The Winnipeg Jets discuss their memories of the 2011-2012 season and talk about how they can be more successful next season. WATCH NOW ›
In a blink of an eye, the Winnipeg Jets inaugural season has come, and gone. For many, it feels like it was just yesterday, when the Jets took to the ice at the MTS IcePlex for their first practice in front of hundreds of hockey-crazed fans.
“You almost forget about that,” Kane remembered. “Because the whole season has been like that ever since. That was pretty cool though, coming out for your first practice and getting a taste of what the year was going to be like. It was pretty exciting for all of us.”
The team gathered at the MTS Centre on Sunday afternoon to say their goodbyes and clear out their dressing room stalls for the long summer ahead. Each player met with management and coaching staff as well as spoke with media to share their closing remarks.
Although most players around the room reflected positively on the first season in Winnipeg as the Jets, they also made sure to voice their displeasure of missing their playoff goals and will expect a much better outcome come April 2013.
"As a player, that's what you live and die on, the playoffs and championships," Mark Stuart expressed Sunday. "If you don't, it's failure. If you don't make the playoffs in a season, you didn't reach your goal. But on the other hand, we made strides and we have a good future ahead of us."
Top-line centreman, Bryan Little, voiced his disappointment on the early season end.
"You can just see in our meetings today, no one is happy, no one is satisfied with the way the season ended," said Little. "Next year we don't want to be in this position, being out this early. We want to be in the playoffs. No one is satisfied with how this season went."
Blake Wheeler, who had a career-high 64 points this season, feels the team just needs to be in the right mentality to make it happen.
"(Making the playoffs) has got to be the expectation and icing on the cake is going all the way,” said Wheeler. “When we get to that point, that's when we'll know we've done the right things. The mentality is getting to the right place right now."
Head coach Claude Noel made it known at his season-ending press conference that his reins will shorten next season, and his expectations will be much greater.
"We don't want to be standing here in April next year going down this same path at this time of year,” said Noel. “How do we prevent that and start that process. Things have to change.
"We have to be better. Our attitude has to be better. We have to walk and expect to be in the playoffs. Our conduct, our existence, just has to be better. That's where it starts. I think we're getting there. That's what I want them to think about over the summer. There is something to be said for walking like a champion."
Change was a common word around the dressing room on Sunday as the players packed up their gear for the last time. It’s no secret that changes must be made in order to prevent a mirrored scenario next season however, the players recognize that they are in fact, following the right yellow brick road.
"We did a lot of good things this year," said defenceman Dustin Byfuglien. "We just need to be committed for a full year. We can’t take games off. You take games off and this is what you’re doing: packing up your stuff and going home early."
Captain Andrew Ladd believes that a lot of the right pieces are in place but there is definitely room for tweaking.
"A little more depth up front is something we need," said Ladd, when media asked his opinion. "I think we're headed in the right direction. We have a lot of good pieces and I think it's just trying to find how to put the pieces together to work well.
“I think it’s something that’s going to take time but it’s everyone in this room that’s going to have to buy into it and really make it work at the end of the day.”
The Jets closed out the season with a 37-35-10 mark and 84 points, fourth in the Southeast Division and 11th in the Eastern Conference.
When asked around the room to pinpoint one favourite memory from the season, players were hard-fought to choose just one.
“There are so many, it’s tough to put one on the spot,” said Kane, who set a career high with 30 goals and 57 points.
“All 41 home games in front of these fans…especially the first game, coming out to a standing ovation was so special. The last game was also pretty memorable, we didn’t want to leave.”