As much as I’d love for the Jets to go instantly to perennial contender, it’s just not realistic. General Managers have 3 tools at their disposal to change their rosters; trades, free agency, and drafting and developing talent from within. When the going gets tough, fans love to scream for options 1 and 2, but I think option 3 is the only real long-term solution (bottle of rocks notwithstanding).
Trades, by definition, are zero-sum endeavours. The overall talent pool of the league is left unchanged after every trade, so unless you think you are smarter than the other GMs, trades are not a way to build a team (I know, I know, being smarter is part of the game, but realistically there aren’t a lot of dummies running NHL teams). What trades are good for is giving up pieces from positions of strength to address positions of weakness, and for shifting talent from the future to the present (dealing picks and prospects for roster players) and vice versa.
Free agency is fresh on the mind and if there’s one thing you should have taken away from last week, it’s that acquiring players via free agency is EXPENSIVE. Free agency can seem like an attractive way to add talent because you don’t have to give up anything from your current roster, but you end up paying in a much more subtle and sinister way – cap space. All teams have some sort of spending limit, be it an internal budget or the external cap, so taking up valuable roster spots with too many overpriced UFA’s will leave you spinning your wheels in mediocrity (see Rangers, New York). Free agency should be used to augment your core roster or to make that final push as a cup contender.
So that leaves us with drafting and developing talent from within. It’s a painfully slow way to rebuild a team, but if done correctly it can have the most lasting impact. That means scouting well so you can find those late round gems and developing talent properly so that your players reach their max potential. Everything Chevy and company have said and done so far indicate that is their plan. It will be interesting to see what happens when the fans scream for action if these first few seasons bring more losses than wins.
I like a lot of things about the Jets roster, but one thing that’s lacking big time is depth in the prospect pool (and depth throughout the lineup really). It’s going to take some patience to build that up.