December 8, 2013 Sections
Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION
Inch by inch, game by game, Evander Kane and Zach Bogosian are making the Winnipeg Jets their team.
They bring more will and effort to games on a consistent basis than the rest of their teammates. They are willing to lead. Now if only the rest would follow.
If all the Jets had the jam of Kane and Bogosian, this team would win far more games. Until they do, more disappointment such as Tuesday night's 3-0 loss to the Montreal Canadiens will follow.
Too many of the Jets were unwilling to engage early and before the first period was barely half over it was 2-0 Montreal. The lead held and was more than enough for Carey Price to add another shutout to his resumé.
Apologists will suggest the Jets had a strong game, but for the first 10 minutes. Ridiculous. What does it matter if a team is strong once the game is virtually decided?
The Jets can't continue to post half-games or three-quarter games.
As a team, they must be more like Kane and Bogosian, who seem to be ready to go every night and maintain a a stiff pace for the entirety.
Whether it be the little things or the big things, on the ice or behind the scenes, these one-time toddler Thrashers are becoming the soul and drive of the Winnipeg Jets.
Rushed to the NHL by a misplaced attempt to generate star buzz in Atlanta, Kane and Bogosian have been coming on as players and now are beginning to exert their force as bosses in the Jets dressing room.
Questioned about the pair on Tuesday, one Jets executive said simply, "they've matured."
They're not without their warts, but there is far more to like about Kane and Bogosian right now than not.
The Jets could do without Kane chirping the referees after every penalty, which has earned him a bad name among the league's officials. Tuesday night featured a number of questionable calls against Kane and it's easy to make the leap his three minors were partially earned on reputation.
Bogosian's hockey sense can be wanting at times and he can make poor decisions in his own end without the puck, resulting in breakdowns.
But right now, on a team that refuses to consistently play the hard brand of hockey required for success in the NHL, Kane and Bogosian stand apart in their effort.
Kane leads the Jets in shots and hits and is morphing into the club's most important offensive player. He wants added responsibility and, more importantly, he's earning it.
The fifth-year pro has become coach Claude Noel's answer for any number of situations. From the top line to the power play to energy situations, Kane's number gets called.
Make the mistake of telling someone in Jets management that Evander Kane is playing more for himself and less for his team right now and prepare to be corrected.
To outsiders, Kane has sometimes appeared to be selfish. Insiders say that's not the truth, pointing to his work ethic as an example of his concept of team.
Bogosian has shown his increased value playing with rookie Jacob Trouba. The right-hand-shooting Bogosian has had to move to the left side to accommodate his new partner and has done so without a grumble. It took him a few games to adjust and he appeared tentative for a stretch, but that's dissipated and the physical element of his game has returned.
Trouba can stir up a little trouble with his style of play and Bogosian has been a pit bull with opponents when they try to lean on the rookie. Bogosian views his teammates as family members and takes action when someone crosses the line. Many nights he's alone in taking such a stand.
Bogosian was fairly insulted when asked Tuesday morning about his team's reluctance to consistently play with an edge.
"It's pretty simple. Play hard, the way we did on Sunday against New Jersey, and win games. Play the other way and don't," he said. "We all have to buy in and play that way."
Easier said than done with this group, however, as for three years now they've proven to be a case study in inconsistency.
Kane and Bogosian have it figured out. The question of the day, and most likely this season, is when will the rest of the Jets.
firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter: @garylawless
Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition October 16, 2013 C3