September 5, 2015


By Gary Lawless

Columnists

The way it should be: All 4 lines chipped in

Claude Noel is handing the fate of the Winnipeg Jets back to the players and they will either succeed or fail as a whole.

Tuesday night, the entire bench was involved as the Jets managed a 4-1 win over the Buffalo Sabres. The third period turned into a coach's dream as four lines rolled. The Jets not only won but they looked efficient and experienced in doing so. No panic or fluster. Just simple hockey with everyone chipping in.

"Everyone has a role. Some might be smaller in terms of minutes but they all count the same in this room," said captain Andrew Ladd. "Look at the fourth line, they were out there in the third for important draws and had a few strong shifts cycling the puck. It gives the other lines a better chance to rest and keeps us all fresh when everyone is getting used."

After a lengthy stretch of shortening his bench and limiting some players to less than two minutes a game, Noel has gone back to distributing ice time in a far more equitable manner. All of a sudden the Jets don't look tired and panicked, but rested and poised.

"I thought our third and fourth lines played well and played a big role for us," said Noel. "They were really good. They were responsible. It's just a lot better when four lines are going. It gives you patience and energy."

The Jet with the least amount of ice time was Chris Thorburn, who still saw 8:34 of work. Ron Hainsey led the Jets with 25:31.

Contrast that with recent nights when the fourth line saw less than two minutes of work and some defenders were in and around 30 minutes.

Noel got away from using his entire bench as he rode a hot top line and some key defenders but it was false gold in the sense it wore his best people out.

"That's the world we live in this year. We spoke about that early in the year, how much using your bench, your four lines and your group would be at an advantage," said Noel. "At the end of the day all of that goes out the window when you are trying to win games."

A five-game losing skid, however, forced Noel to get back to basics. Winnipeg has won two straight and in both games there has been a more shared approach from the top to the bottom of the lineup.

"It does benefit your team in a lot of senses besides the obvious, but it benefits your team and it makes everyone feel a part of it. As simple as that sounds, that's a good feeling especially if you win," said Noel.

The Jets won't go anywhere with two lines and four defencemen. They need everyone contributing and Tuesday's game should be the blueprint down the stretch. Win or lose as a full team but don't try and do it with one hand tied behind the back. You'll be beaten before you start.

gary.lawless@freepress.mb.ca Twitter: @garylawless

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 10, 2013 C1

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