Heart rates were up today at the MTS Centre, and not just for a couple of minutes.
The Winnipeg Jets went through their longest practice of the NHL season, an hour and 40 minutes and the last 50 minutes of that were no pucks and all skating.
"We didn’t really know it was coming but it’s what to look for next year at training camp, to get a taste of what it’s going to be like next year," said Jets defenceman Paul Postma after what’s commonly known as a "bag skate."
"It’s something we can build towards. You’re going to have to be in that kind of shape next year so it’ll be tough."
The skate certainly stood out from most others Jets players have experienced..
"I don’t remember the last time, but it feels good sometimes to really push yourself and get a good skate in," said defenceman Toby Enstrom. "He (head coach Paul Maurice) wants to play the game at a high pace and conditioning is a big part of it. It was something he wanted to show us."
The out-of-the-playoff Jets, 35-35-10, still have their final two games ahead of them, Thursday night at home against Boston and Friday in Calgary but this was the designated day to illustrate what’s ahead for the team, Maurice decided.
There was no mystery or punishment message, he said.
"At the end of the year, we’re going to have our individual meetings and I’m going to tell them that one of the areas that we will look to improve is our overall group fitness," Maurice said. "Then I’m going to tell them I want them to be prepared for a tougher training camp than perhaps you’re used to.
"There’s no tangible, ‘What does he mean by that?’ It was the first day I felt we could do it. I know it does not come at an easy time in our schedule. It just showed the team what a training-camp day looks like. Actually, training camp’s going to be quite a bit harder and now you’ve got the Boston Bruins coming to town.
"When you’re still in the playoff hunt, (you) can’t do it then. The compressed schedule never allowed to do it. We wanted to build on quickness coming out of the Olympic break. We did do some skating. I needed them to understand, when I say we’re going to have a tougher camp, when I’ve asked them to prepare differently, train differently and to be aware of their summer program and how that affects what they’re able to do in camp, then needed a place to understand it."
The skate took place in front of Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff, who, it should be noted, does watch practice frequently.
Today’s skate and the explanation for it suggested to some that Maurice will be returning next season.
He said no deal has been made but that this was the job he promised to do now.
"There hasn’t been a day that I’ve approached differently from Day 1," the coach said. "I would do exactly what I do each day — try to do the right thing for this franchise. That was part of the agreement with Kevin, do everything you can to get us in the playoffs and set a foundation we can judge and start from. If the decision was made that another coach would be coming in, at least until that decision, I’d like to think they’re going to train very hard for camp."
One interesting — and probably positive — sign within this day was the participation of Jets captain Andrew Ladd. He was in an orange, no-contact, jersey because of an unspecified injury.
"His legs were good and it was a good day for him to be out there," Maurice said. "I’m not sure he’s playing (the final two games). Pretty sure he’s not."
Ladd said he should have been on the ice for today’s skate.
"I think as the captain of this team, when something like this happens, you want to be out there with your teammates," Ladd said. "I’ve had a few over my career. It’s been a while but good for the soul, I guess."
Late this afternoon, the Jets called up centre Patrice Cormier from the AHL's St. John's IceCaps. If he plays Thursday night against the Bruins, it will be his eighth NHL game this season for the Jets.