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Jets captain Ladd sees reasons for optimism

by Dan Rosen / NHL.com

Winnipeg Jets captain Andrew Ladd has won the Stanley Cup twice, which means he's doubly aware of how important a team's ability to overcome adversity such as slumps, injuries or in-season trades is in regards to sustaining success.

Ladd saw the Jets develop that ability last season, when they made the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time since the franchise moved to Winnipeg from Atlanta in 2011. It's a big reason why Ladd is so optimistic heading into this season.

Yes, the Jets lost in four games to the Anaheim Ducks in the Western Conference First Round, but it's how they got there in the first place that has their captain thinking better days are ahead.

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"There is the obvious disappointment of feeling we could have done more, but then you sit back and look at the stuff we overcame," said Ladd, who won the Cup with the Carolina Hurricanes in 2006 and the Chicago Blackhawks in 2010. "Whether it was having your top four D-men out and we held things together, and then the Evander Kane situation, to lose one of our top six forwards, bring new guys in, we never seemed to miss a beat. We kept going. I think that's the biggest takeaway, how we dealt with that adversity and now knowing we can overcome those things."

All of what Ladd said is true.

The Jets didn't have it easy last season, particularly in December, when they lost their top four defensemen -- Zach Bogosian, Jacob Trouba, Mark Stuart and Toby Enstrom -- to injury. Dustin Byfuglien was playing forward at the time, but he was forced to move back to his natural position.

In February came the blockbuster trade that sent an ailing Kane and Bogosian to the Buffalo Sabres and brought back Drew Stafford and Tyler Myers.

The Jets managed to reach 99 points to finish as the second wild card into the playoffs from the Western Conference. They were 11th in the League in defense (2.49 goals allowed per game), which was a major jump from where they had been finishing.

The Jets were 22nd in defense in 2013-14 (2.82 goals per game), 25th in 2012-13 (2.94), and 26th in 2011-12 (2.95).

Ladd credited coach Paul Maurice for the Jets improved play. Maurice was hired 47 games into the 2013-14 season.

"To me the turning point was when Paul got there and we started to see the turnaround and what we needed to do," Ladd said. "I think there was a better understanding of the level we need to compete at every single night and the level we could get to. That, for me, was the start of the turnaround. Guys came to camp last year excited about what we can do with the group we have, and it's grown since then. I think we have some good young kids coming up, but we also have a great team right now. So I'm excited for what can come here."

As for getting swept by the Ducks, Ladd believes that's a bout with adversity that will help the Jets this season, when they plan to build on what they did last season with a lineup that includes the return of forward Alexander Burmistrov, who replaces Michael Frolik (Calgary Flames).

"Any experience, good or bad, is valuable," Ladd said. "For us, we had a lot of guys that had never experienced playoff hockey. One way or another, whether it was Mark Scheifele going up against Ryan Kesler and having to take on that big task, or Adam Lowry doing the same at home, I think it's valuable to go in there and have those experiences.

"I really don't think we were that far off."

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