WINNIPEG – “In times like this, I think it’s important that everyone takes a look in the mirror to try and figure it out.
“If you start pointing fingers and wonder what the next guy is going to do, it just spirals.”
To summarize Winnipeg Jets forward Blake Wheeler’s emotional address to the media Wednesday: The ‘try’ just isn’t enough.
After all, “Everyone in the NHL tries hard,” he says.
There’s more – much more – to the puzzle.
“I just don’t think that there’s enough of an investment from everyone to get to where we need to go,” Wheeler continued. “How do we get that? That’s the million-dollar question. How do get 20-plus individuals buying into the same thing and spilling everything they have every night into it? I
don’t have that answer today. Hopefully we’ll figure it out by tomorrow.”
Following a disappointing and altogether frustrating 4-1 defeat at the hands of the San Jose Sharks Tuesday, the Jets have now lost three in a row and four of their last five, but remain just four
points out of a playoff spot.
Head Coach Paul Maurice would like to see his team have better resilience in the face of adversity to help the shrink the deficit over the next week. “It’s not an easy thing to learn,” he cautioned.
“What drives you? What fires you up? That excitement, that positivity about that potentially good outcome going into a game. That’s what I’d like to see out of this team – that drive that doesn’t
fade if a bad event happens.
“There isn’t a speech that makes everything right, so you’ve got to understand how to get back into that same situation that you’ll handle it better.”
The Jets have a terrific opportunity over the next few games, as the very team they’re chasing – the Nashville Predators – will visit MTS Centre twice in the next eight days. Win both and you could potentially be back in a playoff spot. Lose, and it’s not looking good.
“I know we’ve got a good group of guys in here – a group that cares. It’s been a frustrating year. Things maybe haven’t gone the way we thought they would at training camp and there’s some frustration creeping in. ... When you’re excited about what you’re doing for a living, excited about being out there, excited about your role on the team, you play a little bit faster than we have. We’re playing like nothing’s gone our way this year. We’re playing like we’re frustrated and feeling
sorry for ourselves a little bit."
The Jets made the playoffs last year with a franchise-high 99 points. At 19-21-3 through 43 games this time around, the Jets are on pace for 78, but remain in the fight.
"Last year we made the playoffs, so you come back [and say], ‘It’s got to get easier,’ but it doesn’t and there’s a frustration to that," Maurice said. "Fighting through that frustration is getting excited about that game and a possible outcome. A win is way it should be and a loss is, ‘How could that possibly happen?’ There wasn’t that feel (Tuesday)… And that’s part of handling the pressure."
The Preds, for example, are coming in having lost three straight, and are barely holding on to that second and final wild-card spot, with just five points separating them, the Jets, Colorado
Avalanche, Vancouver Canucks, Anaheim Ducks and Calgary Flames.
“It’s not Christmas all around the National Hockey League,” Maurice quipped.
Earlier today Matt Halischuk was recalled from the Manitoba Moose, while Mark Scheifele (lower body) was placed on injured reserve, retroactive to Jan. 7.
– Ryan Dittrick, WinnipegJets.com