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Jets' Maurice focused on getting back to basics

NHL.com @NHL

The Winnipeg Jets made the Stanley Cup Playoffs last season for the first time since returning to the NHL in 2011-12, but coach Paul Maurice said that has no effect on how the team does this season.

When Jets training camp opens next week, he said the first few days will be about re-installing all the basic systems he wants the players to use.

"We'll start from scratch Day 1," Maurice told the Jets website. "We'll go back and re-teach the foundations of our system and try to re-create the competitive levels that we did get to, the things we did succeed at. … they're in the memory bank but you have to recreate that emotion, that tenacity that we played with.

"We come back with everything to prove and nothing in the bank yet."

Last season, Maurice's first full season with the Jets, they had 99 points and earned the second wild card into the playoffs from the Western Conference. They were swept by the Anaheim Ducks in the Western Conference First Round.

Maurice said the key to getting back to the postseason will be the veteran leaders, among them captain Andrew Ladd and alternate captains Blake Wheeler and Mark Stuart.

"We're very fortunate with the guys that wear the 'C' and the 'A's in our room, they're the hardest drivers we have in practice every day," Maurice said. "That leadership sets the tone for your organization. For all of those young players, they'll leave the ice after the first few days with a big eye-opener into how hard you have to compete and how hard our veterans compete."

Maurice knows that competition level has to be high to keep up with the rest of the Central Division. Five of the seven teams made the playoffs last season, including the Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks. The Colorado Avalanche, who finished last in the division, had 90 points.

"Nashville's defense is so incredibly strong compared to the rest of the League," he said. "Chicago has won three Stanley Cups, St. Louis has been right there, knocking on the door, Dallas continues to add offensive threats to their team. … The grind of being in that division. Colorado finishes with 116 points the year before and misses the playoffs and finishes last, you know they're going to be a force with those young players."

Entering his 18th season as an NHL coach, including time with the Hartford Whalers, Carolina Hurricanes and Toronto Maple Leafs, Maurice said it's the players that he sees every day in Winnipeg that continue to make the job fun for him.

"I'm excited about being around these guys," he said. "I enjoyed, from the day I walked into this locker room, this group of men. Those drivers, those guys who run practice, who push every day. Coaching in the NHL is never easy and some days it's not overly enjoyable. But being in a locker room like this with this kind of men is what it's all about. I'm proud to be their coach and I'm excited every day when I come in because I know how hard they're going to work."

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