒ are simply the ďAtlanta ThrashersĒ playing in a better hockey market wearing nicer jerseys. Last year we saw the odd glimpse of a good team mixed in with some sloppy play and lazy legs. Nonetheless we were all so happy to have our Jets back (Iím still very happy)

The 2013 Winnipeg Jets seem to have taken a step back from last year. We lost a few pieces in the offseason and gained some new ones to replace them, but here we are ľ of the way through the season and we just canít seem to score.

Iím a big believer in building via the draft, but this can only be done if the proper scouting tools are in place. Cheveldayoff has proven that he can build a Stanley Cup champion (Chicago), but he did this with the Blackhawks scouting team. Chevy oversees a Jets scouting team that employs a large number of scouts from the franchises Atlanta Thrasher days.

During Atlantaís time in the NHL, the team made the playoffs once in 11 seasons. 12 seasons if you want to include last yearís season as the Winnipeg Jets. One would think that a team missing the playoffs 10 times out of 11 wouldíve built a decent roster via the draft. Pittsburgh did it, Anaheim did it, Chicago and Detroit did it. Edmonton is in the process of doing it. So why havenít the Atlanta/Winnipeg franchise done it? One has to look at the scouting/management of this franchise over those rough years in Atlanta. Many of those same people are still employed with our Jets.

Currently the Jets have 12 amateur scouts, 4 of which came from Atlanta (Tavis MacMillan, Fredrik Jax, Pat Carmichael, and Bob Owen). The remaining 8 amateur scouts are very junior in their careers with only 1 having some scouting experience in the NHL (Chris Snell with Tampa Bay).

The above amateur scouting team is managed by the Head Amateur Scout Mark Hillier who has been with the organization since 2003-04 (Atlanta days) and the Director of Amateur Scouting for our Jets is Marcel Comeau who has been with the organization since 2003 (Atlanta days).

Our Head Eurpoean Scout is Evgeny Bogdanovich who has been with the franchise since the 1999-00 season (Atlanta days).

We have 5 pro scouts for our Jets (2 of which are new to scouting in the NHL). Jack Birch and John Perpich are the Jets pro scouts with the most experience. Birch spent time scouting in Florida and Vancouver and coached in New York way back in the day. Perpich has been with the organization since 1999 (Atlanta days). The Jets also employ Bruce Southern as a pro scout. Bruce has a long resume in the MJHL, but nothing in the pro leagues.

Our director of pro scouting is Mark Dobson who has been with the organization since 1998 (Atlanta days).

Our current assistant general manager is Larry Simmons. Simmons held the position of Vice-President/Assistant General Manager of the Atlanta Thrashers in 2004 until they relocated to Winnipeg. Prior to this, Simmons had been employed by Atlanta since 1999 and directly involved in player personnel moves.

For those that are interested, here are the top 2 draft picks this organization has selected each year since their existence and some players that were missed by the scouts:

1999: 1) drafted Patrick Stefan (1st overall). Stefan never amounted to the hype, spent six seasons in the organization before disappearing off the face of the earth.

Couldíve had: Daniel Sedin (2nd overall), or Henrik Sedin (3rd overall)

**Of note, Atlanta traded with Vancouver to obtain the 1st pick used to select Stefan**

2) drafted Luke Sellars (30th overall). Sellars played 1 game and left for a European career.

2000: 1) drafted Dany Heatley (2nd overall). Heatley had 3 successful seasons with the Thashers before he was eventually traded to Ottawa in 2005 for Greg Devries and Marian Hossa.

** Of note, in 2008 Atlanta traded Hossa to Pittsburgh for Colby Armstrong, Erik Christensen, Angelo Esposito and a 1st round pick in the 2008 draft. The pick turned out to be Daultan Leveille (29th overall).

Leveille never blossomed into an NHL player, Armstrong left Atlanta after 3 seasons and signed with Toronto. Christensen and Esposito were eventually traded by the Atlanta/Winnipeg franchise in exchange for minor league players.

2) drafted Ilya Nikulin (31st overall), Nikulin never played pro hockey in North America.

Couldíve had: Nick Schultz (33rd overall), Tomas Kopecky (38th overall)

2001: 1) drafted Ilya Kovalchuk (1st overall). Kovalchuk had 8 successful seasons with Atlanta before he was traded to New Jersey for Johhny Oduya, Nick Bergfors, Patrice Cormier and New Jerseys 1st round pick in 2010. The draft pick eventually was dealt to Chicago when Byfuglien was acquired. Oduya was traded last season by the team for 2 picks (2nd & 3rd round). Bergfors spent 2 seasons with Atlanta before being dealt to Florida. Cormier is currently playing for the Jets farm team.

2) drafted Michael Garnett (80th overall). Garnett played 24 games in the NHL and eventually landed in the KHL.

2002: 1) drafted Kari Lehtonen (2nd overall). Lehtonen played 4 seasons with Atlanta before they traded him to Dallas for Ivan Vishnevskiy and a 4th round pick which turned out to be Ivan Telegin.

Couldíve had: Jay Bouwmeester (3rd overall), Scottie Upshall (3rd overall) or Alexander Semin (13th overall).

**Of note, Ivan Vishnevskiy was traded to Chicago for Andrew Ladd

2) drafted Jim Slater (30th overall)

Couldíve had: Duncan Keith (54th overall), or Juri Hudler (58th overall)

**Of note, Atlanta promised Florida that they wouldnít select Bouwmeester with their pick in exchange for 2 late round selections which turned out to be 2 journeymen players.

2003: 1) drafted Brayden Coburn (8th overall). Coburn played 2 seasons with Atlanta registering 5 points before being traded to Philadelphia in 2007 for 35 year old Alexi Zhitnik. Zhitnik registered 22 points in 2 seasons with Atlanta before departing for the KHL.

Couldíve had: Dion Phaneuf (9th overall), Jeff Carter (11th overall), Brent Seabrook (14th overall), Zach Parise (17th overall), Ryan Getzlaf (19th overall), Ryan Kesler (23rd overall), Mike Richards 14th overall) or Corey Perry (28th overall).

**Of note, Coburn is in his 5th season with Philadelphia and recorded his best career season in 2007-08 with 36 points.

2) drafted Jimmy Sharrow (110th overall). Sharrow left for a Dutch league after just one short season with Atlanta.

2004: 1) drafted Boris Valabik (10th overall). Valabik played 3 seasons with Atlanta registering a total of 7 points before leaving for a Czech league.

Couldíve had: Drew Stafford (13th overall), Travis Zajac (20th overall), Cory Schneider (26th overall) or Mike Green (29th overall).

2) drafted Grant Lewis (40th overall). Lewis has been an AHL/KHL player only thus far.

Couldíve had: David Booth (53rd overall), Brandon Dubinsky (60th overall), or David Krejci (63rd overall)

2005: 1) drafted Alex Bourret (16th overall). Bourret has not developed into an NHL player. Bourret has played in the AHL, CHL and KHL only.

Couldíve had: TJ Oshie (24th overall) or James Neal (33rd overall)

2) drafted Ondrej Pavelec (41st overall)

2006: 1) drafted Bryan Little (12th overall). Little is on the current Jets roster.

Couldíve had: Michael Grabner (14th overall) or Claude Giroux 22nd overall)

2) drafted Riley Holzaptel (43rd overall). Holzaptel has been an average AHLíer at best.

Couldíve had: Milan Lucic (50th overall)

2007: 1) drafted Spencer Machacek (67th overall). Machacek currently plays for the Jets farm team.

The 2007 draft was not deep with talent in the later rounds and the Atlanta Thrashers dealt their 1st round pick to St. Louis to obtain 35 year old Keith Tkachuk. The pick traded for Tkachuk ended up being the 24th overall and Atlanta missed out on the following players: David Perron (26th overall), and PK Subban (43rd). Tkachuk played 18 games for Atlanta registering 15 points before being traded back to St. Louis for a conditional 4th round pick in 2008.

2) drafted Niclas Lucenius (115th overall). Lucenius has not played pro hockey in North America.

Couldíve had: Jamie Benn (129th overall)

2008: 1) drafted Zach Bogosian (3rd overall). Bogosian is on the current Jets roster.

2) drafted Daultan Leveille (29th overall). Not offered a contract by the Jets, and is currently Montreal Canadiens property.

2009: 1) drafted Evander Kane (4th overall). Kane is on the current Jets roster.

2) drafted Karl Klingberg (34th overall). Klingberg currently plays for the Jets farm team.

2010: 1) drafted Alex Burmistrov (8th overall). Burmistrov is on the current Jets roster.

Other available players: Mikael Granlund (9th overall), Vlad Tarasenko (16th overall)

2) drafted Julian Melchiori (87th overall). Melchiori currently plays for the Jets farm team.

2011: 1) drafted Mark Scheifele (7th overall). Scheifele is finishing juniors.

Other available players: Sean Couturier (8th overall), Dougie Hamilton (9th overall).

1) drafted Jakob Trouba (9th overall). Trouba is still playing university hockey.

2) drafted Lukas Sutter (39th overall). Sutter is still playing juniors.

After breaking down the franchises draft history itís clear to say the team hasnít drafted well at all. Even more troubling are some of the trades that were made. Itís true that many other teams have missed out on some great talent, but with all the high picks this franchise received over the years, thereís little to show for it today.

2007 was the only year that the franchise did not have a 1st round selection (making their 1st pick 67th overall). The franchise has had 11 first round picks which have come in the top 10 selections of their respected draft year. The franchise has selected in the top 5, in six different years.

With the amount of top picks our team has had over the franchises 13 seasons, we should be further along than we are.

The above information wouldnít be so worrisome if the Jets scouting team was a whole new regime. For the most part, the people that built the Thrashers are still deeply rooted in the development of the Winnipeg Jets.

Itís true that Cheveldayoff gets the last say, but a GM is usually only as good as his staff below him.

After sitting down and researching this information, I donít have much faith in the current Jets scouting/player personnel staff. The team should have an abundance of talent and be in a position to trade really good players for missing pieces to the puzzle. The team should be a playoff contender by now.

The jury is still out on the Scheifele selection and many other current 1st/2nd round selections currently playing on the Jets roster. Iím not counting these guys out, but time is ticking.

We didnít address our scoring needs in the offseason and 1 of our 3 prized off season acquisitions has already been traded away just a ľ of the way through the season (Ponikarovsky).

The Jets need a shakeup, but I donít think it should take place at the player/coach level. Itís time to really look at our amateur and pro scouts if we want to be a contender some day.

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