Though the team long saw it coming, the morning after the Jets were officially eliminated from playoff contention didn’t come easy.
"It was disappointing that we didn’t get the job done," captain Andrew Ladd said, after the team worked out at MTS Iceplex this morning. "It’s been, for me now, four years without a playoff game. To say that’s (difficult) would be a complete understatement. It’s frustrating, but we’re professionals. You keep working at it, trying to fix it until you get there."
Only a handful of Jets skated at today’s optional practice, including wounded warrior Mark Scheifele, who is nearing a return to the ice. The team is slated to fly out of Winnipeg this afternoon for Toronto, where they face the Maple Leafs on Saturday evening.
Even with the disappointment of the final coffin nail, head coach Paul Maurice was looking ahead. "There was some positive growth in my mind," he said of how the team has fared, since he took over from Claude Noel in January. "And yeah, at times some real frustration, because you know that there are areas where we can get better at, just be being aware of them, and being focused."
Maurice was in a lighthearted mood about his latest battle scar, a swollen gash he sustained when a puck ricocheted into the bench and struck him in the forehead. "At one point, I saw five Sidney Crosbys on the ice," Maurice said. "Be great if I was Dan Bylsma, not so much if you’re on the other bench."
Did he get an apology from the shooter in question, winger Michael Frolik? "You know what, no," he said, with a twinkle in his eye. "Listen, I couldn’t put Olli on the ice the next shift because he was laughing too hard. As long as you’re not hurt bad, there’s nothing players love more than seeing a coach go down."
This morning, local members of the Professional Hockey Writers Association revealed that Olli Jokinen was the Jets’ 2014 nominee for the Bill Masterton Memorial trophy, awarded to a player around the league who best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, dedication and sportsmanship.
After dismal 2012-13 season, the 35-year-old Finn bounced back to score 17 goals and 41 points in this campaign. "Last year was tough," Jokinen said, after thanking the media for the nomination. "This year, the goal was to try and get my game back where it needs to be. And I think the bottom line, it’s about how the team does, and we’re all disappointed here not to get in the postseason. That’s the frustrating part.
"Now, we’re outside again, and it just wasn’t good enough this year."